ABSTRACT

Rebecca White ‘A bright façade put on for show’, Daphne du Maurier’s Venice in Don’t Look Now is a city of shi ing and shimmering intangibility, ambiguity and contrast, both ‘glittering by sunlight’ and, in its ‘dark stillness’, ‘rather sinister’.1 Her short story posits Charles Dickens’s ‘strange Dream upon the water’ as a psychological space, yet the city is con gured not simply as a place of reverie, a means of imaginative and emotional escape, but as a bleak prison of haunting insecurity, disturbance and disorientation, ‘the lights everywhere blending with the darkness’.2 Du Maurier’s language is consequently shadowed by threat and ambivalence, as she constantly constructs and then deconstructs ‘the magic’ and romance of Venice, breaking Henry James’s ‘Venetian spell’ in Don’t Look Now (1971) and her earlier work, Ganymede (1959); in both short stories, her meditation upon death and murder realizes, to unsettling e ect, James’s illustration of Venice as ‘the most beautiful of tombs’.3 Above all, du Maurier highlights and yet challenges the propensity to idealize and aestheticize ‘this most improbable of cities’ through the act of gazing, signi ed by the very title Don’t Look Now.4