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Matteo Righetto’s short story, “Cloudy Water”, is part of a collection of noir genre writings about Venice, Italy to be published in early June. His contribution to the compilation offers readers a taste of the dirty side of Venice that is not seen in travel guides or picturesque paintings.
“Cloudy Water” revolves around the comings and goings of a man who wants to escape the everyday drudges of Venice. To get out he needs money, but the job he has been working carrying luggage does not leave him much in the way of savings. This is what leads him to get mixed up with a band of no-goods who have the brilliant idea to steal from the area’s greatest group of criminals, the Barracudas. After a few successful trips taking as much as they please, they are caught and must face their fearsome competitors.
The storyline may seem a bit cliche, but Righetto fills his narrative with vivid details. His description of the weather throughout his story would turn off even the most adamant traveler from flying out to Venice. Canals are transformed from romantic waterways into destructive cuts through the town. Mist and humidity possess all that it blankets, and blackness is felt in every corner. Even seagulls are given the appearance of specters. When clams are being dredged from the depths of the rivers, decaying smells are brought up with them.
Clocks are also prevalent throughout “Cloudy Water”, reminding readers of the importance of time. Time is often referenced while the narrator and his companions go about their crime, and it is because of their poor timing that they are found by the Barracudas. To go along with the theme of time is the description of a grandfather clock’s pendulum swinging back and forth incessantly.
The narrator also takes this relentless motion of the clock and puts it onto the image of Jews that he frequently comes across as he strolls around Venice. Throughout the story, the image of the Jews moving back and forth like the pendulum of a clock while at prayer is constantly surfacing in the narrator’s mind. This comparison is not as clear as some of the other themes in the story, but the thought of the Jews’ swaying pops into the narrator’s head during his last stealing caper in the face of danger.
The role Jews play in “Cloudy Water” is to remind the narrator of religion and also to show him that what he has learned while living in Venice may not save him from the troubles that Venice throws at him. While he is on the boat ready to commit the crime, he suddenly remembers the swaying Jews and this causes him to become almost seasick.
He questions how someone like him, who grew up on boats and traveled daily along waterways, could possibly become seasick. Also, when he comes face to face with the Barracudas he crosses himself after remembering the Jews again. A different religion has reminded him of his own. These are just a few of the instances where the reader will recognize that everything that the narrator has relied upon and called home turns against him.
Despite the complexity of a few themes that recur, “Cloudy Water” is a dark and disheartening start to Venice Noir and reveals just a taste of Righetto’s writing style. Find out more about Righetto’s writing at http://matteorighetto.com/.