Café Wars, by Barbara Strathdee
“How cold they were ... how unlovely their European fatalism motivated purely by their old detachment, cold desires and
how lovely in their truth.”
‘Café Wars’, a novel by internationally respected New Zealand graphic and installation artist, Barbara Strathdee, will
be launched by columnist Jane Bowron at Unity Books, Wellington at 6.30, Tuesday, October 18, 2005.
‘Café Wars’ examines the experiences of a group of sophisticates and artists living in Trieste on the brink of the
Balkan war in the early 1990's.
For the most part these urbanites want no involvement with the horror happening across the border. But many Triestines
have roots in old Yugoslavia, and, as the reverberations from the conflict reach into the cafes and studios of their
city, daily life is inevitably overshadowed.
Author, Barbara Strathdee is a Wellington artist who lived and exhibited in Trieste, Italy, for many years during the
80’s and 90’s while her husband was working at an international physics centre in that region of northeastern Italy. Her
forty-year-long career as an international and award winning artist, has spanned themes which range from feminist issues
in the 70’s, to issues of nationhood and Maori/European relations in the 90’s.
In ‘Cafe Wars ‘ Barbara is, once again, observing relations between ethnic groups but in the embattled Balkans rather
than in NZ.
Barbara Strathdee tracks her characters with sureness and subtlety - artist, Max Kravos, in love with the flamboyant and
enigmatic Silvana, with whom he is preparing a joint exhibition across the border in Slovenia; his partner, Lorena,
domesticated but also ambitious, seduced by the promise of big money to enter into some dubious dealings with black
marketers, and Nicky, a young New Zealander, who gradually becomes drawn into their lives, shedding some innocence in
the process. As the story progresses to inevitable conclusions, the reader is enmeshed in the tumults and passions of a
Of all that has been written and discussed about the Balkan conflict there are very few works of fiction. This novel,
reflecting the view from across the border in Italian Trieste, is a fresh one.
More information about this novel and Barbara Strathdee’s artistic career is available on her website:
Café Wars will be launched by columnist Jane Bowron at Unity Books, Wellington at 6.30, Tuesday, October 18, 2005.