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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Castle in Romagna

Igor Štiks

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To purchase A Castle in Romagna

Title: A Castle in Romagna
Author: Igor Štiks
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 103 pages
Original in: (Serbo-)Croatian
Availability: A Castle in Romagna - US
A Castle in Romagna - UK
A Castle in Romagna - Canada
Ein Schloss in der Romagna - Deutschland
  • Croatian title: Dvorac u Romagni
  • Translated by Tomislav Kuzmanovic and Russell Scott Valentino

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine if perhaps too carefully balanced novella

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 3/2/2004 Uwe Stolzmann

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The complete review's Review:

       A Castle in Romagna tells two stories, separated by centuries, with a third basically as a present-day framing device. The book begins with a visit to the Italian Mardi Castle in 1995, two girls and the Bosnian narrator visiting the historic Italian site. They are greeted by a friar -- the local tour-guide, as it were -- who turns out to be Croatian.
       The Bosnian spends the rest of the day with the friar (though the girls go off on their own), and in alternating chapters the reader is presented with the events of 1535 when the writer Enzo Strecci had an affair with Catarina, the wife of the local lord, Francesco Mardi, and the Croatian's account of how he fled his motherland shortly after the end of World War II.
       Strecci's story is fairly simple -- he comes to Mardi's home as a messenger, falls for Catarina, and is undone by his passion (and her chambermaid Maria's love for him, which he doesn't handle very well).
       The story of the Croatian, Niccolò Darsa, is slightly more complex. In 1948 Yugoslavia was undergoing continuing radical change, Tito finally consolidating power while also not submitting to the iron grip of the Soviet Union that was taking hold all across Eastern Europe. At the time, Niccolò lived on the island of Rab. His father had fallen out of favour and was considered a suspicious person, and most of the rest of his family had already fled. Niccolò already knew that: "there was no place in the new Yugoslavia" for the likes of him. But he was reluctant to leave his dying father (though his father repeatedly urged him to flee) -- and then he caught sight of the new girl in town .....
       Unfortunately, the new girl in town was the daughter of the very protective new police captain -- this at a time when policing was focussed on political rather than criminal activity. Coming from a politically suspect family, Niccolò was pretty much the last boy the captain wanted to see hanging around with his daughter.
       Social and political convention dictated that these were loves that could not be -- but, of course, love will have its way, and in each case it leads to disaster. Niccolò compounds disaster by not making (or keeping) good his escape; since we know he's alive and well (enough) fifty years later (as the friar) his fate is never really in doubt, but it does make for even more unpleasant scenes.
       Štiks recounts these two tales fairly well. They're hardly exceptional, but as fast-paced romantic tragedies they're solid, with a good bit of suspense. They're even quite touching. Nevertheless, the back and forth between them emphasises the novella's constructed feel. Štiks seems to have approached his story with a rough frame in mind, and then filled in the pieces. Themes of betrayal as well as the crushing might of those with power are common to both of them, but Štiks isn't able to make quite enough of these (and also the connexion to the 1995 meeting of the friar and the original narrator).
       If it doesn't have quite the depth and resonance that its subject matter suggests, it's nevertheless a fine little read.

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A Castle in Romagna: Reviews: Igor Štiks: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Igor Štiks was born in Sarajevo in 1977.

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© 2006-2009 the complete review

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