... an engrossing book, beautifully produced and illustrated with color photographs of paintings. At times it made me think of Watermark, Joseph Brodsky’s elegy to Venice, and W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. Written in elegant, concise prose, it is a remarkable meditation on life, loss, mourning, exile, friendship and the power of art.
Matar is a master of pellucid statement that seems simple yet is exactly right. He describes the city beautifully ... He is equally eloquent about the paintings he loves, many of them reproduced in the book ... This is an exquisite, deeply affecting book, one in which an experience of dislocation and loss is conveyed in prose that flows so clearly and gracefully it finds continuities and connections all the time. It is also, although Proust is not among the many artists directly cited here, profoundly Proust-ian, many sentences actually adopting his syntax, becoming themselves acts of comprehension and recovery.
A Month in Siena bears all the hallmarks of Matar’s writing: it is exquisitely constructed and the use of language is precise and delicately nuanced without pretension. And there is a deceptive simplicity to his endeavour: to look at art. What emerges is an altogether more complex philosophical exploration of death, love, art, relationships and time ... As he communes for days with a single painting, it reveals itself to him—and him to himself.