SPLIT

aka

DREAMS AND BACKDROPS

ALIDA BREMER

Jung und Jung, 2021, 182 pages

Full German manuscript and English sample available

A vivid, multi-faceted social picture during the summer days of 1936 in the vibrant port of the city of Split, with the colourful lives of people from many nations, with just as many ideas and dreams, personal and economic interests and political goals. Poetically and impressively narrated, an interesting, gripping, intense reading experience. Literature Blog Circlestones Books

Translation rights sold: World English (Amazon Crossing), Croatia (Fraktura)

A harbour town on the Adriatic serves as a backdrop for dreams which some people use for business, others for films and a few to make their fortune.

Summer 1936. Split, the Riviera of the Adriatic coast on the other side of Italy, seems to enjoy its usual colorful hustle and bustle and frivolous ease. But now it’s more than peasants from surrounding villages, fishermen, and languid northerners taking the sun: Jews on the run, opponents of the Nazi regime, traffickers, and spies from all over the world flit among the ruins of Diocletian’s Palace. German film crews drawn by the spectacular views stoke suspicion and rumors, Italian and Croatian fascists and anti-fascists, officials from the distant Yugoslav capital and Freemasons, plot and quash political conspiracies among smiling waiters, children, and unflappable concierges. Gun-running, love stories and get-rich-quick schemes are interwoven with stops to eat and drink and swim. In one week, it all explodes. The beaches, cafés, and pubs are full, cruise liners and military ships lie alongside fishing boats – and then a dead body washes up at dawn. There are few leads, and they lead everywhere. Mario Bulat begins to investigate, but everyone already seems to know more than he does. The powerful industrialist Salvatore Torchio, a member of the culturally and financially strong Italian minority, feels his two sons and their foster brother slipping away from him because they like Mussolini, D’Annunzio, and Marinetti. But he will do whatever he needs to protect them from the grasp of the Yugoslav policemen. Some love affairs will fall apart, others look to the future. All the loose ends may be tied up at the novel’s end – but we are still far away from justice. On the eve of World War II, can there be a happy ending to a summer story?

The Mediterranean city of Split is as much of a protagonist as its citizens. Once the emperor Diocletian ruled the Roman Empire from here. The scents of Mediterranean delicacies still waft through the ancient walls of his palace. So do whispering, plots, uprisings, and irrepressible joy of being alive – in a new electric atmosphere of uncertainty that has gripped the entire ancient continent.
Split, aka Dreams and Backdrops is a dazzling kaleidoscope of Mediterranean life in an overheated era, a social novel rich in tones and colors about a world on the brink of disaster, for all the promises of progress and gleaming machines.

 

Alida Bremer delivers a wonderfully atmospheric novel from the Mediterranean world of the 1930s with Split. Life in the city is only considered cheerful and carefree for a short time: the political upheavals and brutal events in not-so-distant Central Europe and in fascist Italy put a serious crimp in la dolce vita of the protagonists of this well-researched and sensitively written chronicle of precipitating events. Now, for some, it’s a matter of bare existence, for others of political and moral decency in a place of longing, that becomes a trap.

Nordbayern.de

Split holds all the senses under its spell. Behind every corner smell frying fish, tomatoes, herbs: ‘From everywhere you could hear footsteps, voices, singing, clattering, jingling’. Baroque pathos saturates the street gossip. ‘Suddenly syphilitic prostitutes became saints, alcoholics who in their drunkenness spoke out what everyone was secretly thinking became prophets and worn-out soldiers without shelter became heroes.’ Even the sky comes to life: Clouds parade ‘like bucking sheep, each with a turret on its back or even a chignon on its head. The whole flock galloped across the sea toward the horizon, and behind it trotted huge grey clouds as if they were wolves, undecided whether the pursuit was worthwhile.’ Sentences that go without detour into the nose, eye, ears, and fingertips. Frankfurter Rundschau