Why I Live in Italyrnby Andrei NavrozovrnIlive in Italy—in Venice, which I have on occasion describedrnas Italy’s Italy—for the deceptively simple reason that it is thernonly place in the world where I do not feel the urge to playrnroulette after dinner. I have actually thought long and hardrnabout this opening sentence of mine, trying to decide whetherrna gambler’s confession would make for a suitable literary gambitrnwhen addressing Chronicles’ readers. And I ha’e come tornthe conclusion that yes, actually, this is a perfectly reasonablernwav of getting at whatever it is I want to say about Italy, andrnabout m’ reasons for settling here.rnIn the totalitarian Russia where I spent my childhood, itrnseemed that chance had been abolished by decree, or, as thernfamous phrase went, “liquidated as a class.” If you did not passrnthe universit}’ entrance examinations, vou were drafted into thernarmy for three years, with consequences for the remainder ofrnyour adult life that were as brutal as they were predictable. Ifrnyou circulated a tpewritten letter among your friends, lamentingrna social reality or sharing a political dream, you were hauledrnoff to jail. Again, there was no chance about it; it was going tornhappen as ineitably as one day follows another in the life ofrnSolomon Grundy. Ever’bodv knew the minutiae of chancelessnessrnthat attached to universitv placement, to army conscription,rnto unemployment, to dissidence, to crime. Everybod’rnknew exactly what was going to happen next at everyrnconceivable juncture.rnAndrei Navrozov (s Chronicles’ European correspondent. ‘I’hisrnarticle is adapted from his speech at The Rockford Institute’srnconference on the rise (and fall) of Italy and the United States.rnHence, at some later point in life, I was doomed to discoverrnwithin myself the demonic attractions of roulette, that chanciestrnof all the games of hazard. It is as though the oxygen of the unpredictablernthat I had been denied throughout my youth becamerna kind of drug, a kind of over-priced placebo, a kind ofrnhope that there, on the table covered in green bai/.c, somernmeaningful revenge cordd be had on a mechanistic, godlessrnuniverse where obedience and cowardice were automahcallyrnrewarded, even as ttiought and risk were the known and certainrnlosers—revenge on a world that worked like a clock, with Sw issrnprecision.rnSwitzerland has not produced much literature, and this isrnhardly a coincidence. If we think back on the famous novels wernfound so exciting when we first read them in adolescence —rnScott, Dickens, Balzac, Tolstoy, Dosto’cvsky, Manzoni—wernmay notice that chance, coincidence, confluence of cireumstanees,rnand accident are their lifeblood. But if we look deeper,rnbeneath the skin of the genre, we see that another and betterrnname for what makes these novels come to life is relationshipsrn— between men, between men and women, men andrnplaces, men and God —relationships that, in the real world reflectingrnitself in the minds of their authors, seem to have a greatrnand natural sweep.rnReturning to my childhood in Russia, 1 now see that this litmusrntest, too, is working. Because under totalitarianism all relationships,rnlike all chance, are at an end. Wliat sort of inhmacyrncan there be behveen a man and a woman in Orwell’s world?rnWhat kind of ovin g son is born to them in Kafka’s? What sortrnof loyal friend do thev have in Zamvatin’s? What city can the-rnAUGUST 2000/1 9rnrnrn