The Third Tower Travels – Two: The Third Tower

This summer I took my family to Italy, to a seaside resort on the outskirts of Ravenna. It was within an easy driving distance from San Marino where the Torre di Montale, the Third Tower is.

Hungarian writer Antal Szerb wrote a book called The Third Tower, about his Italian travels in 1936. It was this Third Tower, the peak of Szerb’s journey.

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Just In

Amazon was kind enough to deliver The Book (aka The Third Tower — Journeys in Italy by Antal Szerb) on the first working day of 2015. Here’s proof:

The Third Tower the English book, finally in!

The Third Tower the English book, finally in!

In the first post, I promised I would update the text I quoted once I receive this book. Then I thought that, instead of simply changing the original post, the text would stand out better in a separate article — and readers have the benefit of better understanding from two different translations.

“The tower stands apart, at the far corner of the mountain top, on an inaccessible cliff, very steep on both sides. The town doesn’t extend this far, and as you pick your way to the end of the crest you are made giddy by the height. […] There, at the foot of the Third Tower, I understood everything. My restlessness — […] during the entire journey I had been forced into contact with that collectivity of the lonely, the euphoric Italian collectivity. I shielded my solitariness from them, and from the European future that they represented for me. I felt my solitary happiness threatened by their happiness of the herd because they were stronger than I was. […] The happiness I feel here at the foot of the Third Tower is something I must not give up for anyone: for anyone, or anything. I cannot surrender my soul to any nation state, or to any set of beliefs.”

(Translated by Len Rix, 2014. Pushkin Press: London.)

The Third Tower

This blog is my refuge – an intellectual refuge, so to speak. The title comes from Hungarian writer Antal Szerb, who wrote about his Italian travels in 1936 under this title. Szerb’s literal third tower is in San Marino, where you can see three towers (ubiquitous in Italy) on the mountain just above the city. (The towers shown at the header of this blog are in San Gimignano, Tuscany.)

Montale, the Third Tower of San Marino – from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Alaexis, under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.5

Montale, the Third Tower of San Marino – from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Alaexis, under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.5

Why a refuge, and why the Third Tower? Let me quote Szerb here:

“The third tower stands at a distance, in a remote corner of one of those mountains, on top of steep, insurmountable rocks on both sides. The city doesn’t reach up here, and as you walk along the ridge, you get dizzy by the height. […] There, right below the Third Tower, I came to understand my notorious anxiety: […] everywhere, through the entire journey, I had to deal with the happy Italian collectivism. I felt I had to protect my solitude from that, and the common European future it represented. I felt that my solitary happiness was threatened by their herd-like happiness, because they were stronger than me. […] I cannot share this happiness that I feel here at the foot of the Third Tower. Likewise, I’m unable to give myself up to anyone and anything, not to any government or any idea.”

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