Trieste And The Meaning Of Nowhere
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exhilarated. This is partly because twice the opera of the night has happened to be a work by a local composer, Antonio Smareglia (1854–1929), whose operas are hardly ever performed anywhere else. But it is also, to risk a generalization, because of the modern Trieste temperament, bred by history out of race. This is an audience courteous, interested, informed, but hardly demonstrative. Its response is measured. People don’t wipe their eyes much in these stalls, no claques break into hysterical
Cold War generally ignored Trieste. The wars of Yugoslav succession passed it by. Economically it no longer matters much whether you are Slovene or Italian by origin, especially as by now the chances are that you are a mixture of both, with perhaps some Austrian or Jewish thrown in, or an American or British gene left by a transient soldier long ago. I noticed the same at home in Wales—that when people felt they were achieving some degree of national fulfilment, racial bitterness subsided. Even
crumbling, mouldy and permanently puddled. In those days ships docked a few blocks away, and this was where the seamen caroused, the soldiers came down from their barracks and the brothels flourished. The lamparetti knew it well. Saba often picked his way through its roistering crowds on his way home in the evening, feeling that the more squalid his route, the purer his thoughts. Prostitution was legal in Italy until 1958, some of the brothels being State-owned. It thrives in Trieste still, but
with waiters dashing madly in all directions and jolly groups of friends drinking beer, and thinking that all around me conspiracies might be flourishing or double agents practising their deceptions! Today the excitement has gone, and there are no sinister delays at the borders. Even so, sometimes I feel a tremor of the undercover still. Only the other day I stopped for an early breakfast at a cafe a mile or two from one of the frontier crossings, and there I got into conversation with a Dutch
a half-circle of stone chairs beneath an oak tree, to remember the teachings of Liment—a stone circle commemorating the Book of Istrian Law—a column in the shape of the Glagolitic letter “Slovo"—a stone block in memory of Bishop Grgur—the Pillar of the Cakav Parliament—the Resting Place of Zakan Juraj—until, dazed or inspired by these queer mementos, you arrive before the gates of Hum, where a Glagolitic inscription offers you a welcome if you are friendly, a severe injunction if you are not.