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Francesco Koslovic -- even his name straddles two cultures. And in the spring of 1955, in the village of Materada on the Istrian Peninsula, the two worlds of Francesco Koslovic are coming apart. A novel both lyrical and elegiac, Materada unfolds against the backdrop of the Istrian exodus -- the departure from their homeland of hundreds of thousands who had once thrived in the peninsula's rich ethnic mixture of Italian and Slav, Croat and Slovene. Complicating -- and hastening -- Koslovic's own departure is his vain attempt to keep land that he and his brother have worked all their lives. As Koslovic narrates the events leading up to his family's displacement -- and the feud that divides the family itself -- he brings a rare immediacy to the questions of ethnic identity that have rolled Central Europe in the twentieth century. A picture of a disappearing way of life, imbued with love for the tastes and tales and songs of his native Istria, Koslovic's story is also a testament to the inextricably intertwined ethnic roots of Balkan history.
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Fulvio Tomizza (1935-99) earned numerous awards, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1979) and the first international prize of the Association of Slovenian Writers (1986). Materada (1960) is the first novel in Tomizza's Istrian Trilogy.Rusell Scott Valentino is a professor in the Department of Russian at the University of Iowa. From Booklist:
Materada, originally published in Italian in 1940, is a moving and personal story of pre^-World War II farm life on the Istrian peninsula. Damaged by war and the initial divvying of the country between America, Britain, and Yugoslavia, and then the final dividing between Italy and Yugoslavia, Istria has seen many intruders in the last century, both welcome and unwelcome. The two main ethnic groups, Italians and Slovenes, have had tense relations, and the quiet rural farms have been witness to political violence. Tomizza's protagonist, Francesco Koslovic (the name itself is a blending of the two cultures), has his own personal battle. The uncle he has worked for all his life refuses to give Francesco any rights to the family farmland. With no land of his own, he must choose between staying in Materada or building a better life in Italy. Loyalty, trust, and cultural unity have fallen away with all the dividing and passing of land. This is a short but wonderful exploration of ownership and cultural identity. Michelle Kaske
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