“The ‘past’ is on sale here, too, in Florence, for those who want to pay. But it’s a waxwork of the past that they sell to the foreigners who know no better. The real soul of Florence is still at loose, unchained, unpackaged, unrenovated and you don’t have to spend a single euro in order to gaze at it, to breathe it in, to touch it, to walk on it and around it, to hear it, to sense it. Florence has not yet been sanitised, secured and sterilised in the name of Hygiene and Heritage”.
“Florence in 1459 was a Republic, which is to say there was no king. However, the idea that the city was some kind of democracy was, as is so often the case, very much an illusion. The place was really run by Cosimo Medici, the 70-year-old head of the family of merchants and bankers that had successfully pushed all its rivals aside to secure control over the city. The previous year Cosimo, now frequently bedridden and in pain, had withdrawn from any official public role in the administration of Florence, but his influence behind the scenes had only strengthened. He was the Godfather of the Republic, who pulled all the strings”.
“There is something poisonous about the commercialism of the tourist trade, on top of all the usual boorish business-eering you find in every city, that you cannot simply ignore. Not in the long term, anyway. When I first arrived, the fresh spiritual air that I was breathing in kept the oxygen pumping through my veins and illuminating my thoughts. But the cumulative effect, over several weeks, of all the money changing hands in the city, all the focus on the money changing hands, has been building up in my body and reaching dangerous levels. And the stench of financial greed is beginning to creep into my experience of the city, in the same way as the faces of the Florentine bankers began creeping into the paintings of the Rinascimento masters. Can a fresco still feel sacred if it is in part a gift to the vanity of the local power-broker? To whom does a painter owe the greater allegiance – his God or his Godfather?”
The Fakir of Florence: A novel in three layers
by Paul Cudenec
Winter Oak Press, Sussex, England, 2016
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