I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Border Campaign

The Border Campaign

Enda O’Doherty
The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919, by Mark Thompson, Faber and Faber, 454 pp, £25, ISBN: 978-0571223336 It can occasionally happen that a journalist, in the course of his professional duties, may be required to utter a small untruth, or acquiesce in one already broadcast. It was in such a mildly compromising situation that I found myself, on a sunny spring day half a dozen years ago, sitting down to lunch in the home of the Slovenian winegrower Marjan Simčič as a member of what had been introduced to him as a party of Irish wine experts. Keen to have the conversation turn away, if only momentarily, from questions of acidity, structure and tannic grip, I seized my opportunity when our host mentioned that the wine we were drinking came from the vineyard that could be seen abutting the end of his garden and that therefore, in one sense, it was not a Slovenian wine at all – since at the end of the garden was Italy. Ah, we had not realised the border was so close, or indeed that its presence could be so little of an obstacle to running a business. Oh no, the border was not a problem, Mr Simčič replied, and really never had been. Local people took little account of borders and their absurdities. Indeed, he told us, there were some old folk still alive thereabouts who could boast that they had been born in Austria, gone to school in Italy, married in Yugoslavia, and would soon no doubt be buried in Slovenia – and all without leaving the parish. In 2004, a year after my visit to the vineyards of Goriśka Brda, Slovenia was one of eight formerly “eastern European” nations to join the EU. On May 1st, accession day, journalists from the European press, on the lookout for a good angle and an “iconic” image, descended on the twin cities of Gorizia/Nova Gorica to take photographs of people queueing at a rather modest fence which was presumably to be represented to readers as a kind of miniature Berlin Wall. The locals, who had been accustomed to passing at will through a nearby crossing point for many years, were highly amused. Slovenes had long been able to go shopping for consumer goods in Italy or Austria, while Italians crossed the border for cheap petrol or dentistry or to throw…

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