Watermark

Watermark

by Joseph Brodsky
     
 

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In this brief, intense, gem-like book, equal parts extended autobiographical essay and prose poem, Brodsky turns his eye to the seductive and enigmatic city of Venice. A mosaic of 48 short chapters—each recalling a specific episode from one of his many visits there (Brodsky spent his winters in Venice for nearly 20 years)—Watermark associatively

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Overview

In this brief, intense, gem-like book, equal parts extended autobiographical essay and prose poem, Brodsky turns his eye to the seductive and enigmatic city of Venice. A mosaic of 48 short chapters—each recalling a specific episode from one of his many visits there (Brodsky spent his winters in Venice for nearly 20 years)—Watermark associatively and brilliantly evokes one city's architectural and atmospheric character. In doing so, the book also reveals a subject—and an author—readers have never before seen.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“We read Watermark enraptured by its gallant attempt to distill a precious meaning from life's experience--to make a spot on a globe a window into universal circumstance, and to fashion of one's personal chronic tourism a crystal whose factes reflect an entire life, with exile and ill health glinting at the edges of planes whose direct glare is sheer beauty.” —John Updike, The New Yorker

“Praising Venice and its architecture as a triumph of the visual, the Nobel laureate uses his visits there as a touchstone to meditate on life's unpredictability, and on the appetite for beauty, death, myth, and modern art . . . In his wayward forays amid canals, streets, and cathedrals barnacled with saints, the eternal Venice shimmers through the fog, battered yet resplendent.” —Publishers Weekly

“Brodsky's description of his 'version of Paradise' has all the vividness and associative brilliance of a lyric poem . . . Watermark is a gracefully idiosyncratic work, one that obliquely mingles the author's own self-portrait with that of 'this Penelope of a city, weaving her patterns by day and undoing them by night, with no Ulysses in sight. Only the sea.'” —James Marcus, The New York Times Book Review

“[This is a] short prose-exercise by Nobelist Brodsky about Venice, his many wintertime trips there, and [the city's] enchantment and ironies and visual splendors. Brodsky has piquant ideas about space and time (see his Less Than One) that lend interesting angles to his Venice-for-visitors: ideas about water, light, and brick ('an alternative order of flesh, not raw of course, but scarlet and made up of small, identical cells. Yet another of the species' self-portraits at the elemental level, be it a wall or a chimney'). He finds himself one evening in the company of Olga Rudge, Ezra Pound's companion, which engenders a wonderfully European assessment of Pound: 'For someone with such a long record of residence in Italy, it was odd that he hadn't recognized that beauty can't be targeted, that it is always a by-product of other, often very ordinary pursuits.' Brodsky writes poetically of winter light: 'And the city lingers in it, savoring its touch, the caress of the infinity whence it came. An object, after all, is what makes infinity private.' When he's setting up to make aphorisms like this, Brodsky sails along.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As much a brooding self-portrait as a lyric description of Venice, poet Brodsky's quirky, impressionistic essay describes his 17-year romance with a city of dreamlike beauty that banishes nightmares. Praising Venice and its architecture as a triumph of the visual, the Nobel laureate uses his visits there as a touchstone to meditate on life's unpredictability, the appetite for beauty, death, myth and modern art ``whose poverty alone makes it prophetic.'' Waxing confessional, he declares, ``I am not a moral man. . . . I am but a nervous man . . . but I am observant'' and offers autobiographical asides about his youthful lust for an Italian communist scholar and a 1977 meeting in Venice with Susan Sontag. In his wayward forays amid canals, streets and cathedrals barnacled with saints, the eternal Venice shimmers through the fog, battered yet resplendent. (June)
Library Journal
The Nobel laureate's latest book is a paean to Venice, ``itself a work of art,'' which has welcomed him for 17 winters of reflection and discovery. Brodsky views his adopted city not as a tourist but with the keen eye of a poet, finding beauty (a recurring theme) in the juxtaposition of lacy Venetian facades with ``the anarchy of water.'' After this, he writes, ``Everything is a letdown.'' Moving lightly in its imagery from a string of pearls to the Milky Way, Watermark pays tribute in language worthy of this great city. Its irresistible style and grace combine to express a dream that afterward lingers like a treasured memory. Very highly recommended.-- Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374523824
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
06/01/1993
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
249,090
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 7.54(h) x 0.38(d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Brodsky (1940-96) came to the United States in 1972, an involuntary exile from the Soviet Union. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987 and served as Poet Laureate of the United States in 1991 and 1992.

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