CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Venicernby Andrei NavrozovrnThe Women’s MovementrnAfter an uninterrupted spell of a winterrnmonth or two here in Venice —all footstepsrnin the evening mist, and quiet conversationrnabout the best way to cookrnpheasant, and a Neapolitan card gamerncalled “seven and a half—what one noticesrnon arriving in London is the wayrnwomen move. First of all, it’s the speed.rnWithin the most madamed, to say nothingrnof pompadoured, porcelain leafinessrnof Chelsea and Knightsbridge, one is suddenlyrnstartled by the ku-klux-klan of therngunlock, stopcock, and clockwork to-ingrnand fro-ing associated with the streets ofrnManhattan in the bull days when youngrnclerks, who called themselves bankers,rnfirst began walking to work wearing runningrnshoes while carrying their walkingrnshoes with them.rnSecondly, it’s the angle, hi the streetsrnof Italian cities, in Venice as in Florencernor Rome, women move with a hyperbolicrnserenity, with that stochastic smoothnessrnwhich flows from the notion of anrneasily and pleasurably achieved moralrnaim. The overall impression is that of therngraceful Brownian swarming one expectsrnto find at the threshold of an Orientalrngateway, whether what lies beyond therngate is a mere sultan’s bedchamber orrnsome heavenly paradise. I quote fromrnthe Second Sura of the Glorious Qur’an,rnwhich a Syrian girl called Hala once gavernme for my birthday on the charming andrnsolemn condition that I always keep it onrnthe topmost shelf of my bookcase;rnTo each is a goalrnTo which he turns;rnThen strive togetherrnTowards all that is good.rnWlieresoever ye are,rnGod will direct you.rnThis really is the philosophical layout of arntypical piazza in an Italian town, a theatricalrnsouk studded with busy cafes andrnencrusted with somnolent shops, wherernthe chorus of women swirls through thernranks of seated, or at least contemplative,rnmen like a jewelled comb through a storybookrnbeauty’s hair. God is a good director.rnHis productions are interesting.rnBy contrast, even in the King’s Road,rnChelsea’s perennial tourist seraglio withrna reputation for charivari, incense, andrnidleness surviving from another era, onernrarely catches a glimpse of anything otherrnthan the abrupt zig of the angularrnshoulder and the nervous zag of the plasticrnmannequin head. My point is that, tornmen, women represent life, and I’verngrown tired of looking at life that is allrnjagged shards, as though in a smashedrnrearview mirror of a badly parkedrnbuilder’s van. I wonder if this means I’vernfinally grown tired of London.rnThe fashionable cinema in the King’srnRoad is showing a new American filmrncalled Charlie’s Angels. Ordinarily, inrnthe history of the imagination of thernworld, East or West, angels belong tornGod and are God’s, but in Hollywoodrnthey are Charlie’s. Accordingly, on thernfilm’s posters, the actresses chosen for thernpart of angels appear to be angular,rnscrawny, hostile, wingless, and frozen inrnthe abortive indelicacy of a martial-artsrnpose. Please imagine a painting in whichrna divine messenger might be required tornmake an appearance, such as the Annunciation,rnand judge what sort of Virgin,rnand what kind of God, would be consistentrnwith the face and the demeanor ofrnone of these creatures. As though to completernthe bestial conceit, the actressesrnhave been photographed and celebratedrnin the press upon being presented to thernPrince of Wales, heir to the throne andrndefender of the faith. Charlie’s angels,rnget it?rnThe mass image is so radically and incontrovertiblyrna new departure in the historyrnof the Eternal Feminine that an Italianrnmagazine has run a cover story on thernemerging global trend masterminded byrnHollywood toward un fisico bestiale, arnbestial physique. The accompanying cryrnof dissent, an anguished counterclaimrnthat “a noi piacciono sempre morbide”rn(we Italians still like them soft), is supportedrnby a huge photo-still of the superstarrnof the moment—Monica Belluccirntutta curve—all curves, now appearing inrnGiuseppe Tornatore’s film Malena, a storyrnof seduction set in Sicily that has beenrnsetting box-office records here. In thernpicture. Miss Bellucci is clad in the nostalgicrnand intricate armor of femininityrnthat brings to mind the Raymond Chandlerrnphrase “cute as lace pants.”rnIt is interesting to note that all thernplaces where women have cast off womanhoodrndown to the last, seventh veil,rnsuch as the United States, Germany, Holland,rnand the Scandinavian countries,rnare famous for both the production andrnthe proliferation of pornography. Thernplaces where women continue to exhibitrnthe hyperbolic serenity of which I speak,rnsuch as France, Italy, and the rest of thernMediterranean countries verging on thernMuslim world, are equally famous for therndesign and manufacture of women’srnclothes, including lace pants, which is arnmuch bigger industry than pornography.rnIn other words, no sooner does thernwoman publicly declare herself free tornbecome a judge, a priest, or a bankerrnthan publicly she is made to strip naked.rnWhereas—in the absence of such a vociferousrndeclaration —while in fact beingrnperfectly free to judge, pray, or bank asrnshe wishes, the woman is a protected objectrnof cultural veneration and a mainstayrnof the national economy.rnI’m neither flirting with Islamic fundamentalismrnnor affecting the barroomrnhabits of thought now called “male chauvinism.”rnI’m merely doing what I haverndone since coming to Italy, using thernmodern, changing London as a foil forrnmy increasingly real life here. My friendrnAndriana M— is a Venetian in her 70’s,rnbut in the foggy aftermath of a supper Irngave for her, she found no fewer thanrnthree telephone numbers inside herrnhandbag, all slipped in there by ratherrnyounger men who were so taken by herrnbeauty, her charm, and her wit that theyrnhad forgotten that a liter of Russky Standart,rneven when chased down with pickledrnmushrooms, marinated herrings, andrnsturgeon caviar, divides into two withrnmost remarkable consequences. Myrnneighbor Donatella A— is only half arngeneration behind, yet so luminous is herrnface, so serene her movement, and sornhypnotic her whole dynamic silhouetternthat it is not uncommon for men of almostrnany age to freeze, openmouthed.rn38/CHRONiCLESrnrnrn