It took me a long time to read this modestly sized volume because it constantly sent me scurrying down side-alleys to further explore a fantastic array of topics, people, events; some of them delightfully obscure. Who knew that two monks had invented an alphabet known as Glagolitic Script in order for Croats to be able to read the scriptures -- or even that such an alphabet exists at all? Morris treats the reader to fragments of Welsh romanticism, exploration of underground rivers, anecdotes about a fascinating cast of characters who appear in Trieste over the years -- Joyce, Stendhal, Baron Revoltella, Sir Richard Burton, Italo Svevo, Freud, and the list goes on. She examines the economics of the Habsburg empire, the aspirations of Risorgimento Italy, the cultural overlapping of Teutonic, Latin and Slav cultures, the intermingling of peoples to be found in a port city, the polyglot character of the Balkans, the shifting tides of war. And the geographic setting alone, a backwater at the far corner of the Adriatic, can lead to hours of poring through maps.
Finally, my sincere thanks to Jan Morris for introducing me to the works of Umberto Saba, a wonderful poet I had never known before.
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