The Washington Post
Venice for Loversby Louis Begley, Anka Muhlstein, Malcolm Hillgartner (Read by)
Every year for the thirty they have been married, Louis Begley and Anka Muhlstein have escaped to Venice to write. In Venice for Lovers, Begley and Muhlstein fashion their own personal homages to Venice, one with a novella, the other with a personal essay. In her contribution to the book, Muhlstein charmingly describes how she and her husband dine at the same restaurant every night for years on end, and how becoming friends with restaurateurs has been an unsurpassed means of getting to know the city and its inhabitants, far from the tourists in San Marco Square. They meet Venetians like Ernesto, who tells them of the great flood that nearly destroyed the beautiful city; and Nerone, an authoritarian chef who serves the freshest seafood and throws yesterday’s catch to the cats. And they spend blissful hours at Da Fiore, named by the International Herald Tribune as one of the ten best restaurants in the world but which, unfazed, retains its rustic simplicity.
In his short novella, Begley writes a story of falling in love withand inVenice. His twenty-year-old protagonist, enamored with an older, far worldlier woman, is lured by her to the City of Water, only to be unceremoniously dumped after a brief rendezvous. But he discovers a lasting love for Venice itselfnot an uncommon romance, as Begley’s brilliant essay on the city’s place within world literature demonstrates.
By turns humorous, nostalgic, and spellbinding, Venice for Lovers is a memorable collaboration by two fine stylistsa very private view of a place that will forever inspire dreams of love and passion.
The Washington Post
For decades, biographer Muhlstein (Letters from Russia) and her husband, novelist Begley (Matters of Honor), have traveled to Venice to spend their summers writing. This evocative collaboration-three short works, which together celebrate their beloved home away from home-translates the original, German edition released in 2004. In the first section, an essay, Muhlstein reflects on how they came to know the city through its people, in spite of the couple's strict, self-imposed rules against making friends during their sabbaticals. Their guides were the owners of the four charming restaurants that became their staples. Particularly memorable is Muhlstein's passage about Ernesto, who describes the devastating flood of November 1966. In the second section, a novella by Begley, the reader encounters Venice from the perspective of an American college student who travels there in pursuit of an older woman. She soon rejects him; however, in romance's stead, a deeper, more lasting affection for Venice and a friendship with a classmate develop. In the third section, Begley writes a treatise on Venice's role in the works of three authors he admires: Henry James, Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann. This triptych of works draws on the best of both worlds: the dazzled, fresh eyes of a pilgrim and the insight of a perennial resident. This book works less as a straightforward guide to piazzas and palazzos than as a stimulant to travels real and imaginary. (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Author
Born in Poland in 1933, Louis Begley is the author of many novels, including Wartime Lies, About Schmidt and Shipwreck. His wife of thirty years, biographer Anka Muhlstein is the author of La Salle: Explorer of the North American Frontier and, most recently, A Taste for Freedom: The Life of Astolphe de Custine. They live in New York.
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