[Published with the permission of The Trollope Society]
his short novel is curious in a number of ways. It is curious that Trollope chose to publish it anonymously; (Trollope maintains in his Autobiography 'It seemed to me that a name once earned carried with it too much favour'); it is curious, too, in its choice of European location: by and large Trollope tended to reserve his experiences of foreign countries (whilst travelling on business for the Post Office) for his short stories. But the tale which unfolds, though outwardly simple, strikes a universal chord with its central plot about two lovers from contradictory worlds. It has been called a perfect example of Trollope's subtle attitude to foreigners, and also to the notion of sin, shown in Nina's struggle between the great sin of cutting herself off from the Catholic church and her love for an orthodox Jew.
First published anonymously in Blackwoods Magazine in July 1866, Nina Balatka is — undeservedly — one of Trollope's lesser-known, and least regarded works. Set in the old Bohemian capital of Prague amidst the enormous Jewish colony there, the novel deals with the great gulf between Jew and Gentile, for this purpose focussing on the burgeoning relationship between the beautiful Nina Balatka, daughter of a bankrupt merchant, Joseph, and Anton Trendelssohn, son of Joseph's former Jewish partner. Anton has befriended father and daughter during the former's long illness; indeed the Trendellsohns own the house in which the Balatkas live. When the growing love between Anton and Nina becomes apparent, Nina's wealthy and — naturally — anti-semitic relatives do everything within their power to prevent their marriage. Ranged against the couple, too, are both their parents, equally set in their ways, absolutely certain that no good can come of such a union. Nina's uncle, Karil Zamenoy, has in his keeping the deeds for the Balatka house, yet when Anton asks for them he is told that Nina now has them in her possession. Nina emphatically denies this, telling Anton to search her desk if he does not believe her. He does so, and naturally finds the documents which have been planted there. Mortified that Anton should think her dishonest, and wracked with guilt, Nina resolves to throw herself from the Karls-brucke bridge ...
The reader is left in little doubt where Trollope's sympathies lie when Nina's unexpected saviour on the Karls-brucke bridge turns out to be her rival for Anton's hand, the Jewess Rebecca Loth. Trollope's remaining problem is to find a satisfactory resolution to the romance.
- Trollope uses settings outside England as places of social and political instability in which to work out problems in a simplified form.
Last modified 1 October 2014