Falling Palace: A Romance of Naples
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A portrait of the sun-drenched volcanic city from an American who has lost his heart to the place and to a beguiling Neapolitan woman.
In Falling Palace Dan Hofstadter brilliantly reveals Naples, from the dilapidated architectural beauty to the irrepressible theater of everyday life. We witness the centuries-old festivals that regularly crowd the city’s jumbled streets, and eavesdrop on conversations that continue deep into the night. We browse the countless curio shops where treasures mingle with kitsch, and meet the locals he befriends. In and out of these encounters slips Benedetta, the object of the author’s affections, at once inviting and unfathomable. Weaving the tale of an elusive love together with a vivid portrayal of a legendary metropolis, this is a startling evocation of a magical place.
understand.” As I heard more references to “he” and to “him,” I decided not to disclose my presence. Were they talking about me? The circumstances—and my vanity—suggested that they were. By now it was twilight, and the colors of the room had drained away, so that nothing remained to be seen but two tall open windows framing patches of glimmering sky. The damp clamor of the city drifted through the windows, and on this ever-shifting ocean of sound floated Benedetta's silvery voice, passionately
the gods of the underworld to put us in touch with the dead. Mainly there was the assumption that none of life's many chambers were totally sealed off from any of the others—everything communicated with everything else. Judges burst into song in front of defendants; old bachelors carried on like young lovers; and florists took the place of funeral orators, even if what they said could hardly qualify as a eulogy. Before meeting me, Benedetta, like most townspeople, had little call to explore her
amid gelsemina and trailing bougainvillea and huge earthenware jars; and so it was, gradually, as I watched her, that I lost heart. Perhaps this person was not Benedetta after all, I told myself, and what a fool I'd seem if I tried to address her. I turned finally and walked out of the cloister; and this ridiculous pursuit of an unknown girl filled me with a self-loathing that only slowly dwindled away. Several days later, walking near the Accademia delle Belle Arti toward sundown, I did meet
by an ailing dwarf palm; a corner stairway, with well-worn marble treads, led up to the doctor's door. He answered the bell himself and showed me along a corridor and into his office, where he sat down behind a large desk. Tiny and swarthy, Doctor Candeloro seemed immemorially old, a holdover from a remote era, and he moved very slowly, though not, I thought, with pain. He was swimming in an oversize gray check suit, which had doubtless once fit him. His open collar revealed that he wore an
spirited conversation. Those days have passed; yet much of the coarse old hospitality remains. It is common to praise the resourcefulness of the poor, less common to praise their good taste. Yet nowhere else have I seen such elegant poverty—a chastening lesson to those who, like me, are always shabbily short of funds. Nowhere else are the down-and-out so beautifully dressed, so deliciously fed, so even-tempered and courtly and frolicsome (one suspects some Faustian bargain). I think I mean to