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This article is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

Living in Ticino 1947-50 Eric Rhode

Living in Ticino 1947-50 is one of the most appealing of Stokes's shorter writings. At first sight you might take it to be a miscellany of sustained reflections and aphorisms. Indeed, you may assume that the charm of the piece lies precisely in this orchestration of flowing sentences (often broken off abruptly) and the contrasted free-floating, compacted brief insight. But on a closer view the piece does yield up unforcedly, something more in the way of themes and coherences.

One of these themes indicates a relationship between perception and the influence of time. Stokes first published Living in Ticino in 1964: but its title and setting look to an earlier time, when he had just remarried and was living in Italian Switzerland. (According to Lawrence Gowing, the impact of these events was such that Stokes was induced to reappraise his own past, an activity that stimulated him into writing his two autobiographical volumes, Inside Out and Smooth and Rough.)

But there is more than one looking back. There are references to even earlier times: to an Edwardian childhood, to the death of parents and, through the magnificent evocation of a Ligurian storm, to perhaps the most crucial turning-point in Stokes's professional life, to the time when, in 1922, he first discovered Italy and a belief in the sovereignty of art.

Yet in making these temporal demarcations, or in seeing the past in this telescopic way. I am only raising a theme in order ...


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