- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harvill Press; New edition edition (Feb. 19 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1860466184
- ISBN-13: 978-1860466182
- Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.2 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 381 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,729,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Microcosms Paperback – Feb 19 2003
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From Library Journal
Magris, winner of the Strega PrizeDItaly's most important literary awardDand author of the highly praised travel narrative Danube, here invites the reader "to look again at the everyday and familiar and rediscover the sheer magic that lies within it." With his hometown of Trieste at the center, Magris leads the reader on a tour of the local taverns, caf s, homes, and other public gathering places of northern Italy. History and local folklore are interwoven into the many stories within stories that make up this book. Magris celebrates the joy of people and everyday living by talking to them and listening to their stories, unveiling their most delightful characters: Piero is an innkeeper in Collina obsessed with a murder that had taken place in town, Cristrano is a 12-year-old clam digger who saves a dog's life, and Doctor Velcecogna likes to sit in the caf holding the newspapers but does not read them. This is a fun and unique way of seeing Italy through the eyes of its people. Recommended for larger libraries.DStephanie Papa, Baltimore Cty. Circuit Court Lib., MD
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Claudio Magris is a well-known journalist and broadcaster and the author of the highly acclaimed Danube.
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While he is a keen observer of the small detail, Magris consistently returns to the perspective of world events and cataclysms. He makes us aware of the complex, many-layered history of these places, the beauty of the landscape as well as the horrors of the past, including the crimes of Italian and German fascism and Yugoslav communism. There are many reflections on nationalism, ethnicity and identity, memory, our mortality, and our ambivalent relationship to nature.
These microcosms are small corners of Europe, but they are also borderlands where Italian, Germanic, and Slavic cultures have interacted for centuries and where actual political boundaries have shifted back and forth as empires and republics have come and gone. The encounter of different cultures is one of the threads running through this otherwise not very linear narrative; at one point Magris interprets the legend of Jason and Medea in this light. For Magris, borders are both a necessity and a curse--necessary between ourselves and others to maintain our identity, but the cause of conflict and suffering. All endogamies and exclusive groups are suffocating and a negation of life, which, Magris says, is a sea port. Beginning and ending in the sea port of Trieste, this outstanding book is an invitation to travel, think, and experience.
Each of the places of "Microcosms" has a striking meaning. For example, the Apsyrtides signify immortality or "the pure present moment that is enough in itself and does not tire itself out in the rush towards goals to be reached" or "happiness with no object" from which in "exile" in time "the individual who has lost the absolute seeks to replace it with remedies dreamed out of his own private squalor."The Nevoso embodies a remote mystery--of aeons of time and evanescence--from which we humans are inseparable and it leaves us in harmony with "the primordial inchoate, that pulls back into its womb all things and forms." One morning when the clearing of Pomocnjaki in the Nevoso is a "perfect cathedral of light," a roe suddenly appears and then disappears--"entering and fading in the impenetrable clarity"--magically freeing Magris from fear of death.
Places in "Microcosms" are "wound" with feats of mind and spirit of wonderful lives finding meaning beyond fate. Magris extends lifted admiration and affection for those--like the great poet Biagio Marin who lived in Grado in the lagoons, Don Girotto the archpriest of Revigliasco and the academic and novelist Stefano Jacomuzzi of Cambiona in the Collina--whose lives and writings invoke "the big picture of the infinite, against which all human experience is set," foster the humility of "the smallness of oneself" and of "letting go," promote the conquest of the "vanity" of "taking oneself too seriously" and of "the obsession with impotence" of the "deliriums" of time and indicate a freedom from "fear" of "the vacuous pomp of the world" and above all of death.
In a voice of the distilled wisdom of the ages, Magris tells us: "We die because we forget we are immortal." Without the humility of immortality, we succumb to vanity and death or "the darkness in which 'metaphors die'": "Perhaps this is original sin, the inability to live and love, to live time, each instant to the full, without craving to burn it up, to use it quickly. Original sin introduces death, which takes possession of life, making life seem unbearable in every hour it proffers in its passing, forcing the destruction of life's time, trying to make it pass quickly, like an illness; killing time, a polite form of suicide." A geographer such as the world has has not known, Magris irradiates the earth and residence on earth. "Microcosms" is a celebration of where and when and for whom time and death became immortality. In an existence in which "everything gets misplaced and lost" and "in the fear and the trembling with which life has to be faced" when one "does not know where to find the sense in the things [one] cannot grasp," such men, like "a shepherd to his flock" protecting his "sheep in the midst of wolves," are priceless overseers of wisdom owing to whom "one felt less alone in the shock and the turbulence of things."
We turn the pages of this incomparable book page after great page blessed in the majesty of wisdom and compassion of Claudio Magris and the wonder of post-generic creativity of his book and with the uplifting realization that what we are really holding in our hands is a value of existence in whose fold we are "less alone in the shock and the turbulence of things."