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Trieste and The Meaning of Nowhere

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  408 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Here's a book for lovers of all things Italian. This city on the Adriatic has always tantalized Jan Morris with its moodiness and changeability. After visiting Trieste for more than half a century, she has come to see it as a touchstone for her interests and preoccupations: cities, seas, empires. It has even come to reflect her own life in its loves, disillusionments, and ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 5th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published September 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Sometimes when I finish a book I have a strange feeling, sort of a nostalgia, a loss of a world, a "being sorry that the book is over". It was usually good narrative that used to give me that feeling - until I read this book, the only descriptive travel book that managed to catch my heart and not my brain only.

My position toward this book is privileged, since I was born and raised in Trieste, and even though I haven't been living there for some time it's still my dearest town, the one I know bet

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to visit Trieste. In 1980s Nakhalpara, poring over the atlas at home after school, that odd name snuck away at the top of the Adriatic Sea, just where the leg of Italy meets the European landmass – that name “Trieste” used to make me wonder. A few years later, the ringing words of Churchill’s Fulton speech floated down across the decades in grainy black-and-white on BBC: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descende ...more
It took me a long time to get through "Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere" because it’s a dense book, full of centuries’ worth of historical lessons and anecdotes, and because Morris writes in a careful third-person style that’s very different from the zany, personal stories that are popular now.

The time was well spent, though. Morris paints an interesting portrait of Trieste, a city I’ve never been to (and one which, according to a possibly apocryphal 1999 poll, 70% of Italians don’t realize is
This is Jan Morris‘s melancholy love letter to a city that was formed by a dozen different civilizations over the course of four thousand years but seems not to belong to any of them. Indo-Europeans known as Illyrians founded the city, then the Romans took it, the city-state of Venice colonized it, the Habsburgs occupied it, and finally the modern state of Italy got it after World War I. A hundred years ago, Trieste was one of the most bustling ports in Europe but is now largely forgotten, even ...more
Carol Smith
We savor those rare experiences when we discover a marvelous author with a lengthy bibliography. Jan Morris is such a find for me. As a fan of travel writing, how can I have overlooked her all these years? Looking forward to catching up on her substantial back catalog.

I read this on a plane to Trieste. By the time I touched down, I felt I understood the town, that I had gained a sense of it in a way that effectively melds history, culture, geography, inhabitants, quirks, and features. On our fir
If you've done a bit of traveling, unless you live in an overimagined place like Venice or Vegas, Paris or London, chances are you've at some point been asked to describe your home city. Travelers are bicurious little insects: always already planning their next trip. It's a difficult task, more difficult then you would think pre-question, perhaps. Because how do you tease out the loose bricks in the pavement, the minuscule scratchings on the wall, the things that explain what it's like to actual ...more
Lyn Elliott
Morris explors the idea of being 'in between' in this book. She first visited Trieste as James Morris, a young sailor. Her reflections on Trieste, written as a much older Jan Morris, contemplate her own status as a person born between genders, and Trieste as a city between worlds, linked backed to Vienna and Austria as the Mediterranean sea port for the Habsburg Empire. It is also a city of the Mediterranean, now part of Italy but not at all convinced about that. This is a haunting book, misty, ...more
Jan 04, 2014 T rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: travel
This book is wonderful. Although she does recount much of the history of this little city on the edge of the Adriatic, Jan Morris makes the reader imagine the people (famous and no so famous) wandering about the streets, drinking at the cafes. Definitely worth reading before going.
Trieste and The Meaning of Nowhere is a memoir, not a travel guide to Trieste. I read this book because I am going to Trieste and I wanted something more than just a list of must-see places. I've always enjoyed Jan Morris's books and this one is his last. He talks about Trieste as a place that belongs to no one because of its history -- it belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire, then to Italy; Italians, Slavs, Austrians, Greeks, and other nationalities have lived in Trieste for centuries). Morr ...more
Before going to Trieste, I read this 2003 book by Jan Morris. It was the last book by this formidable travel writer, which she did in her seventies. I decided to re-read it after visiting Trieste. Morris writes with such depth of insight and feeling that the city is more vivid than if I visited without reading her book.
A lovely farewell tribute to a grand old imperial city and to a writer's life. The explanation of the subtitle, which comes near the end, brought tears to my eyes.
Jonell Galloway
Beautiful prose, pure literature. You can't get better travel writing than this.
Magda Harber
Inspired me to put Trieste on my travel bucket list!
Being an adopted Triestina and reading this book in the midst of the rainy season in Addis gave me a pang of nostalgia. As usual Jan Morris is superb in her writing and the particular turns of phrase she uses are evocative and humorous at the same time. I was particularly interested in some of the historic parts of Trieste, her status as a free religious enclave in the Austrian Hungarian empire, the story of Rivoltella as an entrepreneur, the architectural side...Trieste is indeed a city that if ...more
The author was captivated by Trieste from her first sight of it. I suppose, hope, we all have places that we fall in love with. Forever afterwards, whatever time we can spend there will be precious, we cannot read or learn enough about it, delight in meeting others who know the place. That's how it was for Jan Morris when he (it's complicated) first visited the city as a soldier at the end of the Second World War.

