In this brief, intense, gem-like book, equal parts extended autobiographical essay and prose poem, Brodsky turns his eye to the seductive and enigmatic city of Venice. A mosaic of 48 short chapters—each recalling a specific episode from one of his many visits there (Brodsky spent his winters in Venice for nearly 20 years)—Watermark associatively and brilliantly evokes one city's architectural and atmospheric character. In doing so, the book also reveals a subject—and an author—readers have never before seen.
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. (June)