Historical Guests

Portofino, a World apart
February 2009

Valery Larbaud in Portofino

What a strange destiny, that of the writer Valery LarboardA great admirer of Italy and translator of the great author from Trieste Italo Svevo, he is, notwithstanding this, little known in Italy outside a restricted circle of specialists in french literature. Born in Vichy in 1881, he would die there in 1957, the year in which he was struck by a cerebral paralysis. His life was one long voyage. Thanks in fact to his favorable financial situation he could allow himself to live pursuing his interests. His personal aspirations lead him to wander throughout Europe totally immersing himself in the culture, in the customs, and in the language of the countries that he visited, and in particular those he loved most: Spain, England and above all Italy.

His travels included Liguria and the eastern riviera which he consecrated with words of awed admiration, grateful for such beauty. He stayed in Portofino, learned its dialect, loved to chat with the locals, and travel (sometimes by land, at times by sea) the tract which connects Portofino and Santa Margherita. His days were marked by precise punctual habits, each one tied like a ritual to a different place; breakfast in Santa Margherita, tea in Rapallo, and dinner in Portofino.  By 11:30 pm the whole village was asleep, everything was quiet and the only window illuminated was the author’s, a sign of his intense desire to make his own the places that he loved deeply.

It was a relaxing vacation, and the timeless landscape in this angle of the world made the writer declare; “This landscape of sea and olive groves never changes, …. and it offers me refuge from the vain world, and it offers me a vision of the immutable.” Here we intend to remember this singular literary figure who, in addition to some beautiful pages on Italy (“Jaune, bleu et blanc” e “Aux couleurs de Rome”) and an intense activity as translator (besides the above mentioned Svevo, he translated “Ulysses” in collaboration with its author James Joyce) also gave us in his most celebrated novel an extraordinary character “A. O. Bernabooth” poet and multimillionaire who travelled the world, a symbol of his creator.

Valery Larbaud
1881 – 1957

Portofino, a World apart.