After a lifetime in journalism, travel- and history-writing, this book was to be he
Ash Bruxvoort
Jan Morris' Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhereis a travelog of the city Trieste. Trieste is a place for those who are exiled and Morris is fascinated by the "nowhereness" of the place. It has had many famous inhabitants, including James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, and Richard Burton. It is on the far northeast side of Italy, and as Morris points out, very few people in Italy actually know Trieste is there. The travelog weaves between Morris' own experience and Trieste and the ancient history of the ci ...more
I didn't like this so much when I read it about 7 or 8 years ago, but my friend Robin Hemley, whose opinions I value, thinks it's really good, so I'm going to have to go back now. I've been to Trieste many times, so maybe I'm comparing her discussions with my own memories and impressions. Maybe I need to write my own book for that, rather than critiquing, perhaps unfairly, someone else's...

Okay, now (in 2013), I've just reread the book and find that it gets stronger as it goes on. The initial ch
Good, but not great

I have always been fascinated by Trieste, and was looking forward to reading Jan Morris' impressions of the city. Unfortunately, I found the book a rather rambling discourse about life and European history in general, rather than about Trieste and its place in the world.
Evoking a strong sense of place and how the place evolves but the memories of the place seem to remain shaping the experience of the place. It is a reminder that the more we know the history of a place the more our contemporary experience of the place will change (and I suppose so will its affects on us . . . ).
Sep 03, 2012 Caro rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: venice
A funny little backwater of the Hapsburg empire, whose mood is lugubrious, hypochondriacal, regretful - why, again, are we going there? Morris has anecdotes about everyone from James Joyce to Stendhal, and she shows how the tides of European history have washed over a city that has been Italian, Austrian, and even, for a brief time, independent. And then there is poor Maximilian, brother of the Emperor Franz Joseph and builder of the castle in Trieste that he never lived in, who was persuaded to ...more
A few years ago, I planned a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the end of a foreign study tour with a group of architecture students. With the students on their way to independent travel or home, I traveled northeastward from Rome, knowing that I'd have to change trains in the former independent city of Trieste. Fortunately, I'd had the good sense to prepare for the trip by reading Jan Morris's "sense of place" essay on this remarkable city, variously used and abused by Italy, the old Austro-Hunga ...more
Ashley Bergman
Jan Morris mixes introspection with history as she takes her time meandering through Trieste, from past to present. She is clearly a good writer, but my favorite parts were the more personal bits and her musings on what makes Trieste so perfect for exiles. I was actually a bit sad to read at the end that Trieste was starting to boom in a way. Also valuable are her literary tie-ins, lots of references to James Joyce, among others.
I like the fact Jan Morris doesn't hide her way of thinking.

On page one we find this:
"The sensation is rather like those arcane moments of hush that sometimes interrupt a perfectly ordinary conversation, and are said to signify the passing of an angel. Perhaps on biblical grounds - something to do with the Crucifixion? - these are popularly supposed to happen at ten minutes before the hour, and it is odd how frequently they do."

