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by Joseph Cary

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-226-09528-2
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Weird Trieste! Triste Trieste! Cary (English/University of Connecticut) recalls his brief stay in Trieste—a city he visited in search of its literary glory. What a surprise when Cary finds that Trieste—literary Trieste—doesn't exist; nor, really, does cultural Trieste. Its writers, in fact, bemoan the city's utter lack of cultural flowering, knocking it for blocking ``any initiative designed to give it a cultural character of physiognomy, not only in its disintegrative atmosphere but in its individuals, who willingly isolate themselves or go elsewhere. It has a bitter air....'' So said Trieste's storyteller Giani Stuparich in 1948, who added that his life there ``is a torment and continuous vigil.'' Cary finds himself alone as a ghost in Trieste as he spends three weeks searching for the shades of Italo Svevo, Umberto Saba, and James Joyce (who, during his ten years in the city, wrote Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Giacomo Joyce, some of Pomes Penyeach, and began Ulysses). Cary—finding almost nothing but a spot or two where these famed folk sat and gazed at the Adriatic—supplies instead an amused (but less than amusing) history of the seaport, which has existed for over two millennia. The historical passages serve as factual steppingstones during the author's more baffled wanderings about the city and its hills, and during his lying awake at night listening to American sailors on shore leave laughing below his window louvers. To be sure, Cary does find a literary Trieste, but it's all in books about Trieste, whose authors he catalogues while detailing their ecstasies and laments. He also includes a sheaf of his translations of several poems written in or about the city. Delectations for the ghostly only. (Eight halftones, 17 line drawings, four maps)