After arriving at Osnabrück station, checking in to my hotel and picking up my rental bike, I rode over to the tourist information office and asked for a calendar of events, to see if anything special was happening that evening.
It turned out that something very special was happening. The author, actress and stage director Adriana Altaras was giving a reading from her novel Titos Brille, meaning “Tito’s Glasses” (subtitle: “The story of my exhausting family”), in the upper foyer of the Osnabrück City Theater.
The book tells some thought-provoking but mostly very funny stories of her far-flung Jewish family, starting in Zagreb, Croatia, where she was born.
The book’s title refers to a story that has been told and re-told in her family as long as she can remember. One of her uncles was a partisan, fighting against the Nazis in the mountains of Yugoslavia during the Second World War under the leadership of Marshal Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980), who later became the first and only president of Yugoslavia. At one point the entire campaign was in danger of collapse because Tito’s glasses were broken. The uncle, who was a trained optician, succeeded in fixing the glasses in a mountain camp despite stormy weather and the lack of proper tools, so Tito could go on and lead the partisans to victory.
This story became a central part of their family tradition and a tremendous source of pride. But it turned out there was one slight problem with it, namely that Comrade Tito didn’t even wear glasses at that time of his life.
Adriana Altaras only lived in Croatia until she was four years old, when (as she tells it) she was smuggled out to Italy by one of her aunts. Her parents later brought her to Germany, namely to Gießen, where they had settled.
She went to school in both Germany and Italy, and later studied acting at the University of the Arts in Berlin. Since 1983 she has appeared in numerous German films and television productions and has also worked as a stage director for musicals, operas and spoken drama. In 2012 she was in Osnabrück to direct a new production of the musical Anatevka at the City Theater.
Her book Titos Brille is in German. It has been translated into Italian and Croatian, but not into English as far as I know.
In 2014 the German filmmaker Regina Schilling made a documentary film (some reviewers called it a ‘road movie’) called Titos Brille, in which Adriana Altaras goes back to the places she described in the book and talks about her life and her family. Here’s a Vimeo link to the trailer (in German with English subtitles).
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2017.