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Trieste Hardcover – January 14, 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Just as the river Soca wends through northeastern Italy, bearing witness to everything it touches, Trieste roams through the tragic array of Jewish experiences during the region’s Nazi occupation. It centers on Haya Tedeschi, an elderly woman whose son, fathered by an SS officer, had been stolen away as part of the Lebensborn breeding program. During her relentless search for him, Haya revisits her family’s lives over generations and collects artifacts about the atrocities—from photos, songs, and testimonies from war-crime trials to heartbreaking stories that have waited too long to be heard. Drndic has assembled an angry scrapbook of searing memories, horror, and loss. For the Holocaust’s victims, there is no hope; for its perpetrators, there is no punishment. Trieste’s originality lies not just in its structure and forceful, unflinching imagery—translator Elias-Bursac deserves acclaim as well—but also in how it brings the lingering effects of the Nazis’ merciless racial policies forward into the present. Here the past doesn’t lie dormant and forgotten but is a cancer that can poison us from within. --Sarah Johnson

Review

"A work of European high culture...Even at their most lurid, Drndic’s sentences remain coldly dignified. And so does Ellen Elias-Bursac’s imperturbably elegant translation." –The New York Times Book Review

"A palimpsest of personal quest and the historical atrocities of war...Undeniably raw and mythical...Trieste evolves as a novel in the documentary style of the German writer W.G. Sebald, but also as a memorial of names, and as a novel about one woman's attempt to find order in her life. And as a book of events that have made the last century infamous for the ages, a book that, if it moves you as it moved me, you will have to set down now and then, to breathe, to blink and blink and say to yourself and whatever gods you might believe in, please, oh, please please please, never again." – Alan Cheuse, NPR

"Trieste…explores the 20th century’s darkest chapter in an original way, both thematically and stylistically, without ever diluting the disaster...So unflinchingly does Drndic present her detail that after certain passages concerning freight-train journeys, gas chambers and euthanasia centers, it pays to put the book down and take a break and gulps of fresh air. Potent, candid writing, while deserving of praise, is not always the easiest to digest...Trieste is an exceptional reading experience and an early contender for book of the year." –Minneapolis Star Tribune

"An extraordinarily rewarding novel...Rich." –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"A darkly hypnotic kaleidoscope of a book...Drndic has in her own way composed an astonishment that extracts light from darkness."  –The Jewish Daily Forward

"Although this is fiction, it is also a deeply researched historical documentary. Haya's life story is woven artfully into a broader tale of the twentieth century's atrocities. The book begins gently, introducing us to the archiepiscopal see of Gorizia in a manner reminiscent of WG Sebald . . . It is a masterpiece." –A.N. Wilson, Financial Times

"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." –Times Literary Supplement

"Trieste is more than just a novel, it's a document that should be compulsory reading in secondary schools ... Books like this are necessary whilst there's still a glimmer of hope that eloquently reminding us of the past may prevent its repetition." –Bookbag

"Trieste is a massive undertaking. It swings from stomach-churning but compelling testimonials from former concentration camp workers to fluid fictional prose." –Irish Independent on Sunday

"In this documentary fiction, the private and public happen at once, large and small scale, imagined with just the same biographical precision. Haya sits dazzled in the cinema, lost in the unbelievable glamour on the screen; meanwhile, neighbors are disappearing. . . . The picture Trieste offers is cumulative -- so is its effect. For a reader with a taste for tidy narrative, its wilfulness can be maddening, and yet the multifarious elements that comprise Haya's story and its grand context are an incredibly dense and potent mixture, too." –The Independent

"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." –BookBrowse

"Powerful, disturbing, original...Author Dasa Drndic uses her technique with painful effectiveness." –New York Journal of Books

"Drndic’s monumental work about a hitherto rarely discussed aspect of the Holocaust, and about the ongoing consequences of fascism, is not for the fainthearted, but its seamless combination of beautifully told story and relentless harsh documentation makes for a deeply engaging and unforgettable read." –Jewish Renaissance

"A powerful and original testimony, moving and hypnotic." –Historical Novel Review

"Richly textured reminisces...Drndic's themes, use of history, and narrative technique invite favorable comparisons to W.G. Sebald." –Publishers Weekly

"Outrage, horror, and grief simmer beneath the surface of this gripping novel...An unbearable, unusual, and unforgettable tribute to a very dark period of history...Highly recommended, this story’s gripping historical approach calls to mind the work of Norman Mailer and Don DeLillo." –Library Journal, starred

"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."  –Booklist

"An epic, heart-rending saga from the Croatian novelist about a forgotten corner of the Nazi Holocaust...A brilliant artistic and moral achievement worth reading." –Kirkus, starred

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1. U.S. edition edition (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547725140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547725147
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Burgmicester VINE VOICE on January 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dasa Drndic is a Croatian novelist using an interesting combination of history and fiction to tell an unforgettable story that is often ignored in stories of WWII. The Lebensborn Project was designed by Himmler to increase the Aryan gene pool by stealing blonde hair, blue-eyed children and by forcing pregnancies by selecting the parents and using secret adoptions of these children into strong Nazi homes. This hidden Project is brought out in the later chapters by Drndic and completes the circle of her main character’s nightmares.

