Anna, a remote hamlet somewhere in Europe, is constructed on, over, and around water. Its governing body and the lives of its peoples ruled by a shimmering lake. A lake that mirrors every building, every happening, so that everything impermanent or solid has a twin, a double.
and beneath the surface confusion reigns as each inhabitant is lost
in their own reflected bubble; each as they try to juggle singular or
family life attempts to track their own reflection and that of the
mirrored hamlet. There is a disbelief above and beneath that what
they've seeing is the same image and not a separate concern; that
both villages and its peoples are not shadows of or each other's
equal as one must surely be a collective imposter. But which one?
a question that has, for hundreds of years, been much ruminated upon,
debated about and yet never resolved. It's an argument that runs
through the course of both their ancient histories in oral and
printed form in a language that resembles French, but which
frequently breaks into what sounds like Italian and then again into
American-English. The origins of their dialect has never been
explained or explored since their policy is to repel rather than
attract holiday-makers or cultural tourists; the few that have by
chance found this obscure hamlet are made welcome but are not
encouraged to stay long. Although it is interesting to note that
tourists when they come are not as enamoured either with their
reflection or what Anna represents: a large mirror.
weather in Anna is much like anywhere else. It follows an established
pattern whereby the conditions change as the seasons intensify or
fade. In the winter, there's often a bone-chilling wind; in the
spring, the winds die and the water appears more clear and less
opaque; in the summer, the strong sunlight refracts to produce a
rainbow of rays, a dazzling display of Southern lights; and in the
autumn everything is gilded red-gold.
is a café, a combined post office, bank and grocery store, a
bakery, an authentic Italian trattoria Just
Like Mama Makes! Est. 1848, a school, a tavern which doubles as a
guest-house, a hairdresser's with a florist next door, a dentist who
doctors and a doctor who dentists, and a mediaeval-style building
with modern interiors where citizens go in and out through a
revolving door, choosing to travel to the various floors in glass
elevators or on moving stairways. The reflected image, regardless of
which twin you feel you're in or looking at, boasts the exact same.
have complained Anna's peoples are insular and yet the fisher-folk
will invite you out in their boats to net the morning's catch, proud
to show their self-sufficiency and the inexplicableness of this place
and nature; no fisherman when asked knows how or why the lake always
teems with fish of the sort you expect to find in an deep, deep
ocean: herring, pollack, cod, whiting, and even sometimes
crustaceans. They never fish beyond a conservative quota and yet
this small lake, compared to the world's oceans, remains plentiful,
despite that, in effect, its having to feed, as the villagers
believe, two co-existing hamlets that coincidentally share the same
air, the same space and the same name of Anna.
visitors are right to insist on the population's standoffishness;
they are not given to question what they do not need to know, what
does not concern them. It is not disinterestedness, but an overriding
consumptive quality: the usual human inclination to display curiosity
in others used-up; spent instead on observing only themselves, their
actions, and those that infiltrate their otherwise normal monotonous
Anna, though it's the only village I know of this nature is by no
means the first of its kind. There was, according to a Cuban writer
brought up in Italy, once a mirrored city, whose inhabitants were in
a similar consumptive state, which was invisible to the gaze of many
travellers, insomuch as there are those who refute the existence of
Anna when she's there, right there, on the lake.
Credit: A tale in homage to Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.
Picture Credit: Bruge Reflections by P. R. Francis