A skimpy novella that was posthumously published in Italy following the death of its author (192390), a distinguished art historian and philosopher. It would be unkind, if essentially accurate, to call it a sophisticated European version of The Bridges of Madison County. On a train to Venice, a retired merchant and a beautiful 40ish woman meet; he pays her a modest compliment, they begin conversing, and a nonromantic relationship begins. Their flirtatious banter, their exchanges of memories and longings, amusingly combine abstract thought with--in the most literal sense- -fundamental physical realities. They seem united by their fear of becoming inarticulate, and their determination to stand out from, and be superior to, the mass of humanity. It's all very slight, but charming, and has been rendered into graciously elegant English by translator Colcord and illustrated with etchings by James Abbott McNeill Whistler--thus making the very volume itself as attractive, self-assured, and, finally, forgettable as its two characters.