The Girl From Venice

The Girl From Venice

Book - 2016
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j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

***Likely a few Typos***
Fishermen were nocturnal creatures who slept by day and fished by night. They stayed out on the lagoon for days at a time and when they came ashore they smelled so much of fish that cats followed them through the streets.
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A woman on a boat was bad luck, and he supposed a dead girl was even worse.
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“We give people here too much credit. Fishing in a lagoon is like fishing in a barrel.” … “Yes, but you have to know where the barrels are.”
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“Do you know why Italians fish o their hands and knees? Because it’s the normal position for an Italian. Isn’t that the way you fish?” Cenzo shrugged. “It depends on the fish. Some you catch with a hook, some with a net, and some you have to get down and tickle under the chin.”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

… compared to a gunboat, the Fatima is, well, not much faster than a cork.
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“Thin ice my friend, very thin ice. Remember, even a worm has teeth.”
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Even in mourning, everything about her was heaving and buxom, with a healthy olive complexion and long, black stockings that begged to be unrolled. It was customary in the village for an unmarried man to marry the widow of his brother, in this case Hugo, a deed that seemed overdue. Celestina certainly seemed willing, and yet, Cenzo was numb to her attraction.
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“She’s too young to be alone. If it comes to that, Innocenzo, you’re too young to be without a woman.”
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“You’re impossible. Name one flaw in Celestina.” “I can’t. She could make a sausage stand up and whistle.”
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She was from Venice and he was from Pellestrina, which was like saying they were not only from opposite sides of the lagoon but from different worlds. When she spoke she had an elegantly lazy Venetian accent. When he spoke, consonants disappeared.

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

“Did I tell you about Byron?” “You told me. Was he a good fisherman?” “I don’t know.” “So we’re even.”
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He thought fish were mysterious, more a race than a species, and an invitation to another world. If she didn’t see it that way, it was her loss.
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His younger brother Hugo never learned how to swim. Some fishermen were like that, as if knowing how to swim invited the necessity.
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“My father said you never know who your friends are until you need them.”
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What claim did a husband have compared to the passion of a lover?
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He walked around her. She had cropped her hair into a shaggy nightmare. “You wouldn’t fool a blind man.”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

“Teach me how to fish.” “Are you willing to get wet and stink like a fish?” “Better than being a prisoner. But I need a rod and reel.” “Do you? I suppose if you’re a rich man and have all day to catch a fish, that’s one way to go about it. But if you’re a professional fisherman and have to catch a thousand, you use a net. You don’t chase the fish with a hook and sinker, you welcome him to your net.”
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“Things you should know: A clean boat never makes money. A red moon makes the blood boil. Never fish the same ground two days in a row. At the market, cover your old fish with your fresh. A real fisherman doesn’t need boots. Fish jump to breathe. The caption of a fishing boat sleeps at the stern, the crew at the bow. Fishermen know how to wash dishes with sand. The best soup is at the bottom of the pot. When you’re rowing, watch out for mines. Good luck will kiss you in bad weather.”
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“What about women in boats?” “Definitely bad luck. Unless they’re naked. That’s good luck.”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

“Since when do you sail with girls?” “One girl,” Cenzo said. “When it comes to bad luck, one girl will do as well as a dozen….”
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… he did not believe In this war and his sole intent was to outlive it.
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“ ’Such hath it been—shall be—beneath the sun/ The many still must labor for the one!’ Byron.”
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“Octopus is an interesting character. He winks at you and disappears. Squid is a torpedo. Flatfish are clowns with two eyes on one side because God has a sense of humor. And a cuttlefish is not so much a fish as an inverted mollusk that swims backwards.”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

Cenzo said, “Do you hear that, Nido? A girl is willing to go where grown men are afraid to tread. How does that make you feel?” “That my skin comes first …”
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For his brother, everything was geometry. One angle determined another angle, which determined a third angle, and so on.
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Í once boxed in Burma. I had a friend there who was a veterinarian and he had a friend, a woman, who got a pet python when it was just a baby. S’true. A beautiful snake with amber eyes. As it grew, it would coil up in her lap when she was reading and coil next to her in bed when she was asleep. One night, the veterinarian got a phone call from the woman. She was nervous because, instead of coiling, the python was stretched out next to her in bed. Completely stretched. From head to tail. The veterinarian told her to get out of bed and out of the house. He said, “It’s measuring you.” “What are you trying to tell me?” “Be careful who you embrace.”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

