Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This city isn't like others ...

"This city isn’t like others, Matera has said.  It’s not only big, it’s complicated.  It’s contradictory.  If you look at it from a pedestrian perspective, it seems like there are a lot of piazzas and porticoes.  But if you fly over it in a helicopter, because of the courtyards and gardens between the buildings, it looks like there’s a forest below.  And if you go beneath its surface you’ll find that it’s a city built on water and canals, like Venezia.  It’s freezing cold in the winter and tropical in the summer.  It has communist ideals and millionaire cooperative organisations.  It’s run by four different mafia groups that, rather than shoot at each other, help each other recycle Italy’s drug’s money.  Tortellini and satanic cults.  This city isn’t what it seems, Ispettore; it’s always hiding something."


The above passage describes Bologna and is taken from Almost Blue, a novella by Carlo Lucarelli.  I like it because it paints a very quick and vivid description of the city and lets the reader place and visualise it.  Which other writers do you think create this kind of sense of place in such few words?

3 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - I agree - that is a brilliant way to paint a picture of a place! I like the way Alexander McCall Smith describes Botswana in his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and there are a few others I also like; that eloquent way of painting a picture is not an easy thing to achieve.

Deb said...

I'm currently reading John Berendt's THE CITY OF FALLING ANGELS, a non-fiction book about Venice in the late 1990s, just after the opera house burned down. When I first started reading the blurb from Lucarelli, I thought it must be from Berendt's book--until I got to the line about the area being "like Venice."

Simenon could evoke brilliantly Paris with one or two lines. He's my favorite "travel" writer.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A lovely introduction-concise and evocative at the same time.