Summary and book reviews of Trieste by Dasa Drndic

Trieste

By Dasa Drndic

Trieste
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2014,
    368 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Linda Hitchcock

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Book Summary

Haya Tedeschi sits alone in Gorizia, in northeastern Italy, surrounded by a basket of photographs and newspaper clippings. Now an old woman, she waits to be reunited after sixty-two years with her son, fathered by an SS officer and stolen from her by the German authorities as part of Himmler's clandestine Lebensborn project.

Haya reflects on her Catholicized Jewish family's experiences, dealing unsparingly with the massacre of Italian Jews in the concentration camps of Trieste. Her obsessive search for her son leads her to photographs, maps, and fragments of verse, to testimonies from the Nuremberg trials and interviews with second-generation Jews, and to eyewitness accounts of atrocities that took place on her doorstep. From this broad collage of material and memory arises the staggering chronicle of Nazi occupation in northern Italy.

Written in immensely powerful language and employing a range of astonishing conceptual devices, Trieste is a novel like no other. Daša Drndic has produced a shattering contribution to the literature of twentieth-century history.

Excerpt
Trieste

For sixty-two years she has been waiting.

She sits and rocks by a tall window in a room on the third floor of an Austro-Hungarian building in the old part of Old Gorizia. The rocking chair is old and, as she rocks, it whimpers.

Is that the chair whimpering or is it me? she asks the deep emptiness, which, like every emptiness, spreads its putrid cloak in all directions to draw her in, her, the woman rocking, to swallow her, blanket her, swamp her, envelop her, ready her for the rubbish heap where the emptiness, her emptiness, is piling the corpses, already stiffened, of the past. She sits in front of her old-fashioned darkened window, her breathing shallow, halting (as if she were sobbing, but she isn't) and at first she tries to get rid of the stench of stale air around her, waving her hand as if shooing away flies, then to her face, as if splashing it or brushing cobwebs from her lashes. Foul breath (whose? whose?) fills the room, rising to a raging ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Trieste is a brilliant, original conceptualized novel consisting of fragmented memories and a series of concentrated history lessons that will challenge a reader with its irregular construction and seeming lack of continuity. It may not be easy but it is well worth reading and will assuredly linger in memory.   (Reviewed by Linda Hitchcock).

Full Review Members Only (1143 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Haya's richly textured reminisces include biographies of the Reich's film stars, scathing exposés of the complicity of the Swiss government and the Red Cross in the transport of Jews to concentration camps, and harrowing details of sadistic acts committed in the camps.

Booklist

Trieste's originality lies not just in its structure and forceful, unflinching imagery - translator Elias-Bursa deserves acclaim as well - but also in how it brings the lingering effects of the Nazis' merciless racial policies forward into the present.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Highly recommended, this story's gripping historical approach calls to mind the work of Norman Mailer and Don DeLillo.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A brilliant artistic and moral achievement worth reading.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ingenious...Trieste is an exceptional reading experience and an early contender for book of the year."

The Independent (UK)

The picture Trieste offers is cumulative - so is its effect...The multifarious elements that comprise Haya's story and its grand context are an incredibly dense and potent mixture, too.

The Financial Times

A masterpiece.

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

Trieste achieves a factographical poetry, superbly rendered by Ellen Elias-Bursac, implying that no one in Axis-occupied Europe stood more than two degrees from atrocity.

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The Enigmatic City of Trieste

Map of Trieste One cannot read Daša Drndić's compelling novel Trieste without being intrigued by its namesake - the affluent and cosmopolitan industrial seaport city of 200,000 residents with historically fluid national allegiances. Located in Italy on the remote northeastern borders of Slovenia and Croatia, Trieste has flown flags of many countries. For much of the 13th and 14th centuries it was variously at war with or occupied by Venice. In 1382 it became part of the Duke of Austria's domain (having petitioned to become so). Apart from relatively short periods of occupation by the Venetians and Napoleon, it stayed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and became an important naval and shipbuilding center, until November 1918 when it was ...

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