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The Wreck of the Barque "Stefano"
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A true story of shipwreck and rescue, this remarkable narrative relates the ordeal of first-time author Rathe's grandfather, Miho Baccich, who, as a teenage Croatian sailor, was rescued by naked aborigines after his ship sank off Australia's desolate northwestern coast in October 1875. Baccich watched eight fellow survivors succumb to madness and starvation, until only he and shipmate Ivan Jurich were left. Driven to cannibalism, the two were finally adopted by a nomadic aboriginal band, and joined their rescuers' relentless search for food. Initially fearful of these ``barbarians,'' Baccich grew impressed with their innumerable acts of kindness, gentle ways and harmony with nature. He and Jurich were rescued by an English cutter in April 1876. Their story--first set down by a Jesuit scholar that year, and here fleshed out with new source material gathered by Rathe, who recasts the tale in crystalline modern prose--is a marvelous Conradian journey into the heart of darkness, a haunting parable on race relations and a challenge to our preconceptions about ``civilized'' versus ``primitive'' behavior. In an epilogue, Rathe tracks the fates of Jurich, who was murdered by the Nazis, and of Baccich, who settled in New Orleans. Embellished by sketches, maps and photographs (many in color), this memorable adventure story combines high drama and insight into the human condition. (Aug.)

Gr 8-12-- A ``Robinson Crusoe'' tale with a difference (the ``Fridays'' are the rescuers here), written by a grandson of one of the two survivors of an 1875 shipwreck. The Stefano set sail from the Dalmatian coast for Australia. She struck a rock, was battered to pieces by wind and wave, and sank. Several drowned, but some of the crew made their way to shore, where their true ordeal began. One by one they perished, leaving two--Miho Baccich, 16, and Ivan Jurich, who nearly succumbed to cannibalism, to survive. Luckily, a tribe of aborigines found them, cared for them, and took them on a trek that would ultimately return the castaways to civilization. The main tale is an account by young Miho, taken from a record dictated to a Jesuit scholar by the two men a year after their return to Dubrovnik. The style of writing is somewhat stilted, but has the flavor of a narrative written down by a listener who ``improved'' on the quality of the speakers' grammar and composition. This same flavor dilutes any sense of drama or urgency in the narration, but does make the book seem old-fashioned, lending credence to its primarily first-person approach. Sadly missing is a map showing the exact location of the North West Cape, and a sense of the distances covered by the crew. Other illustrations include contemporary photographs and drawings, and some color photos taken by the author on his research travels. While rather dry and unemotional, the book does give a glimpse into a far-off time and place, with a cast of unfamiliar but real characters, and a way of life quite alien to most readers. --Patricia Manning, Eastchester Public Library, NY

The author tells the remarkable true story of his grandfather, one of two teenagers from Dubrovnik who survived after their ship sank off the coast of Australia in 1875. Though ten men made it to land after the wreck, all except Miho Baccich and his friend died within three months. At this point, a wandering Aborigine tribe befriended the young men and taught them how to survive where life had formerly seemed impossible. Baccich witnessed fishing expeditions, tribal reunions, feasts, and famines; he formed a deep friendship with his caretaker, Gjaki. The compassionate and resourceful natives cared for the boys and orchestrated a plan to return them to Mediterranean shores. A compelling tale in its entirety, the book makes an important contribution to the understanding of Aboriginal culture with its descriptions of the Europeans' experiences during their remarkable ``walkabout,'' when every day was a new hunt for food and water. This is highly recommended.-- Judith M. Nixon, Purdue Univ. Lib., West Lafayette, Ind.

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