House of Secrets
The Many Lives of a Florentine Palazzo
by Allison Levy, Brown University
Author Allison Levy in conversation with:
Leonard Barkan, Princeton University
Gerry Milligan, College of Staten Island/CUNY GC
Alexander Stille, Columbia University
House of Secrets tells the remarkable story of Palazzo Rucellai from behind its celebrated façade. The house, beginning with its piecemeal assemblage by one of the richest men in Florence in the fifteenth century, has witnessed endless drama, from the butchering of its interior to a courtyard suicide to champagne-fueled orgies on the eve of World War I to a recent murder on its third floor. When the author, an art historian, serendipitously discovers a room for let in the house, she lands in the vortex of history and is tested at every turn—inside the house and out. Her residency in Palazzo Rucellai is informed as much by the sense of desire giving way to disappointment as by a sense of denial that soon enough must succumb to truth. House of Secrets is about the sharing of space, the tracing of footsteps, the overlapping of lives. It is about the willingness to lose oneself behind the façade, to live between past and present, to slip between the cracks of history and the crevices of our own imagination.