The Venetians and the Water

In Venice, a Young Boatman Steers a Course of His Own

“I am not a sailor,” says the young man on the pontoon who has just finished his lunch on the water. “I am only in the water-but because of this, I am a sailor.”

A new book tells an important story that is as old as the Venetian Republic. It deals with the relationship that the Venetians had with their water. They built bridges for ships and boats. They brought them in, and they took them out again. And the Venetians were the first in Europe to use the water on a very large scale to control the world.

And so this young man, he is also Venetian. As a newly minted lawyer, he is also a new graduate student at the University of Venice. And he is also, he says, only a sailor. As he has sat on the low pontoon and eaten his lunch, he has begun trying to understand what his life-which is in fact a story of the sea-really is.

As he is going to bed-about 11 o’clock, in fact-the young Venetian says something important to him. It is a statement about Venice itself.

“We are never happy,” says the young man. “Always we are unhappy. But we are never happy because we have always been unhappy,” he says.

On the river that is one of Europe’s longest, at the very end of his study-for two years, he takes up the story that he has begun to write. He looks at the Venetians’ relationship with the water and with Venice and its history and the city that was so important to them from a very long time ago. But he looks also at his own family history as a young Venetian.

As he is writing, the young man is writing with a pen-and with a fine fountain pen. He writes his report, his research. He will write his doctoral thesis on this subject. And he will write his history.

The name of the young man is Gervasio Fattoruso. He is born on the island of Stromboli, in the Mediterranean Sea. He was born in 1922. He is also an Italian-an immigrant who is from Florence, Italy. He is also a lawyer. He is

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