So not only does Jan believe in angels, and their hushing passing t
Cats 274
V Trstu sem preživela del življenja in sem mislila, da ga dobro poznam. Pa mi je ta knjiga postregla z brezštevilnimi detajli zanimivimi, informativnimi, včasih celo hudomušnimi, o katerih nisem imela pojma. Idealna kombinacija je prebrati knjigo in se takoj potem odpraviti v Trst na potep. Hvala, Jan Morris, za prelep vikend, ki sem ga preživela v Trstu z vašo knjigo!
Joseph Rice
A poignant capture of the city of Trieste. The author, in the last years of her life (although she's still living 13 years later), sees remarkable parallels in her life in this city. Giving us a historical and temporal tour, we are introduced to a place that is of no place. Beautifully, lyrically written. Recommended for the armchair traveler.
Barbara Drufovka
This was my introduction to Jan Morris, of whom I'm now a fan, and Trieste is the city where I was born.

Her book captures the melancholy of a cosmopolitan city that peaked in the 18th & 19th centuries as Austria-Hungary's main port on the Mediterranean. But the port lost it's importance when it became part of Italy in the early 20th century, and it's been a relic of a grander era of empire ever since.

The EU has brought some economic promise back to Trieste. Jan Morris published this just a
Janez Hočevar
Jan Morris wrote a passionate love letter about Trst/Trieste. Since I live only two hours away from Trst/Trieste, I think the time has come to revisit this city.
This is being touted as a classic; it was dull, dull, dull. It was also dull.
Richard Thomas
I enjoyed this book to the point that Trieste is on my list of places I must get to before I die. It's an inspiration for me at least.
I love me some Jan Morris, and this, her final book, was a bittersweet read. Her enduring love for her subject -Trieste Italy and its inhabitants - shines through every chapter. But it is the impression of Jan herself (and himself) that left the strongest impression, as she aged in her acquaintance with the city. It has been 13 years since this work was published, and she lives still. I hope she has been able to return to the city that speaks so poignantly to her soul.
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Jan Morris previously wrote under the name "James Morris".

Jan Morris is a British historian, author and travel writer. Morris was educated at Lancing College, West Sussex, and Christ Church, Oxford, but is Welsh by heritage and adoption. Before 1970 Morris published under her former name, "James Morris", and is known particularly for the Pax Britannica trilogy, a history of the British Empire, and
More about Jan Morris...
Venice Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress (The Pax Britannica Trilogy, #1) Conundrum Pax Britannica: Climax of an Empire Farewell The Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat

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“As for the scenes we shared in the Piazza Unita that day in 1897, I can hear the music still, but all the rest is phantom. The last passenger liner sailed long ago. The schooners, steamboats and barges have disappeared. No tram has crossed the piazza for years. The Caffe Flora changed its name to Nazionale when the opportunity arose, and is now defunct. The Governor's Palace is now only the Palace of the Prefect and the Lloyd Austriaco headquarters, having metamorphosed into Lloyd Triestino when the Austrians left, are now government offices: wistfully the marble tritons blow their their horns, regretfully Neptune and Mercury linger upon their entablatures. Those silken and epauletted passengers, with all they represented, have vanished from the face of Europe, and I am left all alone listening to the band.” 0 likes
“Sigmund Freud was also frustrated here. In a city that later embraced his ideas with particular zeal, being organically inclined towards neurosis, he himself found only failure. He came to Trieste on the train from Vienna in 1876, commissioned by the Institute of Comparative Anatomy at Vienna University to solve a classically esoteric zoological puzzle: how eels copulated. Specialist as he later became in the human testicle and its influence upon the psyche, Freud diligently set out to discover the elusive reproductive organs whose location had baffled investigators since the time of Aristotle. He did not solve the mystery, but I like to imagine him dissecting his four hundred eels in the institute's zoological station here. Solemn, earnest and bearded I fancy him, rubber-gloved and canvas-aproned, slitting them open one after the other in their slimy multitudes. Night after night I see him peeling off his gloves with a sigh to return to his lonely lodgings, and saying a weary goodnight to the lab assistant left to clear up the mess — "Goodnight, Alfredo", "Goodnight, Herr Doktor. Better luck next time, eh?" But the better luck never came; the young genius returned to Vienna empty-handed, so to speak, but perhaps inspired to think more exactly about the castration complex.” 0 likes
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