The painted veil

“If nobody spoke unless he had something to say, the human race would very soon
lose the use of speech.” (Kitty Fane)


On the way to Mai-tan-fu

On the way to Mai-tan-fu

“THEY were reaching their destination at last. They were borne in chairs, day after day, along a narrow causeway between interminable rice-fields. They set out at dawn and travelled till the heat of the day forced them to take shelter in a wayside inn and then went on again till they reached the town where they had arranged to spend the night. Kitty’s chair headed the procession and Walter followed her; then in a straggling line came the coolies that bore their bedding, stores, and equipment. Kitty passed through the country with unseeing eyes.” (The painted veil)


“She told herself that she hated and despised him; but she had no idea how she was going to live if she was never to see him again. If Walter was taking her to Mei-Tan-Fun as a punishment he was making a fool of himself, for what did she care now what became of her? She had nothing to live for any more. It was rather hard to be finished with life at twenty-seven.”

Kitty and Waddington

“Tao. Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whiskey
and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither.” (Waddington)


At this point of the story, in the most recent film, directed by John Curran and adapted to the screen by Ron Nyswaner, the plot takes a new direction: this version of the story lulls you by turning Maugham’s distaff bildungsroman into a fine romance.

Kitty falls in love with Walter

Dry as dust on the page and nearly as hard to grab hold of, Walter registers as a far more robust character on the screen. The novel centers on Kitty and contains large swaths of her cogitating and fretting by way of the third person narration, but the film opens up the story to embrace her and Walter more equally.



O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

To Autumn, William Blake

When the frosty kiss of Autumn in the dark
Makes its mark
On the flowers, and the misty morning grieves
Over fallen leaves;

Then my olden garden, where the golden soil
Through the toil
Of a hundred years is mellow, rich, and deep,
Whispers in its sleep.

Autumn in the GardenHenry Van Dyke

Foliage, stairway

As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
“The Summer” than “the Autumn,” lest
We turn the sun away,


Floating foliage

Floating foliage

And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved —


the haunted wood

the haunted wood

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life’s Declivity.

As Summer into Autumn slips Emily Dickinson


the golden tree

the golden tree

Che dolcezza infantile

nella mattinata tranquilla!

C’è il sole tra le foglie gialle

e i ragni tendono fra i rami

le loro strade di seta…

Mattino d’autunno (F.G. Lorca)




Ma dove ve ne andate,

povere foglie gialle,

come tante farfalle


Venite da lontano

o da vicino?

Da un bosco

o da un giardino?

E non sentite la malinconia

del vento stesso

che vi porta via?

Foglie gialleTrilussa

L’autunno c’è già
cadono foglie lievi
tra i miei occhi.
Autunno, Haiku

Autunno mansueto, io mi posseggo
e piego alle tue acque a bermi il cielo,
fuga soave d’alberi e d’abissi.

Aspra pena del nascere
mi trova a te congiunto;
e in te mi schianto e risano:
povera cosa caduta
che la terra raccoglie.
Autunno, Salvatore Quasimodo

Foliage, Oregon

Foliage, Oregon

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods
and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them

The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to
Except your musing heart. […]

The Autumn, Elizabeth Barrett Browning



The golden age of Travel

In apertura, vi citerò alcuni brevissimi passaggi del libro di Melania Mazzucco, Lei così amata:
The golden age of travel

The golden age of travel

“Nell’autunno del 1933, Annemarie arrivò in oriente, col mezzo di trasporto più affascinante, un treno che le sembrò una versione ridotta dello Shanghai- Express: il Taurus Express. In realtà, quello vero partiva da Istanbul, e portava il nome meno esotico di Simplon-Express.” (Lei così amata, Melania Mazzucco)

New York to London

New York to London

“In the fall of 1933, Annemarie arrived in the east, with the means of transport most fascinating, a train that looked like a smaller version of the Shanghai-Express: the Taurus Express. In fact, the real one started from Istanbul, and bore the less exotic name “Simplon-Express”.”(Lei così amata, Melania Mazzucco)

Orient Express

Orient Express

“Dopo qualche giorno di treno scese a Istanbul. La Turchia aveva subito negli ultimi decenni tumultuoso Mutamenti: Era un paese ritrovato e stravolto, perfino nella lingua. […]. Istanbul, metà arcaica, metà moderna. metà occidentale, metà aliena, fu davvero la sua porta per l’Oltrespecchio, il suo ingresso nel 366° giorno dell’anno, nella dimensione sospesa, soprannaturale, di una vita al rovescio: la non vita. Ma in quel momento non lo sapeva ancora.” (Lei così amata, Melania Mazzucco)


Train station

“After a few days of train, Annemarie arrived to Istanbul. Turkey had suffered in recent decades tumultuous Changes: It was a country found and distorted, even in language. […]. Istanbul, half archaic, half modern, half western , half alien, it was really her door to the other dimension, entered the 366th day of the year, the suspended dimension, supernatural, of a life in reverse: the non-life. But at that moment she did not know it yet. ” (Lei così amata, Melania Mazzucco)

Orient Express

Orient Express

Alla fine del 1800, fu il treno il fondatore del turismo, il creatore dei viaggi, inizialmente riservati a pochi eletti ma non più a rari singoli.

