A few weeks ago I wandered round inescapably bourgeois Rapallo, at the end of the season: just down the coast from Genoa's seductive murkiness, and the bay of San Remo where Ripley bludgeoned Dickie Greenleaf to death, but a world away from both. The resort now thrives on conferences, and there was a world congress of Nietzscheans in full swing. This was apposite. Even if its attractions stop short at the Edwardian bathing-huts still primly apportioned out around the bay, and the sun on the rocks along the palm-fringed shore, this was where Nietzsche, Hauptmann, Beerbohm and Pound lived much of their writing lives; and where Yeats also wintered in the late 1920s, rewriting A Vision and working on many of the astonishing poems of the 'Byzantium' period. It took several fruitless enquiries to locals, and then a lengthy investigation by a Tourist Office official who eventually disinterred a file of literary notes, to find that Yeats's Via Americhe has changed its name, like much in Rapallo. Even the little boulevard by the beach, where Yeats watched Pound feeding the stray local cats, is now called Via Gramsci, which would please neither poet's ghost. And though there are plaques on all the apartments that housed the resident luminaries, nothing adorns 12 Via Marsala, where the embarrassing Pound held court and praised Mussolini.
LRB 30 November 2000 | PDF Download