Venice, Italys water-bound city of magic and mystery, is the setting for Through a Venetian Looking Glass, by Hans Peter Braendlin. The novel is constructed as a double memoir in which deadly violence is shown not only to cause disorder but also to provide a necessary context for self-discovery. The two stories, one written in the present by Jean-Pierre Petitfeu, a naturalized U.S. citizen, the other by his sixteenth-century doppelganger, Giovanni Pietro Pofoco, resonate with each other.
Annual holidays in Venice grant Jean-Pierre and his wife Claire the reprieve they seek: the citys spell helps them to deal with their grief over the drowning of their son, Frederic, and enables Jean-Pierre to vanquish dark ghosts of his own. Jean-Pierre and Claire carry with them the diary of their dead son, Frederic. They have never read the diary.
The highpoint of their Venetian wayfaring is the chance discovery, on their twelfth visit, of Pofocos memoir. Pofoco cherishes the beauty and grandeur of his city but suffers abuse by those in authority. After losing everyone dear to him, by murder or by exile, and being tortured for his efforts to seek equity for the people, he becomes a ghostlike wanderer driven to avenge crimes committed by the powerful against the weak.
Pofocos story clarifies and intensifies Jean-Pierres and Claires awareness of their own personal tragedy in the context of social injustice. A malevolent figure, a chimera from the past, Fred Waters, almost succeeds in murderously destroying what they have achieved. Waters is a creep, and he smells of musk. Hes afraid of water and avoids boats.
The novels complex plot is full of wonder, danger, and eerie coincidences, which work as a chorus of leitmotifs. Through a Venetian Looking Glass is a box of treasures, and braided narrative puzzle worthy of Nabokov.
Hans Peter Braendlin is originally from Switzerland but has lived much of his life in the United States. After a career in chemistry he taught German language and literature and other courses in the Humanities, last at the Florida State University. Since his retirement he has published a play, Tar Tiff, and a novella, Dementia. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.