Nina Balatka by Anthony Trollope.
|First instalment of Nina Balatka in Blackwood's Edinburgh|
Magazine (July 1866).
Nina Balatka is one of Anthony Trollope's shorter novels first published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine in 1866, around the same time as The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867) and Can You Forgive Her? (1865) as well as a few other novels, for Trollope was nothing if not prolific! This novel is slightly unusual for Trollope as it's set in Prague and was published anonymously.
For Trollope, what stood out the most when visiting Prague was the racial tensions between Christians and Jews, and this is the basis for the novel. Nina Balatka is a story of forbidden love: Nina, a Christian, falls in love with Anton Trendellsohn, a Jew, despite the fact that her family wish her to marry Karil Zamenoy which would secure the family's financial success. To complicate matters, Anton's father owns the Balatkas' house, and it is agreed that on his death Nina's father will surrender the deeds. The Zamenoys hide the deeds, making it look as though the Balatkas are refusing to honour the agreement. When Anton searches the house he finds them in Nina's desk, looking as though she has deceived him. Their courtship, already so full of trials, becomes yet more tense.
It's an interesting novel, though I can't say I enjoyed it even slightly. Though Trollope neatly exposes some of the hypocrisies of antisemitism, racial stereotypes still abound. For the 21st Century reader, therefore, it is particularly uncomfortable, though I daresay it would have been more so for the 19th Century reader in a time when antisemitism was more socially acceptable and to challenge it would have been quite radical. The novel is very unlike Trollope: dark without humour, and absent of Trollope's voice that I love so much in his other works. It is incredibly dark and desperately sad, full of needless suffering and torment for Nina, though it is, mercifully, quite brief - 200 pages, which is practically a short story for Trollope. Nina Balatka isn't his finest in my opinion, and I recommend it only to Trollope fans.