Trieste by Dasa Drndic

Dasa Drndic she is a Croat novelist ,playwright and critic ,she has spent time in Canada and now is a professor at Rijeka university in Croatia .

Trieste is her first book to be translated in english and I for one am so pleased it has been as I feel it is a truly important novel .When this arrived I had a flick through the book and saw it was very unusual containing a number of photos and lists and host of over literary devices .But as you dive into this book it all becomes clear .The initial glance made me think of Sebald and the fact that this book is about the second world war and Seblad’s Austerlitz touched in part that time as well but this is the story of southern europe of Italy in particular but also the neighbour places and it spreads out from the two main characters Haya Tedeschi a women who as we find out she had a son via the Lebensborn programme the Germans ran to produce a perfect Aryan race .Early on we find out her story as she waits for her son how she end up father her son and her family’s wartime story.

For sixty-two year she has been waiting .

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

Haya waits for her son and thus we find her story .

The father of this babe was a ss officer that was one of the most notorious ,as he was a savage guard at Treblinka camp .The other character is Haya son she hasn’t seen him for over sixty years and now their meeting but before they do we see how this happened and this is what is most inventive in this book ,how that story is told in a number of ways that sets it apart from normal fiction written about the war as most of the people mention in this book are real people ,The ss officer Kurt Franz although I myself prefer the title murderers that Chil Rajchman in Treblinka calls them but he singles out Franz and his dog that is pictured in Trieste ,he had taught this dog to bite prisoners anyway I m getting sidetrack here my review of Treblinka will come in the next month .

A thirty year old German in a uniform comes into her tobacco shop.Oh ,he is handsome as a doll .The German already has the polish nickname Lalka ,but at this point ,when she first see the dashing German Haya knows nothing of that,the dashing german tells her later .

DOll or Lalka was due to Franz doll-like face .explained here

Another devices to shock and make the reader think is printing all 9000 plus names of the Italian jews that died in the second world war I was initially going to flick through this but no I read through and was hit by the effect tens even hundreds of people with same name and probably the same family wiped out by the war ,this is a real eye-opening device and brings the true effect of the holocaust.

Fritz Schmidt ,SS – Unterscharfuhrer born 1906 in Eibau ,Germany .Guard and chauffeur in Sonnenstein and Bernburg 1940-41 .chauffeur and head of garage at Treblinka in 1942 ;looks after equipment for gas chambers .In Trieste in 1943 .Arrested by allies in Saxony .In december 1949 sentenced to nine years in prison ,but escapes to West Germany and no-one cares .Dies in 1982

One of the many pen picture portrays of Treblinka guards .

Elsewhere Dasa uses little pen picture biographies of the guards from Treblinka ,slowly build the character of her sons father bit by bit you feel your skin cringe as every man record is told and what happened to them post war.I feel Dasa achieves here what Bolano tried in part in his Nazi literatures in the Americas using small bios to highlight a great whole of course that was neo Nazis in the America’s but the feel is the same using the bios to build a picture of the whole in this case the true horrors of Treblinka .Dasa has managed to do what seems impossible that is too mix real life and fiction at one of the darkest times and not make it seem not right which it could have easily been .But she has done it seamlessly ,without making the story seem like it is fiction and on the other hand with out it making it seem to outlandish to be true .This is one of those books you want place in people hands and just say read and then discusses ,this needs to be talked about to highlight the holocaust but also the Lebenborn programme that I for one knew little or nothing about .Because the further we get from this time the more it needs reinforcing in people’s minds the horrors that happened .This books sits well along side the books of Levi and such .

Dasa Drndic is visiting uk and is here at Jewish book week on 26th February


19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1streading
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 20:35:51

    I’m glad your review is so positive as I just got this and hope to be reading it soon. It’s not an author I’d ever heard of but it seemed really interesting.


  2. Sarah
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 22:16:12

    It sounds very moving, Stu. Not an easy read, but as you say, it is right and vital that we remember this history. Thank you for your review. You have convinced me.


  3. savidgereads
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 23:22:23

    This sounds incredible and I have it on the TBR so I will have to read it very soon. The cover really stood out when it arrived (not that it should matter) but the contents sound even more incredible.


  4. farmlanebooks
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 10:37:30

    I was given a copy of this last week and it stood out straight away. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it and it contains more than just the ususal Holocaust story. Let’s hope I enjoy it more than the last Levi I read.


  5. markbooks
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 20:19:40

    I really fancy reading this, you make it sound positively urgent.


  6. Tony
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 10:40:02

    It’s always good to see this period of history from different perspectives, so this sounds well worth reading – thanks Stu 🙂


  7. Dale Pobega
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 11:38:41

    I agree with the comments of the others … this book sounds as if it is well worth the read. Does anyone, however, know more about the claim that the first 130 pages of the book has allegedly been plagiarized? I am not sure what to make of the customer review of Drasa Drndic’s “Trieste” on the Amazon site (called “Shock!) which asserts that “the narrative up to 1943 is a rewrite” (read “rip off”) of someone else’s story, a certain Fulvia Schiff.

    Can anyone tell me more?


    • winstonsdad
      Jun 23, 2012 @ 19:34:25

      Hi dale thanks for comment I ve look around and seen comment
      On machlehose site by this guy I m sure dada maybe used some source books and some of the stories would be similar apart from that not sure if I hear more let you know


      • Rina Gent
        Dec 16, 2013 @ 10:50:07

        First third of book is in fact almost word for word ‘My Mother’s Story’ by Frank Gent, now available on Amazon as Trieste-The True Story of Fulvia Schiff Gent. This has now been acknowledged by the author and publishers. We did not seek compensation for this outrage….and outrage it was as my mother was so upset to read the addition of her having a child by a Nazi Officer etc., this is the only part of the story that is in fact fiction.
        If you read this your questions will be answered.
        My 86 year old mother is still upset about this and always will be.No addition at a later stage, firstly at the back of the book and eventually at the front of the book, acknowledging this, will make up for the upset this has caused our family. Too little too late. A disgrace that this author initially tried to claim it was all her won work!

    • Gent
      Oct 23, 2013 @ 21:09:48
      Think this answers your question. This is the book in which my mother dictated her story, and my brother edited and added to it, and it was published in 1996 for family and friends. Please read above link. This has caused our family a lot of upset and fall-outs… has all been resolved now but my mother is still sad that this has happened at all, and so am I.


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  12. Rina Gent
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 12:57:47
    The above link is acknowledgement by the publishers and the author of the use of my mother’s story, Fulvia Schiff in the first part of Trieste by Dasa Drndic. Enough said on this subject.


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February 2012


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