Using an old lady’s grieving mind as she waits patiently for her son - fathered by a Nazi SS soldier, stolen by the Nazi and placed into the secret Lebensborn Project - to return to her. Haya Tedeschi, a Jew living in Gorizia, relives her life through a basket of newspaper scraps and old photographs. Haya’s mind is sometimes delusional and sometimes crystalline as she recalls with pain and agony the trials and tribulations of the Nazi occupation of her town before and during WWII.

Her graphic lament that millions of people did nothing while knowing much brings the haunting tales of the Holocaust into vivid clarity. Haya does not necessarily include herself in this group, but in her heart, she knows her family was as much to blame. Drndic uses facts and weaves them into the fabric of her story. The first several chapters are difficult to follow and I was nearly ready to throw in the towel. The story rambled around with no apparent direction while the author began to set up the plot and storyline. While this technique is unique and somewhat effective after the fact, it makes for a very strange introduction to the story. Drndic uses a very brutal descriptive style that is sometimes too much, but there are enough facts to warrant the effect.
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Trieste is a difficult book to read, it is history that is haunting and disturbing. Woven through the facts is Haya's narrative, which gets lost at times, but resurfaces frequently enough to keep the story moving. You can not read this book without being emotionally devastated by the 9,000 names listed - page after page of names - no commas between them - just page after page of names of the Jews who were killed in Trieste during the war. It is not a book you love, or really even like, but once you start it, it is not a book you can stop reading until you are finished.
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Maps hover in the sky like paper airplanes. History: that lying, traitorous mother of life.
This is a book about the 20th century in the middle of Europe. Though the book title is 'Trieste', it starts further north, in Gorica. Gorica in Slovenia has been Italian as Gorizia and Austrian as Görz. It has been Roman and Venetian and Napoleonic and Habsburgian and Yugoslavian. It saw much action in the Great War, the Isonzo battles, about which you can read in Hemingway's Farewell to Arms.

This is largely a book about the Holocaust, here the fate of Italian Jewish families. The author is Croatian. Her career has a leg in the English speaking world. She is nearly 70, and I wonder why I never heard of her. My loss.

This book is not a novel, not a history either, not a documentary, but a veritable cross dresser of literary forms. Looking for comparisons, I come up with Peter Weiss on Auschwitz or Solzhenitsyn on the GULAG, but that doesn't fully cover it. I use it just to give an idea. There is more fictional flesh here. The fictional component justifies the label 'novel', in a way. You will not be entertained though. This is overwhelming stuff.

The center of the narration is taken by the family Tedeschi in Gorica. Suitably, and ironically, that is a typically Jewish name in Italian and means 'German'. Fates are traced back to the late 19th century. The moving borders and changing rulers play a big part in events. The family is not suffering particularly tragic fates, when compared to others, they wiggle through as bystanders.
They are witnesses to a mad century. The second half of the book focuses on Haya Tedeschi, who was a young woman when the war ended, and lives on into the next century.
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This book was a little hard to follow in the beginning. I am glad that I persevered because it turned out to be one of the best Holocaust books that I've read. The testimonies of the Nazi officers at their trials,along with their sentences for their crimes against humanity were powerful and upsetting. The testimonies of those that survived the horror were heartbreaking. The list of the 9,000 names of the Italian victims that were murdered were hard to read. The details of the Lebensborn program and the effects it had on both the parents and most especially the children were astounding. A must read.
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This book is gripping, raw, tragic, and not for the faint of heart. It is an eloquently written piece of historical fiction and is heavily laced with historical facts, photographs, a list of names of 9,000 Italian Jews exterminated between 1943-1945, interviews from the Nuremberg trials, SS biographies, detailed information on the Lebensborn program, and exposes the roles of "neutral Switzerland", the Catholic Church and the International Red Cross during and after the war.
It is a profound work in examining what is human life, how can humanity turn a blind eye to the suffering of so many, how does "social order" prevail in civil madness, how can humans conduct massive cold blooded murder and murder for sport, how Nazi officers and Nazi followers were automatically folded back into society after the war as if nothing had happened, how families didn't want to talk about the horrors, and how genetics can carry their Nazi bloodlines forward. I was deeply disturbed by the exploration, as a subject, to eradicate the Nazi bloodlines under the same premise of the Nazis wanting to create an Aryan race by exterminating Jews, Gypsies, the mentally ill, elderly, homosexuals, and political activists. The book explores a deep question: what do we as civilizations learn from history to not repeat the past?
I will continue to think about and reflect upon the themes and questions raised in this book for a long time. Wow! Well done!
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