Venice is a Fish, By Tiziano Scarpa trs Shaun Whiteside

Venice is a fish – because it is shaped like a sole. It is also a tortoise, a serial killer and "an uninterrupted Braille handrail", according to the novelist and native Venetian, Tiziano Scarpa. This brief, lyrical meditation on a unique city is not your usual travel book. It pointedly refuses to name a single hotel, restaurant, bar or shop, advising the tourist to wander aimlessly and get themselves lost.

Scarpa conjures up the sights (crooked bridges, paintings by Tiepolo), the sounds (the chugging of vaporetti, the foghorns of distant ships, the nocturnal yowling of cats), the tastes (spaghetti cooked with onions and sardines, calves' liver fried with onions and Marsala), smells (shit, fruit, fish, the scent of ghosts), and tactilities (he counts 3,128 pieces of chewing-gum on the arch of a bridge). This "physical and emotional stroll through Venice" abounds with odd, charming stories – such as the teenage couple making love in a doorway who courteously interrupt what they're doing to give directions to a party of tourists. Scarpa has a neat way with metaphor, too. Sample: "Life is a cat asleep on the window sill suddenly waking as it falls from the third floor."