Landscapes in Literature (XVI)

Antique tenaciousness in Sardinia.

“The grey-green scrub on either side of the road thickened now, and we wound our way through outlying fringes of cork-woods. The stripped trunks glowed a luminous, deep iodine under the snake-skin grey of the upper branches, and beneath the rough grasses in between, protruding stones glittered like glass. The fascination of the Sardinian landscape comes from this toughness, the feeling that everything has had to fight its way through rock to get to the sun, and even when it has got there the heat dries up rather than gives life. Yet despite the choked, drained look of trees and shrubs a stronger quality of antique tenaciousness sustains them. The spectacular, the luxuriant, the dramatic, have been eschewed for austere, more classical virtues: economy, discipline, the best use of space. In these spread, baked plains the least embellishment acquires singular force, the slightest change of colour achieve miraculous lyric contrasts. It is a beautifully bred country, undemonstrative, hinting at nobility, always offering plenty of elbow room. Mediterranean landscapes tend to be obviously and self-consciously romantic; Sardinia is a series of lucid statements leading up to an inevitable, but perfectly prepared, climax.”

From The Bandit on the Billiard Table: A Journey through Sardinia (1954) by Alan Ross.


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Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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