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Claudo Magris’ Danube

Our annual spring trip this year took us, among other places, to Trieste and Venice (the latter will appear in a separate blog post). It is many years since we had visited these two cities. Trieste has been home to quite a few worthwhile writers. Several worthwhile writers were born in Trieste. These include Claudio Magris, who will shortly be appearing on my site. Umberto Saba is best known as a poet (at least in Italy) but he did write some prose, including the novel Ernesto, which has been translated into English, with a second, different translation appearing later this year. You can see places associated with him in Trieste in this guide. Scipio Slataper is best-known for his Il mio Carso, which has been translated into English but only in a very obscure edition. It is an autobiographical novel, which I hope to get round to one of these days. He was sadly killed in World War I, aged twenty-seven. Susanna Tamaro is another novelist I hope to get round to soon. Her best-known novel is Va’ dove ti porta il cuore (Follow your Heart), which is readily available in English and lots of other languages. Franco Vegliani is not well-known even in Italy, except, perhaps, for his biography of Curzio Malaparte, though his novel Processo a Volosca [Trial at Volosca] was described by Claudio Magris as one of the best post-war Triestine novels.

Rumiz’ Danube

Though not born in Trieste, Fulvio Tomizza was born some thirty-five miles way in what was then called Giurizzani (in Italy) but is now Juricani, as it was ceded to Yugoslavia (now Croatia) after World War II. His best-known novel, of which I have a copy, is La meglior vita [The Better Life], which, like many of his works, deals with the issue of identity, with the changing political situation in Europe. It has not been translated into English though is, of course, available, in French, German, Spanish, Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish and probably a few other languages. Paolo Rumiz is best known as a journalist and his writing is mainly about his travels. His The Fault Line : Travelling the Other Europe, from Finland to Ukraine is available in English. Like Magris, he has done a Danube book, even with the same title as Magris’: Danubio (Danube). Mauro Covacich is, despite his name, Italian. He has written novels and short stories, none of which has been translated into English.

Italo Svevo

Italo Svevo is the first Triestine novelist I read because of his obvious connection with James Joyce. He was taught English by Joyce. He wrote two novels which were completely ignored till Joyce came across them and it was Joyce who helped promote him and made Svevo famous. He sadly died in a car crash but his two novels are still very much read in Italy and the English-speaking world. Here is a guide to places in Trieste associated with him. Then there is Roberto (Bobi) Bazlen, the writer of footnotes (really!) who appears as a key character in Daniele Del Giudice‘s Lo stadio di Wimbledon [Wimbledon Stadium] (not available in English but available in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian and Serbian). Finally, I picked up a new book by a new writer. The book is called Bibliopolis – Trieste, città dei libri perduti, which means Bibliopolis – Trieste, City of Lost Books. The author is Edoardo Triscoli. This is his Facebook page. He is a bookseller by profession (since 1975) and currently works at the Libreria Lovat (where I bought the book). The book is a book-selling thriller. It quotes Paul Valéry: Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content.

It is not just Italian writers who were born in Trieste. Vladimir Bartol is a Slovenian writer born in Trieste, best known for his novel Alamut, which is available in English. Another Slovenian writer born in Trieste is Boris Pahor. His books have been extensively translated into French and German but only two are available in English: Necropolis and A Difficult Spring, though the latter was published only in Slovenia and is not easy to obtain.

Fausta Cialente

There are several other writers associated with Trieste, who were not born there. James Joyce is the obvious one. Here is a guide to places in Trieste associated with him. Rilke stayed at the the Castle Duino near Trieste, where he began but did not finish his famous poem cycle The Duino Elegies. I have a soft spot for Fausta Cialente and a couple more of her works will be appearing on my site soon. She is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, though one of her novels, long since out of print, was translated into English. She is not too well-known In Italy, either. Though born in Cagliari, her mother was from Trieste and she spent a lot of time there.

Giorgio Pressburger’s new novel

Stendhal served as French consul in Trieste. Richard Burton (the explorer, not the actor) and his wife lived for a long time in Trieste. Jan Morris lived for a time in Trieste and wrote an excellent work on the city. Though he was not born in Trieste but in Budapest, Giorgio Pressburger spent much time in Trieste, directing operas and plays and he is considered Triestine by the locals. His new novel Don Ponzio Capodoglio was in all the bookshops. Several of his novels have been translated into English.

Finally a couple of novels set in Trieste (apart from those by authors mentioned above). George Garret‘s Which Ones Are the Enemy? takes place in Trieste, as does Daša Drndić‘s Holocaust novel Trieste.

Photo of a poster from an exhibition at the museum

There is a Joyce/Svevo Museum in Trieste. The building is not associated with either of them. It has been, amongst other things, a women’s prison and a police station. However, it has some interesting exhibits on the two writers. I spoke to Riccardo Cepach, the curator of the museum, (who, interestingly, wrote his Master’s on Daniele Del Giudice, mentioned above and his doctoral thesis on Casanova). He mentioned that Italians come to learn more about Svevo and discover Joyce while English speakers come to learn about Joyce and discover Svevo, which seems a worthwhile exchange but he did not seem too impressed with Fausta Cialente.

Princess Charlotte before she became Empress Carlota

Castello Miramare is a few miles outside Trieste. It was built by Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his Belgian wife, Queen Charlotte, before they became Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota of Mexico, a failed imperialist plan which ended in Maximilian’s execution, while Carlota lived another sixty years. Literature loves a tragic heroine and if you have ever looked at My Lists page, you might have seen a list of novels featuring Carlota.