Train to Budapest by Dacia Maraini
Translator Silvester Mazzarella
Original title Il treno dell’ ultima notte
Source personnel copy
Now Dacia Maraini is a name that always seems to be in the top ten when the odds for the Nobel literature prize are mentioned every year so when before Christmas I saw this in my local Oxfam I decided it was time to try her .So Dacia Maraini is an Italian writer her mother was a Sicilian Princess she was an artist and art dealer and her father was an Ethnologist and mountaineer ,The family fled Fascist Italy but end up In a camp in Japan til 1946.They return to Italy and Dacia lived with her father and was educated in well-known Florence school .She started writing age 27 in 1963 ,she had been married before that but was at that time living with the well-known Italian writer Alberto Moravia whom she spent time with til his death in 1983 .Well longer than usual Bio but I felt after reading her Wiki entry she has had a really interesting life .
How can that stone child have survived in that Ghetto ? Would he have had the strength to survive ? Was turning to stone a way of holding on ? And what if ,after all ,he had made it ? A boy has his life before him and it isn’t easy to break stone .
Amara musing after reading a letter from Emanuele
So to Train to Budapest well this is a novel of stories and two main plotlines ,mix styles and genres .So to break it up the main character in the book is Amara she is an Italian Journalist ,we join her on the train to Budapest she has been ask to write about the growing divide that is happening between east and west Europe post world war two .This is 1956 and the Budapest itself is heading to is itself heading to trouble as the brief freedom that is flourishing there is looking troubled .The reason that Amara took this job to write about Budapest is the second main plot of the book and that is the other main character in this book and that is Emanuele who was a friend of Amara when she was growing up they had both lived in Florence, then Emanuele family had gone to Vienna and this fallen foul of the Nazis .Emanuele story is told via the letter he had written to Amara during this time so you see the changing face of Austria the fact they have to wear stairs then can’t go here and there and then they are moved to The Ghetto the ? Well I leave that you to find out but at a point the letters to Amara ended and she is taking this journey to find out what happened to her friend after that point and the people he knew and she did via the letters .Then you add to that a lovely half Jewish man that she meets on the train who’s job sees him stepping in to be the father for people at weddings .Amara own war memories are mixed in as she take the journey things she will never forget .She also meets someone wanting to print letters from the Russian front .Will she find out what happened to her soul mate ?
The future opens before her like a precious flower touched by the first ray of the sun but still frozen on the branch ,Because spring is not yet here and the sun has deceived her .
The closing words so poetic .
Well this sounds complicated I can see you saying that but it works ,it is great musing on the world war two and how it affect just individuals not nations people also the echoes of the present (well 1956) Budapest and the situation in the Ghetto and for the Jews a sort of comparison of Communism and Fascism ,with neither coming out on top .The pacing of the book works the sort of feeling of a train journey that feel of moving through the book but not knowing you have done so .Dacia Maraini shows why she is a frequent Nobel favourite to make something so complex so easy to read and to stick with you long after I put the book down is very hard to do .This is one of those books you think why isn’t it better known it should be it is better than some similar books with less complex themes .
Have you ever read her books ?
Do you have a favourite Italian writer?