Monday, May 14, 2012

A House Divided: in Venice, in Palermo

Contemporary Palermo disproves the old Abe Lincoln claim that "A house divided cannot stand."
I hope I'll be excused a second post with a photo of Sicily, as in this case it was inspired by a post I'd previously seen about Venice on another blog. 

In her April 3 post, Yvonne of Hello World: Walk Along with Me had a fine photo of a large Venetian residence divided almost perfectly in half by a fresh coat of paint. That is, one half was painted, one half was not. You can see the original post (entitled "When Neighbors Can't Agree on Colors") and images here:

As is the case with so many of Yvonne's revelatory posts, this one called my attention to something I hadn't really paid attention to and I began to notice other instances of a single Venetian residential building in quite distinct states of repair. For example, after walking past a certain building in Castello at least 4 times a week I finally noticed the precise horizontal line distinguishing its upper floors from the lower: the upper floors had been rather recently plastered and painted, the ground floor was entirely old brick.

It's as if one's eye is so inevitably attracted to the picturesquely crumbling plaster of most Venetian buildings that it entirely misses everything else, even the most obvious juxtapositions of extremes.

The juxtaposition of extremes is what the picture above is all about. Of course everything in Palermo is more extreme: the street drama, the noise, even the quality of a certain kind of Palermitano's restraint is emphatic.

Emphatic restraint? A contradiction, you might say.

Until you observe up close the simple shift of the eyes in an otherwise completely immobile body that, when enacted by a certain type of Palermitano, conveys far more force than the most vigorous gesticulations of any Veneziano on Via Garibaldi.  

In any case, a careful examination of the above building shows that it is almost exactly half what it once was. But its remaining half is still in use, and is actually one of the finer buildings in its rough and tumble-down neighborhood. Unlike so many other buildings partly destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943, at least the rubble has been cleared out from around this one. Many similar sites appear to have remained completely untouched for some 69 years.

Spoiled by living among the romantically crumbling glories of the past, I guess it's easy to forget that there are others still living among its ruins.

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