There are some stories we tell over and over because people always think that, this time, it will go differently. A Castle in Romagna, by Igor Štiks (translated by Tomislav Kuzmanović and Russell Scott Valentino), features two such tales. In the present, a friar at Mardi Castle tells a Bosnian tourist the story of Enzo Strecci and his own story of grand-passion-gone-wrong in post-war Yugoslavia.
The unnamed Bosnia tourist has come to Mardi Castle because he is a fan of the work of a sixteenth century Italian poet, Enzo Strecci, who was executed for falling in love with the wrong woman. After an awkward encounter with a friar who leads tours, the tourist is promised a more detailed story about Strecci. The friar then adds his own, eerily similar story of love and exile.
It’s impossible not to see the parallels between the two. I think the only reason the friar lived to tell his stories is a matter of luck and the fact that he happened to know one decent person in his village. The similarities and the spare way Štiks writes make the narratives almost like fairy tales, archetypes that keep inescapably popping up. The sense of inevitability in both tales made me want to shout into the book at the friar and Enzo to warn them that they’re being idiots.
A Castle in Romagna dials up every emotion to eleven. If you are not a fan of grand passions, this is not the book for you. If you do like watching characters falling in love with the wrong people and throwing all caution to the wind, pick this one up. Based on my post last week and my tone in this post, you can probably tell which camp I’m in. This isn’t the fault of A Castle in Romagna. This is a very well written book. I’m just too pragmatic personally for grand passions.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.