- Series: Travel Library
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: PENGUIN BOOKS LTD; New Ed edition (1983)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014009511X
- ISBN-13: 978-0140095111
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,190,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Siren Land (Penguin Travel Library) Paperback – Import, 1983
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The Siren Land encloses the Sorrentine Peninsula and Capri, which together form the Southern arm of the Bay of Naples. This country was a favorite resort of Englishmen traveling abroad and it represented for most Northners the paradise of the Mediterranean South. This magnificent region was once isentified as the home of the Sirens, mythological creatures half human and half birds (Homer), that the Middle Ages turned into women fish. Starting from this ancient Siren myth, Douglas narrates the topographical and archeological features of the Bay of Naples. First he climbs on the highest hights and "grasps" the geography and the sprit of the palce, and then with his beautiful prose he stars heading back and forth between history and the present. However, as in other books of his (Old Calabria, for example) narrative and description are interrupted by the frequent insertion of moral essays, on ethics derivable from ruins, absence of sexual liberty in the European North and other such issues. Chapters deal with local winds (the famous Scirocco of Capri, a Southeastern wing that drives people crazy) and their folklore, the character of Tiberio (the Roman Emperor that decided to spend his last ten years of life in Capri and that here is called Timberio and has been unjustly treated by Roman historians), local ghosts (from dead maidens, to priests and hermits), and that of Sister Seraphina (Capri's patron saint that is plasmated on Saint Teresa d'Avila), caves (the Blue Grotto for first, but also many others) and their narrative, leisure, local wine (that at Douglas's time wasn't very good - differently to today, go there today and ask for Biancolella d'Ischia - note from Sabina).
I am sure many readers will find this book difficult to read, because of the pre-modern sensibility of the Author. His humoristic Nietzschean naughtiness and the puritan determination of his atheism and hedonism, together with the eccentric attitude of the typical British abroad may seem fastidious to modern Europeans today, but if the approach to the read is orientated toward and antiquarian fascination with language and humanism intentended as the satisfaction of curiosity of one's whereabouts and nothing else, there is no book more pleasant expecially if you are resting on a balcony overlooking the Bay of Naples on a summer afternoon.
I must add a personal note. I bought this book during my honeymoon in Capri and have always treasured it in this edition but I hope it will be republished possibly with notes. To Italians Norman Douglas was a precious friend, he was elected honorary citizen of Capri after WWII and here he successively committed suicide many years later after having become one of the Island's monuments. Naturally time has taken his toll on this eccentric Englishman, but I believe he still inhabits the Island.