Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Venice: A Familiar Name

At the Hotel Serenissima, the framed signature of Robert Rauschenberg.

Though many assume he was Jewish, Rauschenberg, who died not very long ago, grew up in Texas, and was raised in the Church of Christ. As a teenager, he considered becoming a preacher, but was dismayed by the church's stance against dancing. He went on to become one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and judging by this signature, once stayed at the Hotel Serenissima.

Venice: Thomas Mann's "Death In Venice"

With the city still fresh in my mind, I just finished reading "Death in Venice," by German writer Thomas Mann. This semi-autobiographical novella is filled with an achingly wistful examination of beauty, desire, an propriety, all set around the decaying city of Venice.
The story is about wanting something we can never have, and watching our safe, sensible life crumble under the terrible force of a unexplainable desire.

"The viewer even felt Zephyr's painful jealousy of his rival, who forgot all about his bow, his oracle, and his cithara in order to play constantly with the beautiful youth; he saw the discus aimed by cruel jealousy and striking the lovely head; likewise turning pale, he received the buckled body, and the flower, blossoming from the sweet blood, bore the imprint of his endless lament…" Thomas Mann, "Death in Venice."

"To rest in perfection: that is what the striver for excellence yearns for; and is not nothingness a form of perfection?" Thomas Mann, "Death in Venice."

"It is most certainly a good thing that the world knows only the beautiful opus but not its origins, not the conditions of its creations; for if people knew the sources of the artist's inspiration, that knowledge would often confuse them, alarm them, and thereby destroy the effects of excellence." Thomas Mann, "Death in Venice."