This week has been a bit like Christmas… two new books arrived, one of which I had translated and the other I edited.
The first parcel came from Lars-Müller, a Swiss publisher with whom I’ve worked before, and it contained three copies (as per contract!) of Antonio Foscari’s third book about Palladio and Villa Foscari, aka Malcontenta. In this latest addition, the author focused on the frescos in the villa. The book has been turned around at record speed since I only started to translate the texts about a year ago and we were still looking at proofs in early August.
Frescos within Palladio’s Architecture: Malcontenta 1557-1575 explores the superb fresco cycle of Malcontenta in the context of key political and cultural events in Venice and the patrons’ family commitments between the late 1550s and 1570s. The author Antonio Foscari successfully proves – in contrast to prevailing opinions – that it was completed in stages over a period of almost fifteen years. Recognition of this long duration allows the fresco cycle to be seen as an aide-memoire that testifies to changing circumstances in the patrons’ lives. The author reveals ideological discrepancies in the iconography as well as themes that, until now, have been undecipherable and sheds light on the stylistic evolution of Battista Zelotti, the artist who is the protagonist of the whole cycle. Beyond that the book shows the determination with which Andrea Palladio attempted to supervise this artistic project over the years, and how, when it escaped Palladio’s control, it threatened to compromise a clear perception of his perfectly proportioned architecture, and therefore the very essence of his cultural message.
For me personally one of the best aspects of working on this book was that I was able to visit Malcontenta in early May. It was a wonderful experience and very moving to see the frescos after writing about them at such length. We were lucky with the weather and it was warm enough to be outside on the terrace before and after dinner.
The second parcel that arrived contained a book that I edited earlier this spring. It is a charming and very unusual memoir by Victor Eskenazi titled Thanks for the Buggy Ride. Memoirs of an Ottoman Jew (Libra Kitap, Istanbul, 2013). I recommend it for its quaint picture of Istanbul, Vienna and Milan in the years between the two World Wars. The author moved to London before the outbreak of the Second World War during which he fought for the British. The tone is never nostalgic but instead immensely uplifting:
Time has passed, but I have no regrets for what I have not done or will no longer do. When life comes towards the end, one stops looking ahead because the road has already been eventful. Old wounds cease to hurt and memories soften and lighten the spirit.