Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Peculiar Ecstasy of Silent, Nighttime Venice--According to Antal Szerb

"Narrow little streets branched into narrow little alleyways, and the further he went the darker and narrower they became. By stretching his arms out wide he could have simultaneously touched the opposing rows of houses, with their large silent, windows, behind which, he imagined, mysteriously intense Italian lives lay in slumber. The sense of intimacy made it feel almost an intrusion to have entered these streets at night.

What was the strange attraction, the peculiar ecstasy, that seized him among the back-alleys? Why did it feel like finally coming home? Perhaps a child dreams of such places, the child raised in a gardened cottage who fears the open plain. Perhaps there is an adolescent longing to live in such a closed world, where every square foot has a private significance, ten paces infringe a boundary, decades are spent around a shabby table, whole lives in an armchair... But this is speculation."

Antal Szerb (1901-1945), from Journey by Moonlight (translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix, Pushkin Press)

On Szerb and Journey, see:


  1. Grazie.
    I just put this book on my Nook wish list.
    I'm always searching for well written books set in Venice.
    And I love your photos.

    1. I'm so awfully late in replying, Michelle, that I can only hope you haven't read it yet and discovered, to your disappointment, that the book only begins in Venice, then ranges over Italy. But it's worth it nevertheless. And thanks for you kind comment!

  2. Unbelievable, this passage perfectly describes my same ectasy feelings on my nightwalks in Venice.

    1. I know, Jon, it's weird when you happen upon passages that do that--especially, as in this case, in books you (or, at least, I) had never heard of and just accidentally stumble upon.