“I’m learning to fish,” Giulia said. “From my friend Cenzo? I could sell tickets to that.”
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“Us. We are the crabs, climbing over each other and shedding our own shells, Fascists one moment, Reds the next.”
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“A wise man,” he liked to say, “keeps his ignorance to himself.”
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The German army had two hundred thousand veteran troops in Italy. Mussolini had fifty thousand hard-core Fascists. Together they controlled Milan, Turin, Genoa and Verona and Salo, the new capital of the German Republic. The war was lost, but it wasn’t over.
Maria Paz was In her late thirties, an athletic woman with bangles on her wrist and a hint of carnal knowledge to her smile. Cenzo could picture her at the head of a conga line.
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…and the shirts bore his monogram GGV for Giorgio “Giovanni” Vianello. The middle name was always given by the church and the name for boys in Pellestrina was always Giovanni.

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

"What if Salo is bombed?” “It won’t be. At least it hasn’t been.” “Why not? Mussolini is here.” “It would be a waste of ammunition. Ask yourself: which is more important, Mussolini or a locomotive.”
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“Did you know that the violin was invited in Salo? Remarkable place.”
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“Brother Cenzo, what is it like under the stars on the Venice lagoons? What’s the biggest fish you ever saw?” “An anchovy. Before it split into ten thousand fish.”
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It wasn’t clear whether he was in over his head or “just smart enough to fool the fish,” as his father used to say.
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“How did she escape?” “She swam across the lagoon.” “Nobody swims across the lagoon.” “Byron did.” Dante’s stare gave way to a smile and he closed his notebook. “So they say.” “That’s impossible,” the Spaniard said. “Not only impossible, but in iambic tetrameter,” Dante said. “ ‘She walks in beauty, like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies … ‘ Perhaps it should have been ‘She swims in beauty …’ ”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

“You know, a month from now, you and I might be strolling in a liberated Venice. It will be like the day after Carnival when all the masks come off and it will become evident who are the heroes, who are the traitors, and who are the innocent victims. I think there will be many surprises, some quite said.”
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Vera slapped her cards down on the table. “I hate bridge.” “Of course you do,” said Giorgio. “Bridge takes sobriety, like chess.”
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He wasn’t sure how he felt about Maria Paz. At the start he felt there was too little explained about her and then too much, like a box that might or might not contain high explosives. Nothing in between.
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There were seven tunnels along the Garda Road, each wide enough to accommodate a tank; and where the tunnels opened up, they invited spectacular plunges down to the water. The road was a perfect escape route from Salo to Switzerland. Also a perfect trap.
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“So now you're showing initiative?” said Giorgio. “Too little, too late, as usual.”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

“Cole Porter said it best. ‘You’re the top, you’re Mussolini. You’re the top, “you‘re a dry martini.’”
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An honest man is always called a cynic. You think that the liberation will be like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace? It won’t be. It will be murderers and grave robbers, a parade of the lowest forms of humanity. You deal with them or end up with your pants down.
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A German name was not unusual: ten percent of the Argentine population was German and ten percent was Italian. They accounted for Argentina’s sympathies during the war.
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“Where do you fit in?” Cenzo asked. “Oh, I’m just a middleman. I merely address the need.” “That’s very Swiss of you.”
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As I was saying, everybody compromises. At times like these, there is nothing ignoble about survival.

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

There’s plenty of money to be made out of a bankruptcy,” Otto said. “Believe me, I’ve done it more than once myself. Communist? Fascist? Gold bullion doesn’t care about politics. Neither do Swiss marks or notes of credit. While we thought Mussolini was wandering aimlessly around Italy, he’s been emptying federal cash boxes and withdrawing party funds. He’s been peeling off money like banana skins.”
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On such a short airstrip a Junker would stand out like an overdressed dowager.
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Who were they? Cenzo wondered. Strip them of their helmets and guns, and they were salesclerks and students who had been dispatched to oblivion.
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As Nido would say, there was no reason unless there was a reason.

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

There’s no more delicate military operation than a surrender. All you need to turn a surrender into a slaughter is take away trust.
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It’s said that Napoleon’s retreat from Russia was a disaster because his army tried to carry home too much loot. They wouldn’t give up this candelabra or that set of silver.
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“Do you think he loved Gina?” “She was a onetime affair, a beautiful girl nothing more.” “You don’t think the fact that she was his brother’s wife added a certain twist?” “We’ve been all through this. It was pure chance you were brothers.”
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What was he after? The fisherman was asked. Diamonds? Pearls? A crown of gold? Better yet, was there one dazzling insight that a man could steer his boat by? Ye. “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” That was it, the wisdom of the ages. If a man could be satisfied with that grain of knowledge, he could be satisfied for life.

