scrupulous foreigner ogling their palazzirnon the Grand Canal (“What if it was yourrnhouse?!”). And so on down to the finalrnscene, in which the jester discovers hisrndaughter felled hy the vengeful blow hernhad sought to direct at her presumed seducer:rnGildal Mia Gildal… E mortal…rnAh, la indkdizione!rn(Strappandosi i capelli, cade sid cadavererndella figlia.)rnAh, die curse! (And, tearing at his hair,rnhe falls upon the breathless bodv.) Thisrnis just how a Venetian of ancient lineagernfeels about the unforeseen outcome of arnquarrel with an intransigent plumber orrnan aaricions plasterer. Miei pavimentilrnMv floors! (Only a barely audible creakingrnb’way of reply.) Miei stucchil Myrnceiling reliefs! (Waterlogged.) Le coserndella mainiiial Mommy’s things! (Soldrnat auction bv die wastrel uncle.) Becausernthe truth, which every charlatan beginningrnwith Freud has made a living obfuscating,rnis that aii- human trait can workrnbackward as well as forward. While a ‘ i -rneiuicse psychiatrist may well want tornsleep in his moHier’s canopied bed becausernit reminds him of his mother, arnVenehan gendeman is f;ir more likely tornwant to sleep with his mother becausernshe reminds him of her canopied bed.rnGi’en such intensity of natural feeling,rnsuggesting that it may be radier easierrnto check into a Three-Star Kraut Excelsiorrn& Rooms in Mantua with thernirgiu Ciilda under the name of “Mr, &rnMrs. Bill Gates” than to rent her father’srnapartment in Venice on an honorablernone-} ear, tourist-aecommodahon lease, itrnis hardK surprising that when I look at arnpiazza in Rome, a street in Milan, or, asrnnow, a .stretch of the Amalfi coasdine, allrnI can really see is so much easily rentable,rnemotionally neutral lodging. The housernon die Grand Canal, or more specificallyrndie filet-mignon portion of it called diernpiano iiohilc, is all die Venetian nobil homornlias in this world. It is the habitationrnof his dignih’. To him, die house is a machinernfor feeling.rn.^n added complication is tliatrnVenice —though more cosmopolitan,rnboth h tradition and in actual fact, thanrnall die rest of the great Italian cities — is arnsmall town where everybody knows evcrrntiling about everyone else, and literallyrnnone of it is ever remotely true. I sayrndiis acKiscdl}’. As a Russian, I am used torntreating rumor and gossip as alternativernchannels of information, more trushvorthy,rnif an-thing, than official news bulletinsrnand press reports. As it happens,rnthe local paper, 11 Gazzettiuo, has just a.stonishedrnVenice with the news that thernAmerican owner of die Palazzo Persico,rndirecdy across the Grand Canal from diernMoeenigo, “rents out” —has rented?rnwould rent? is diinking of renting? hasrnhad a dream in which she was going tornrent? Italian syntax goes all coy at diisrnjuncture —”her piano nobile for $60,000rna month.” From this one may easily drawrnthe mistaken conclusion tiiat no rumor,rnand no gossip, can possibly be as f;ilse asrnw hat gets printed in newspapers.rnIn my childhood, we laughed at thernquestion of wdiether it was true that a certainrnArmenian had won a million in diernstate lotter)’. The answer was: “Yes, it isrntrue. But it wasn’t in the state lotterv’, itrnwas at cards, and it wasn’t a million, it wasrna hundred roubles, and he didn’t win, hernlost.” Whether the nice Mrs. Press rentsrnout her apartment for $60,000, or S6,000,rnor $600 a month, there is still at least anrnelement of trudi in die Gazzettiuo stoiv,rnwhereas die things one hears at dinner atrndie Cireolo, the gentiemen’s club wherernthe cit}’ elders doze over tiicir Camparis,rnare total, blinding, Byzantine inventions.rn”Countess M— has run off with arnColombian drug baron. The count hasrneczema, caused, I happen to know, b arnbad oyster he once ate in Monte Carlo.rnLater this year he will be going tornSwitzerland for prolonged specialist treatment.rnYou shordd speak to his nephewrnin Vlilau, who is an important publisherrnof books on die histor of dance, and hernw ill almost certainly let ou liae thernapartment.” Now the truth is that diernne|:iliew, a banker in New York, has notrnbeen to Italy since the age of three; that itrnwas back in 1959 that the countess leftrnher husband for an English racecar driver;rnand that the 82-year-old count,rneczema or no eczema, is happily ensconcedrnin his ancestral palazzo in therncompan’ of a raven-haired Brazilianrndancer named Miu, whom he foundrnthrough an Internet singles site. B’ therntime yon unravel the knot and follow uprnthe lead, die old man drowns in his bath,rnMiu turns blonde, and die apartment isrnrented to a RAI television executive.rnByzantine indeed. “The worst,” as Bvronrnnoted of the people of Greece inrnwhose service he was about to lay downrnhis life,rnis riiat (to use a coarse but the onlyrnexpression that will not fall f;ir shortrnof the truth) they are such damnedrnliars; tiiere never was such an incapacityrnfor vcracit) show n since Evernlived in Paradise. One of themrnfound fault the other da widi thernEnglish language, because it had sornfew shades of a Negative, whereas arnGreek can so modify a “No” to arn”Yes” and vice versa, by the slipperyrnqualities of his language, that prevaricationrnmay be carried to an- extentrnand still leave a loop-hole. .. .rnThis was die gentleman’s own talk,rnand is only to be doubted becausernin the words of the sllogism “NowrnEpimenides was a Cretan.”rnI suppose the moral of the stor)’ is that,rnafter a year or two at the Palazzo Moeenigo,rna man should go off and fight forrnGreek independence, especially if hisrnlease has run out.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondent.rnLetter FromrnMarylandrnby Brian KirkpatrickrnLiberty and LicensernA recent article in the Baltimore Sun gaverna wonderfrd exani|3le of how die mediarnview traditional Christianit}-. Under thernheadline “Vatican Orders Activists’ Silence,”rnthe Sun presented the latest installmentrnin a local saga that is beginningrnto rival one of die national soap operas inrnits duration.rnIn the I970’s, a Cadiolic priest and arnnun started a ministry targeted at homosexualrnmen and lesbians. It took die Vaticanrnadministratie machinery nian’rnyears of discussion to reach a decision,rnbut last year the hvo were ordered to stoprntheir work. The Sun story- concerned arnrecent meeting in Rome, at which therntW’O were further instructed not to talkrnabout die ministry or the reasons for itsrntermination. If tiiev broke the ban, theyrnfaced dismissal from the religious life:rnShe would no longer be a nun; he wouldrnDECEMBER 2000/39rnrnrn