In Microcosms Claudio Magris focuses on the people who live on the borderlands of Istria and Italy, between the eastern Alps and the Adriatic, with Trieste as their cultural centre. They are people who have been the play-things of History and have never had settled frontiers or a settled language. Although Magris writes about 20th century giants like Joyce and Svevo, who lived in Trieste, Microcosms is largely filled with the stories of people – crazy inventors, dialect poets, failed insurgents, disappointed Lotharios – who were peripheral to the central stream of European culture. In their lives, rich in anecdote and interest, he invites us to recognise ourselves. As he guides us from the bear-haunted forests of Trevoso to the caf's and public gardens of Trieste, Magris summons on stage a marvellous cast of characters – including, in his own oblique way, himself – who remind us what it is to be human.
“Microcosms expresses the essence of Germanness which underlines so many aspects of this vibrant, if culturally chaotic, no-man's-land caught between the eastern Alps and the Adriatic”