The Death of Virgil

September 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm (books)

This is one of the most beautiful prose passages I have ever read:

Steel-blue and light, ruffled by a soft, scarcely perceptible cross-wind,  the waves of the Adriatic streamed against the imperial squadron as it steered toward the harbor of Brundisium, the flat hills of the Calabrian coast coming gradually nearer on the left. And here, as the sunny yet deathly loneliness of the sea changed with the peaceful stir of friendly human activity where the channel, softly enhanced by the proximity of human life and human living, was populated by all sorts of craft–by some that were also approaching the harbor, by others heading out to sea and by the ubiquitous brown-sailed fishing boats already setting out for the evening catch from the little breakwaters which protected the many villages and settlements along the white-sprayed  coast–here the water had become mirror-smooth; mother-of-pearl spread over the open shell of heaven, evening came on, and the pungence of wood fires was carried from the hearths whenever a sound of life, a hammering or a summons, was blown over from the shore.

In the space of two sentences, an entire world is summoned into being.

It is the opening paragraph of The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch. 


  1. manonmona said,

    manonmona reblogged this on Espacio de MANON.

  2. Kay W said,

    Only two sentences, but two very LONG sentences!

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