Visiting Shirley Hazzard in Italy is like entering a Hazzard novel. She lives in an apartment within the grounds of a splendid villa at Posillipo. The rooms are cool against the summer sun, and when you step onto her terrace the vista and the light are dazzling. Scarlet bougainvillea falls in twisted festoons. From the terrace, she surveys the breathtaking scope of the Bay of Naples. To the left, the shadowy silhouette of Vesuvius. The long cluttered arch of the Neapolitan littoral holds the blue bay in its stretch. The Sorrentine peninsula seals off the southern edge, and out on the fringe, a blue punctuation, the island of Capri, where Hazzard also maintains a house.
Silhouetted against the hood of the volcano skulks a US aircraft carrier. A regatta of pleasure boats move across the bay, just beyond partly submerged Roman ruins. Glancing at the warship, Hazzard speaks scathingly of the Bush presidency and of Bush’s corruption of the language, of words drained of meaning such as ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’.