This book fills me with love. The last time I read it, at first I wrote a story, trying to put that love to work, and divert it somewhere comparatively risk-free, and then I abandoned reading the book altogether, because I found an actual person to love instead. But even now, rereading it a decade later, page after page after page summons up emotion that needs tapping, distribution; a channel through which to rush.
With neither apologies nor care, nor thought, nor credit given to the many contrary proofs, Alessandro believed that the portrait of Bindo Altoviti— “il ritratto suo quando era giovane,” his portrait when he was young-was as alive as any of the light that calibrates the time that says of us that we live. Young Bindo Altovini, looking out from time, made a perfect coalition with the mountains, the sky, and the tall redheaded woman who had bent over just slightly to examine a raging battle that was long over. Alessandro imagined that Bindo Altovini was saying, half with longing, half with delight, “These are the things in which I was so helplessly caught up, the waves that took me, what I loved. When light filled my eyes and I was restless and could move, I knew not what all the color was about, but only that I had a passion to see. And now that I am still, I pass on to you my liveliness and my life, for you will be taken, as once I was, and although you must fight beyond your capacity to fight and feel beyond your capacity to feel, remember that it ends in perfect peace, and you will be as still and content as am I, for whom centuries are not even seconds.”
“The engine released clouds of steam to rest forever in the vaguely green light, and startled pigeons took flight, forced by glass and steel into maneuvers tighter and more agile than in the open air. Venice seemed buoyant, as in a dream, and gave Alessandro the uncanny feeling that were he to leave the train he might defeat time by reaching out to grasp the opposite part of the loop upon which time was about to billow. But even if that had been literally true, if by breaking his ticket and making an early unplanned exit he could confound time, he would not have done it, for the attractions ahead were too bright to skip, and he had the notion that the harder and better he seized every dazzling particular, the greater would be the light in the end.”