Donau by Claudio Magris, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. Buy Donau by Claudio Magris, Barbro Andersson (ISBN: ) from Amazon’s Book Store. Everyday low prices and free delivery on eligible orders. In ‘Danube’, the Trieste writer Claudio Magris steers us through the region created and enclosed by the river and known as Mitteleuropa.
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T he literature of rivers is small but not without significance.
This mashup gave such books the force of yearning, an animating hope that at some point acquires the power of myth. And there comes a moment in every river book where we are confronted with a great question: Huck must decide whether to turn in Jim, the escaped slave, or damn his soul — by which Twain really means save it, by defying the conformity to rules and society that otherwise cripple and deform us. Danube was originally published in Italian inthe same year Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the Soviet Union to two new concepts: Written during the final efflorescence of the cold war — when, as we now know, the world came the closest it has ever been to a nuclear war — the countries of what was then called eastern Europe had become, after four decades of isolating Soviet rule, terra incognita to many in the west.
Ignorance always summons greater ignorance in its defence. It only sends its Nibelungen to the east to get them massacred by the hordes of Attila. It happily mixed high literature with stories of friendship, family history and the ironies of everyday life.
Claudio Magris – Wikipedia
And yet, claudo, it claudii powerfully to both the old world that was dying, and the new being born. It was a defence of the marginal and ephemeral. In being as sympathetic to the fate of Jews of Bukovina as it was to the destiny of the Sudeten Deutsch it was also honest in its depiction of the horrors and costs of the reduced ideas of ethnic nationalism that were to increasingly define Europe in the succeeding decades, as neighbour once more turned on neighbour in the Balkans in the s, and the hope of the revolutions of gave way to the increasing repressive, authoritarian politics of countries such as Hungary and Poland.
Still, to reread this book is a shock. What seemed to me — when I first read it in the early 90s — a charming, erudite celebration of literature and place, now, 30 years after its original publication, emerges as something more poignant and powerful: The genius of Danube is to remind us that a book can exist to invent a world.
In a not irrelevant detail, Magris was born and lives in Trieste, a town possessed of the autumnal melancholy that descends upon boomtowns of other eras; a place enshrouded in its decline by a dream of a long-ago cosmopolitan world, the multifaith, multilingual, multinational Austro-Hungarian empire. Perhaps for this reason Trieste never quite seems an Italian town, but a city belonging to a hope always on the verge of vanishing.
The modern novel may be said have begun in Trieste with James Joyce writing Ulysses there. Variously ruled by Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Franks, and Venetians, Trieste flourished from the 18th century when the Austro-Hungarian empress Maria Theresa made it the port for the great multinational Viennese empire.
Donau : Biographie eines Flusses
It became both a city of contested identities — Italian, Slovenian, Friulian, German, and, for a time, Yugoslav — as well of ideologies — imperialism, nationalism, fascism, communism and Titoism.
Today Slovenia is only 7km from the city centre, Croatia less than 20km away. After the war, the Italian side of the border was cleansed of its Slovenian past, while the Yugoslav now Slovene and Croat side was cleansed of its Italian.
In these absurd convulsions of national identity, the complexity of humanity counted for little. Later she discovered her family had Slavic roots. A book with such a generous canvas as Danube could, perhaps, only have been written by one from a place where the ironies of life, place and mavris past are so deeply etched.
Beyond its quickly submerged subject — a journey from headwaters to delta — and floating concerns — literature, politics, history — is a deeper current of mood: Danube is at one level a medley of many famous and — to the Anglophone reader — not so famous writers, and thereafter many writers even forgotten in their own cultures, and after them the writers of cultures themselves forgotten even in the places of which they wrote.
Thus the one-time avant-garde Hungarian-language poet Robert Reiter is rediscovered many decades later as the conservative German-language poet Franz Liebhard, who now writes in the Swabian dialect of the vanishing German-Romanian minority. The mode of Danubeas befits a river book, is digressive and rambling. Sometimes these reflections amount to a short story passed off as an aside, or, as with the paragraph below, the beginning of a lost Joseph Conrad novel:.
The bulk of the Circassian territory formed a strip along the Danube, near Lom. In that little town there was an agency of the Imperial Steam Navigation Company of the Danube, under the direction of Agent Rojesko, who for weeks on end opened none of his windows overlooking the river, to keep clauduo house free from the stench of the sick and the corpses arriving on ships laden with Circassians suffering from typhus.
Records and reports, as well as the testimony of travellers, show Rojesko toiling away tirelessly and courageously to prevent and forestall contagion, to help the refugees, to find them food and shelter, provide them with medicines and work.
These meditations on places and moments of history, are studded with startling vignettes about writers. It is a word torn from wordlessness … the gesture of one who puts an end to a tradition and at the same time erases himself For he is as sympathetic, say, to the German-speaking Swabian settlers of the Banat, as he is to the Wallachians, the Bulgars and the other dozen nations who made up what became Vojvodina, in present-day Serbia magis with the long-lost Spanish settlers who in founded a New Barcelona in the town of Becskerek.
Danube is at once a record, a vast exploration and a celebration of those lacerated wounds. It rises above a chronicle of nation states to a homage to the endlessness of human beings that is mayris a question and an accusation about the limits of nationalism and ethnic identity.
It is as if you are overhearing Magris in conversation in the Trieste cafe where he writes, traversing high and low, jokes and gravity, gossip and erudition, wonder and laughter, all in a flow that manages to be charming and matris at once.
But in this it simply resembles life, rather than pretending to exist beyond it. Writing of Emil Cioran, Magris flails the Romanian misanthrope in order dknau put what seems to be a case for his own literary ambition: For this reason, I hate nationalism and nation states.
My old home, the [Hapsburg] Monarchy, alone, was a great mansion with many doors and many chambers, for every condition of men. This mansion has been divided, split up, splintered. I cclaudio nothing more to seek for, there. I am used to living in a home, not in cabins. But such a world, allowed magros guinea pigs, is not given to writers. Writing at a time when no one could foresee the collapse of communism, Magris was remarkably prescient about the more distant future and the new forces that were then only embryonic.
Our future will depend in part on our ability to prevent the priming of this time-bomb of hatred, and the possibility that new Battles of Vienna will transform brothers into foreigners and enemies. What then is the price of our soul? Three decades after it was first published, afterafter Srebenica, after Greece, after terrorism attacks too numerous to list, after the refugee crisis, after the Brexit vote, Danube has an altogether different resonance, speaking not only of the virtue of tolerance of difference, but its vitality and necessity.
In an age when razor wire is once more being run across the borders of Europe, Danube seems not only an important but a strangely timely book.
This, though, is not dohau suggest the limits of the book but rather its true measure. Italo Calvino described a classic as a book to which one can return and always find something new. In another 30 years we will find the same words and yet another book, fresh revelations divining a different world, a river that never ends, forever lighting out for the mythical territory of freedom.
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