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

Why was the period on the Fatima seemed a happy time for both of them was mystery to Cenzo. As he remembered, all he and Giulia had done was argue.
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Nothing happened? A man and a woman are alone on a small boat for three weeks and you tell me that nothing happened?
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It was selfish of him to complicate her life. She could be a teacher or a tourist guide or just plain rich. He could only be a fisherman and the most he could hope for was to deliver her safely to Venice.
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He remembered that, as a general pattern, mines were planted every ten feet for tanks and every four feet for personnel. Theoretically, once a man knew the patter, he could survive. Cenzo shuffled forward, the better to nudge land mines aside rather than step on them.

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

Cenzo pulled the plane’s nose up. “Hang on,” he said. “What does that mean?” “It means hang on.”
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Nido lifted his head ponderously, as a great turtle might. “What gold?” “Don’t worry,” Cenzo said. “We dumped it. It was too heavy.” “Too heavy! You stole a plane full of gold and dumped it?”
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On Liberation Say, a new Venice rose up despite the presence of Fascist snipers on rooftops. Partisans fought back with rifles that were handed from canals to palace windows. They tied red kerchiefs around their arms and waved the flag of the winged lion above St. Mark’s Cathedral. Some whores proved to be patriots. Women who had taken Germans as lovers had their hair brutally cropped by the partisans. …

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

The day of liberation was followed by days of uncertainty. Whoever had been on top was likely to find himself on the bottom. Not only soldiers and Fascists had to adjust, but also the technocrats and bureaucrats who had kept the cogs of the state turning, switching portraits of Ii Duce for the pope. Some prisoners had to stay behind bars no matter what. Others were prisoners in the morning, partisans at noon, and government ministers by evening. And vice versa. It was hard to say who was more vulnerable, the famous or the anonymous, although it was generally agreed that big heads rolled best.
I was thinking of writing my memoirs before amnesia sets in. There will be a nationwide amnesia …

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

Switzerland was full of spies and decoys all watching each other. The more spies that wasted their time watching … the fewer watched the Allied forces.
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You always have something to lose.
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And as a matter of professional courtesy, I can offer you different manners of execution. With or without a blindfold. Guillotine, garrote, bullet, blade, poison, or suffocation. Standing, sitting, or on your knees.
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Women took pride in flirting with a famous actor and Celestina was no different. She telegraphed her sensuality, which was no small weapon.
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Nido lifted his glass. “To Giulia, your will-o’-the-wisp.” “What do you mean?” “I mean, don’t let your heart get broken again. I’m speaking as a friend.”

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

“My father wasn’t an educated man but he was what could be called a ‘natural philosopher.’ A bit of a dreamer. Sometimes he didn’t catch as many fish as he should have because he was so busy watching the world. He could tell you when a kestrel was about o dive or how a duck’s wings drummed against the water. It was a mystery to him how nature could be so evenhanded and how the ugly and the beautiful could trade places. Some fishermen tossed dynamite into the lagoon and brought hundreds of fish to the surface. They were thugs, not fishermen …
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Sometimes I think that I’m Alice and I’ve gone through the looking glass. Only I’m not following a white rabbit, I’m following a mad fisherman who leads me on wild escapades and has a circle of friends and family each more lunatic than the other. Are they as dangerous as he makes them out to be? I can’t tell. I probably should escape, and yet I can’t. I’m his prisoner.

j
jimg2000
Nov 10, 2016

The Allies didn’t bomb Salo, not once. They blew up soldiers the length of Italy, but Mussolini was not worth the expenditure of a single bomb. I feel for the suckers who volunteered. They wanted to die for the Motherland. Well, they got six feet of it.
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What was it about memory? Cenzo thought. So often you only understood how you felt about someone after they were gone. The scale had finally tipped and Cenzo found himself forgiving Giorgio. His brother was a badly flawed person but, on balance, he was also Prince Charming. That was his fate.
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The Grand Canal had already recaptured much of its old lights and sparkle. It was a mere facade in that many of the city’s wartime refugees had left Venice as soon as it was liberated. Fair enough, Cenzo thought. The Fatima was a lifeboat that had served its purpose.


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