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Watermark Paperback – June 1, 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As much a brooding self-portrait as a lyric description of Venice, poet Brodsky's quirky, impressionistic essay describes his 17-year romance with a city of dreamlike beauty that banishes nightmares. Praising Venice and its architecture as a triumph of the visual, the Nobel laureate uses his visits there as a touchstone to meditate on life's unpredictability, the appetite for beauty, death, myth and modern art "whose poverty alone makes it prophetic." Waxing confessional, he declares, "I am not a moral man. . . . I am but a nervous man . . . but I am observant" and offers autobiographical asides about his youthful lust for an Italian communist scholar and a 1977 meeting in Venice with Susan Sontag. In his wayward forays amid canals, streets and cathedrals barnacled with saints, the eternal Venice shimmers through the fog, battered yet resplendent.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Nobel laureate's latest book is a paean to Venice, "itself a work of art," which has welcomed him for 17 winters of reflection and discovery. Brodsky views his adopted city not as a tourist but with the keen eye of a poet, finding beauty (a recurring theme) in the juxtaposition of lacy Venetian facades with "the anarchy of water." After this, he writes, "Everything is a letdown." Moving lightly in its imagery from a string of pearls to the Milky Way, Watermark pays tribute in language worthy of this great city. Its irresistible style and grace combine to express a dream that afterward lingers like a treasured memory. Very highly recommended.
- Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (June 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374523827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374523824
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 15, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
WATERMARK is an apt title for this splendid collection of thoughts and fugues on the city of Venice, a place where Brodsky returned yearly for seventeen years and where in the solitude of the winter months in this most desirable of tourist destinations he composed some of his best poetry and translations. Brodsky's title refers to the repeated traces (watermarks) the sea makes on the canals and decaying buildings of Venice, like pages from a book of history or of poetry, or a novel. He writes extended soliloquies about the surfaces of the water in the canals and in the surrrounding sea that softly and surely continues to submerge Venice. He also writes colloquies of conversations with Ezra Pound's widow and the subsequent memories and opinions of that controversial figure. His rambling discourses while strolling the narrow streets that follow the canals inevitably to the sea are rich in observation and philosophy. His love for Venice is always palpable. '...the whole city, especially at night, resembles a gigantic orchestra, with dimly lit music stands of palazzi, with a restless chorus of waves, with the falsetto of a star in the winter sky. The music is, of course, greater than the band, and no hand can turn the page.'
Joseph Brodsky is at his finest in much of this small volume. For those who love Venice by association or by dreams of history and the music of Vivaldi, Bellini, and the art of Tiepolo or Titian, this collection of reveries is a must. Elegant, charming, stimulating, and nostalgic.
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By A Customer on December 29, 1996
Format: Paperback
Brodsky writes of his memories of seventeen winters in Venice. He has captured the shimmering essence of the Serene Republic in a series of short essays. His focus, as that of the city, is on the water and its reflective capacity. The water and city mirror an inner process for Brodsky and many others who visit. He explores the theme of light upon water from many perspectives, ultimately acknowledging the mystery of both the city, the water and the attachment formed. These memories, fragmented as light on water, will bring any traveler back to the beauty and wonder of Venezia
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Format: Paperback
For any reader who wants to recreate the mesmerizing effect of walking the watery streets of Venice, reading this book will do it. As you enter Brodsky's very personal meditation on the ancient city that has enchanted so many for so long, his thoughts become your own, and all at once you are there. Dipping into the pages of this book is an armchair traveler's paradise.
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Format: Paperback
A remarkable synthesis of poetry and prose. His style reveals impressions rather than what he has seen. The best comparison that I can think of is a dream that you remember vividly.
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By Anonymous on November 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
Brodsky is coyly, conciously self-indulgent here, by publishing thoughts about his favorite little city ... maybe everyone's favorite little city. Some of these essays are like shrugs: "this is how i feel, this is what it may mean. who knows?" Some are far more ardent, on the verge of revelation. Brodsky's humor, and casual seriousness, make this tiny book a real pleasure to hang out with.
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Format: Paperback
Once upon a time, Joseph Brodsky went to Venice and in more than one way never returned. He went back, again and again, always in winter, when it can be cold and rainy, when the water levels rise in what Venetians call aqua alta, and the canals lap around the architecture, licking the thresholds.

"Should the world be designated a genre, its main stylistic device would no doubt be water." I've said elsewhere that less than 24 hours in Venice on a rainy day began my own love affair with this city. Oh, the sun was out when I arrived, but the following day I splashed through puddles and smiled at romantic couples huddled in their honeymoon gondolas under umbrellas.

In Watermark , Brodsky has written a love letter, a prose poem, to the city we both love, he with more attention that I will ever be able to give.

"Part water, we serve beauty ... That's what the role of this city in the universe is. Because the city is static while we are moving. The tear is proof of that. Because we go and beauty stays."
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This is one of the best books I've ever read. No, really. I've bought at least five copies that I've given to my closest friends, and the universal reaction was a) this is amazing and b) why have I never heard about this before?
Such a pleasure to read, and read, and read over and over again.
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