La vicenda della “età d’oro dei viaggi in treno” comincia con l’Orient Express,  il cui concepimento non avvenne in Europa, bensì in America, negli Stati Uniti.

Lì, nel 1863, George Mortimer Pullman, stufo di viaggiare su treni scomodi, pensò di costruire il Pioner, un vagone “di nuova generazione”.

Travel in style

Travel in style

At the end of 1800, the train was the founder of tourism, the creator of travel, initially reserved for selected few, but no longer for a rare individual.

The story of the “golden age of rail travel” begins with the Orient Express, whose conception did not take place in Europe, but in the United States.
There, in 1863, George Mortimer Pullman, tired of traveling on uncomfortable trains, decided to build the Pioner, a wagon of “new generation”.

L’invenzione di Mr Pullman concedeva spazi in cui la notte i viaggiatori potessero stendersi. Frattanto, per volere del miliardario Cornelius Vanderbilt, re delle ferrovie Usa, tale Webster Wagner aveva dotato i treni di sleepings, letti  sistemati però disordinatamente nel vagone. Un lampo di genio e con l’approntamento di settori riservati al sonno Mr Pullman creò i Wagons Lits. Il collaudo non si tenne per un evento felice: nel 1865 Mrs Lincoln usò uno di questi nuovi vagoni per trasportare da Washington al Kentucky il corpo del marito assassinato.

Golden Arrow railway poster, c 1920s.

Golden Arrow railway poster, c 1920s.

Mr. Pullman’ invention was able to grant spaces where travelers could lie down at night.  Meanwhile, at the behest of millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt, the king of U.S. railroads, the Webster Wagner had provided trains with sleepings, beds, had however confusedly arranged in the wagon.

A flash of genius with the preparation of reserved areas to sleep. Mr Pullman created the Wagons Lits. The start up did not take place for a happy event: in 1865, Mrs. Lincoln used one of these new cars to transport from Washington to Kentucky the body of her murdered husband.

Ben più felice fu comunque il futuro dei vagoni-letto. Il giovane ingegnere belga George Nagelmackers, si trovava a New York nella speranza di dimenticare le proprie pene d’amore e sperimentò in varie occasioni gli sleepings, dopodiché, guarito e tornato in Belgio,  migliorò l’invenzione di Mr Pullman creando veri e propri scompartimenti, sicuri e con fior di privacy per le signore.

...veri e propri scompartimenti, sicuri e con fior di privacy per le signore.

…veri e propri scompartimenti, sicuri e con fior di privacy per le signore.

Much happier, however, was the future of the wagon-lits. The young Belgian engineer George Nagelmackers, was in New York, hoping to forget his love troubles and experimented on several occasions the sleeping-wagons. Then, recovered from love pains and returned to Belgium, improved the invention of Mr Pullman by creating real and safe compartments , with the finest of privacy for the ladies.

Atlantic City poster

L’esordio dei Wagons Lits di Nagelmackers non entusiasmò ma sistemò tutto un ricco contratto sulla linea Parigi_Bruxelles, sponsorizzato dal sovrano belga (Leopoldo II, l’uomo più ricco del mondo: il Congo, appunto belga, fu sua proprietà personale). Era fatta. Ormai affermato, il 4 dicembre 1876 Nagelmackers creò a Bruxelles la Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits che alla fondazione disponeva già di 53 vagoni. E seguirono i Plus: la vettura-salone tra Parigi e Mentone, e il Wagon Restaurant tra Nizza e Marsiglia.

Cap d'Antibes

Cap d’Antibes

The onset of Wagons Lits of Nagelmackers was not enthusistic, but settled around a rich contract on the line Parigi-Bruxelles, sponsored by the Belgian king (Leopold II, the richest man in the world: Congo, Belgian fact, it was his personal property). It was done! Well established on December 4, 1876 in Brussels Nagelmackers created the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lit, the foundation already had 53 cars. That was followed by the Plus: the car-living between Paris and Menton, and the Wagon Restaurant between Nice and Marseille.

Vintage luggage

Vintage luggage