Thursday, 3 March 2016


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.
Above 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?
That is 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.
The 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.
There 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.
Visitors 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.
However, 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 lives.
And yet 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