The Ancient Shore: Dispatches from Naples

December 2, 2020
The Ancient Shore: Dispatches from Naples

Born in Australia, Shirley Hazzard first moved to Naples as ayoung woman in the 1950s to take up a job with the United Nations.It was the beginning of a long love affair with the city. TheAncient Shore collects the best of Hazzard’s writings on Naples,along with a classic New Yorker essay by her late husband, FrancisSteegmuller. For the pair, both insatiable readers, the Naples ofPliny, Gibbon, and Auden is constantly alive to them in thepresent.With Hazzard as our guide, we encounter Henry James, OscarWilde, and of course Goethe, but Hazzard’s concern is primarilywith the Naples of our own time—often violently unforgiving toinnocent tourists, but able to transport the visitor who attendspatiently to its rhythms and history. A town shadowed by both thesymbol and the reality of Vesuvius can never fail to acknowledgethe essential precariousness of life—nor, as the lover of Naplesdiscovers, the human compassion, generosity, and friendship thatare necessary to sustain it.Beautifully illustrated by photographs from such masters asHenri Cartier-Bresson and Herbert List, The Ancient Shore is alyrical letter to a lifelong love: honest and clear-eyed, yet stillfervently, endlessly enchanted.“Much larger than all its parts, this book does full justice toa place, and a time, where ‘nothing was pristine, except thelight.’”—Bookforum“Deep in the spell of Italy, Hazzard parses the differencebetween visiting and living and working in a foreign country. Shewrites with enormous eloquence and passion of the beauty of gettinglost in a place.”—Susan Slater Reynolds, Los AngelesTimes