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Trieste and The Meaning of Nowhere

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  627 Ratings  ·  86 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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Nov 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lyn Elliott
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Carol Smith
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
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
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trieste, the sad port of lost Mitteleuropa, is a city of palaces, banks and halls that got lost in history, as borders shifted and old alliances changed. It’s a place that inspires melancholy, a longing for an imagined past.

The city finds itself in Italy now. Its Piazza Grande now perhaps too proudly calls itself the Piazza Unita d’Italia. But Slovenia and the old Habsburg empire is still in the air. And on the Piazza della Borsa a banner pleaded the US and the UK to please come back and reinsta
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jan Morris is exceptional in her coverage of a place and capturing it in its feeling and its personality. Hers isn't a travel book so much as it is a chronicle of the evidence she shows over and again as to the uniqueness of the city of Trieste.

The author helps us know the place through its history, its geography and its architecture. This Italian city to the author is arbitrarily part of that country now but it's history makes it more a regional place, so important within the Australian-Hungari
This is the final book by travel writer Jan Morris, and is both a fascinating account of a lesser-known city and a meditation on Morris' own feelings as she reflects on her memories. It is beautifully written, thoughtful and evocative.

Trieste is portrayed as a melancholy place, a kind of 'nowhere' that has passed through changes of history and geography until it ended up with no real place to belong. Even so, Morris finds beauty and kindness in the city and its people, and it is this sensitivit
Mind the Book
Tågläsning på väg från Paris mot Trieste. Tycker mycket om tonen hos Morris. Enligt henne är den norditalienska staden...

visceral, surreal, lonely, subliminal, idiosynchratic, cosmopolitan, crepuscular, compelling, brooding, ambiguous, wistful, maudlin, peculiar, stagnant, redundant, unfulfilled, elusive

an ethnic enclave, industrial clutter, hinterland, limbo, sweet tristesse, chimera, unspecified yearning, lost continent, utopia

curiously haunting, defiantly eclectic, habitually melancholic

för a
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Roslyn Royle
Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this writing style delightfully eclectic. The writer describes Trieste in the past and present with recounts of wonderful events and characters. It is educational on several levels, historical, architectural and anthropolical, all while entertaining you with many humorous accounts. Completion of this book left me with a sense of personal improvement and a desire to read more by jan Morris.
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. I read it in preparation for visiting Trieste, and it is not to be confused with a travel guide. It's more of a memoir of Morris's relationship to the city, and ultimately how they mirror one another. There is some great history here as well—things not on the usual curricular lists, which I always find edifying. Jan Morris is a masterful writer — I look forward to seeking out her other books.
So much more than a travel book. So much more than a memoir. So much more than history or cultural exploration. This book, Jan Morris' last, is really a love song to growth, loss and life's miracles as reflected through her experiences in one city; Trieste.
Mr Metcalfe
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Magda Harber
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Inspired me to put Trieste on my travel bucket list!
Jonell Galloway
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful prose, pure literature. You can't get better travel writing than this.
Mary Warnement
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: subway, italy, travel
I selected this title because I started to wonder where the next inexpensive, soon-to-be hip, place to live in Europe would be and if I could get in before out-priced. I've never lived anywhere hip and hope to do so in my retirement. I wondered, could Trieste be that next place? My fav coffee is Illy, headquartered there. Could be a match made in heaven. And so I discovered Jan (formerly James) Morris, whose style appeals to me. She's smart and observant. I like her coinages, like Triesticity. I ...more
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Trieste, the sad port of lost Mitteleuropa, is a city of palaces, banks and halls that got lost in history, as borders shifted and old alliances changed. It’s a place that inspires melancholy, a longing for an imagined past.

The city finds itself in Italy now. Its Piazza Grande now perhaps too proudly calls itself the Piazza Unita d’Italia. But Slovenia and the old Habsburg empire is still in the air. And on the Piazza della Borsa a banner pleaded the US and the UK to please come back and reinsta
Paul Fulcher
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
"I cannot always see Trieste in my mind eye. Who can? It is not one of your iconic cities, instantly visible in the memory or the imagination. It offers no unforgettable landmark, no universally familiar melody, no unmistakable cuisine, hardly a single native name that everyone knows. It is a middle-sized, essentially middle-aged Italian seaport, ethnically ambivalent, historically confused, only intermittently prosperous, tucked away at the top right-hand corner of the Adriatic Sea, and so lac ...more
Jane E
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italian, non-fiction
Such a lovely book. Jan Morris's writing is always so elegant. Beautiful flow, wonderful vocabulary and able to make almost any subject interesting. Having just visited Trieste her descriptions were particularly resonant but I also learned so much about a place that while it may not always be inherently interesting has such a history that every corner has a hidden past. Not just a travel book, in fact not really a travel book. A meditation on the past and limited future, a perfect gem. (Purchase ...more
Ellen Turner Hall
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a book about history and the forces that shape the identity of a place. Trieste today, designated by Morris as “nowhere”, with its disused, misused and reused Habsburg splendor comes across as a sadness, a missed opportunity, a destination where no one wants to linger for very long.
The writing is splendid. Morris has a light hand, spinning out historical and cultural observations in beautifully cadenced sentences. Haunting.

Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes it's pretty darn clear the blurb writer has not read the book. "Here's a book for lovers of all things Italian..."... or maybe not.

An elegant swansong (Proust even gets a mention in there somewhere). I probably want to visit Trieste less than I did before I started reading, but I do want to read more Morris.
Simon Quayle
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Conveys a romantic impression of the character of Trieste - difficult to know how accurate it is, as I have only been in Trieste for two days. A good and entertaining starting point, worth reading before, or even during, a visit.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italia
Boeiende persoonlijke beleving van Trieste, rijke cultuurhistorische kadering. Een uitstekende aanvulling bij de weinige reisgidsen die er over deze stad bestaan. Must read voor iedereen op zoek naar de Triestinità.
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Ash Bruxvoort
Dec 27, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Richard C Regan
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, my-books
This is a beautiful book. Having lived in Trieste, I can attest to the accuracy of the Morris's lyrical evocation of the cosmopolitan city and its inhabitants. I particularly liked the description of Trieste as a city where "the idea of nationality seems alien," but which is the natural capital of the "nation of nowhere," whose citizens "share with each other, across all the nations, common values of humour and understanding," and "a generous spirit of love for civilisation and tradition and the ...more
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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...

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“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.” 1 likes
“For some years, Trieste was a murky exchange for the commodities most coveted in the deprived societies of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia. Jeans, for example, were then almost a currency of their own, so terrific was the demand on the other side of the line, and the trestle tables of the Ponterosso market groaned with blue denims of dubious origin ("Jeans Best for Hammering, Pressing and Screwing", said a label I noted on one pair). There was a thriving traffic in everything profitably resellable, smuggleable or black-marketable - currencies, stamps, electronics, gold. Not far from the Ponterosso market was Darwil's, a five-storey jewellers' shop famous among gold speculators throughout central Europe. Dazzling were its lights, deafening was its rock music, and through its blinding salons clutches of thick-set conspiratorial men muttered and wandered, inspecting lockets through eye-glasses, stashing away watches in suitcases, or coldly watching the weighing of gold chains in infinitesimal scales.” 1 likes
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