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In his acclaimed work Danube, Claudio Magris painted a vast canvas stretching from the source of the river to the Black Sea. Now he focuses on the tiny borderlands in Istria and Italy, where he was born and where he has lived most intensely. From the forests of Monte Nevoso to the hidden valleys of the Tyrol to a Trieste cafe, Microcosms pieces together a mosaic of stories -- comic, tragic, picaresque, nostalgic -- from life's minor characters. Their worlds might be small, but they are far from minimalist: in them flashes the great, the meaningful, the unrepeatable significance of every existence.
Magris is a profoundly original modern writer. With its illuminating, elegant prose, Microcosms, like Danube, is destined to become a classic of travel literature.
that involved several large powers and shifted frontiers; all of Piedmont is a frontier along the Alps that gradually becomes a state, a no man’s land that becomes a centripetal and magnetic force. The Arimanni of Cambiano, it is said with pride, have never submitted to Chieri. The entanglements of the frontier, resulting from the intricacies of mediaeval geopolitics, created these communities of free men – Arimanni in Cambiano or Kosezi on the Monte Nevoso – in conflict with the regulating power
which dated back to 1254 and whose cultural fulcrum was in the southern part until the fifteenth century, after which it moved to Innsbruck. The patriots of 1809 split the unity of the Tyrol, separating the German component from its Latin counterpart and were then abandoned or annihilated by the German nation powers, respectively by Austria or Bavaria. As late as the Sixties Südtirolese terrorism would be marked by the contradiction between separatist nationalism and the tie with Austria or
for the Tyrolean eagle to be roasted, eaten and digested once and for all, with no further need to spit on its bones as well; indeed it is time to shake off the polemical obsession with the border, to stop considering it a peculiarly Tyrolean or Triestine problem and to realize that it can concern a Milanese no less than an inhabitant of Antholz or the Karst. In their scornful protest, many Tyrolean writers display sentiments that are too benign, they espouse ideals of liberty, protest,
there any more, things have been blown away, swallowed up in a vortex. Even the leaves of the chestnut tree, brushed against just an instant earlier while falling up on high, have disappeared, blended into a shiny milky void. But the oscillation of the swing obeys the laws of pendular motion; the whole Garden is an initiation into the law and the proliferation of its codicils – even Eros, another science of licences, prohibitions and infractions. In that vortex, that wild flowering, in that
relief, even some birds come in to quench their thirst and bathe in that font. A little farther off, in front of the statue of a woman with an eagle on her shoulder, donated XX.3.MCMXXI by the Milanese Honour the Army Committee, there is a bench in a fine sunny position amidst tufts of verbena. This bench warrants attention in as much as it is occupied very nearly every morning during the fine season by Mr C. and his wife, as inseparable from the Garden as the statuary herms scattered along its