Unguided Tour



by Susan Sontag

A tourist city different from

any other.

Different from Florence.

Different from Siena.

Different from Rome.

Different from Athens.

Or Dubrovnik.

Because there's an imaginary kingdom

of which this city is the capital.

of which this city is the centre.

There was a very dear friend of mine,

an Argentinian film-maker in exile

who fled to save his skin.

As he was a journalist too.

And... hundreds of journalists

have been killed in Argentina

during the past few years.

So, I was talking to that friend

who's been living in Paris

for almost 7 years

and I asked him:

Can you imagine going back

to live in Argentina?

Provided that there's

a change of government.

Well, he replied

Certainly, I'd like to.

Often too.

But to really live there, you know...

Besides, Buenos Aires

is too far from...

And we, both together,

at the same time, exclaimed:


Venice is a city that even the Italians

visit as if it were a foreign city.

As for foreigners...

There's every kind of foreigner.

Everyone brings their own homage.

Their own admiration.

Their curiosity.

Their anxiety.

Their complacency.

Their avidity.

Wishing to be in Venice.

Wishing for having been in Venice.

This place...

A certain devotion always

brings me back to this place.

I'm thinking about all the people

who have been here.

Good morning.

May I help you?

You don't know? - No, Madam.

I'm sorry. It's full, Madam.

What class, Madam?


You're welcome, Madam.

Yes. I'm so sorry.

Once I was standing next to

two Americans who were watching

Saint Mark's Basilica, spellbound.

The big triumphal arch.

Five portals.

The gold, statues and bas-reliefs.

At one point,

one turned to the other and said,

almost reluctantly,

What kind of church is this?

And after a long pause,

the other man replied:

I think that it's Catholic.

But we're not talking

about tourists such as these.

To these it's so easy

to feel superior.

For us.

Tourists of a different kind.

There's one kind of tourist.

And then there's

a special kind of tourist.

Attracted, above all, to Venice.

The melancholy tourist.

For that reason, a special tourist.

Predestined to Venice.

Venice is the capital of melancholy.

I went on a journey

to see beautiful things.

Change of scene.

A change of heart.

And do you know something?

- What?

They are always there.

But they won't be there for long.

I know.

And this is why I went.

To say good-bye.

When I'm travelling,

it's always to say good-bye.


Leaning towers...

Tiled roofs.


Wooden balconies.


And one after the other,

the bridges' humps.

Move away from the window.


The sound of footsteps in Venice.

And Venetian shouts.

Every word here...

however articulated it may be...

always sounds like an appeal...

made over the sea.

Their names are scratched

at the bottom of the fresco.



Their way of being present.

The most superb things

made by human beings

lowered to the level

of the things of nature.

Last Judgment.

We can't put away everything

in the museums.

There are no beautiful things

in your country?




Did you have guides on you? Maps?

Rubber boots?

I read the guides later on.

At home.

But you did go visit

the famous places?

Didn't you have

the perversity to neglect them?

Yes, I visited them.

As conscientiously as possible,

although protecting your ignorance.

I don't want to know

more than I already know.

I don't want to grow fond of

those places...

more than I already am.

Do you remember what you saw?

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"Unguided Tour" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 9 Aug. 2020. <https://www.scripts.com/script/unguided_tour_22580>.

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