today I’m reviewing three novels from three Italian authors. Enjoy!
Into The War by Italo Calvino
Into The War is a trio of interlinked short stories about what life during the war was like for those who were too young to fight. In the first, Italy has just entered the war. A young man is called to help the refugees who had to flee their homes. He’s bossed around and told what to do all the time, and realises that war is very different from what he expected. The second story is the one that impressed me the most. A group of young men go to a French town occupied by the Italians during the war and pillage it. Everyone bar the protagonist raids the houses, stealing anything that could be worth something to them and smashing the rest. The protagonist recoils from this behaviour but he’s made to feel such a fool for not doing the same that he’s tempted to succumb to pressure. Will he? This just made me realise how war brings out the worst in everyone, even in young guys who don’t see anything wrong with stealing from the enemy, knowing that if one day those people will come back, they will be completely destitute as absolutely everything they had to leave behind has been taken away or broken. In the third, two young men are supposed to be looking after a school at night, but finding it boring, decide to go roaming around the streets instead. It is the funnier, less serious story out of the three. This is not Calvino’s best work, but these stories are all based on his direct experience of the war, and thus provide some very interesting insights on the daily life of those who remained at home during the war. It’s a very short book and well-worth a read.
Available at: amazon
Di Buona Famiglia by Isabella Bossi Fedrigotti
Di Buona Famiglia, which can be loosely translates as “from a good, respectable family”, tells the love/hate relationship between two sisters, who are now very old. Clara, the older sister, is a quiet, thoughtful, meek girl who has always stayed at home, letting life pass her by and is now full of regrets. Virginia, the younger, is a restless, independent woman who’s lived life to the full. She had the guts to make her own choices and her own mistakes and has paid for them too. These two women may be sisters but their personalities and life choices are just too different for them to ever be able to understand each other. And because they come from a respectable family where secrets were always hidden, matters never discussed, they avoid confrontation, even when it may lead to understanding and, maybe, even happiness. It is a very well-written, insightful but very melancholy story that evokes a world and a way of living now gone.
Available at: amazon
Canale Mussolini by Antonio Pennacchi
This historical novel tells the story of the Peruzzi, a big share-croppers family, who, finding themselves in a dire financial situation, decide to move from Veneto to the newly drained Agro-Pontino region. Here, with sadness and regret for what they lost, and also grateful to the Fascist regime who’s given them some land to farm, they start a new life. The Peruzzi family had met Mussolini before he became the Dux. They had become friends and, when they needed help, the Fascists helped them so their loyalty to the regime is understandable. Telling the story of this family also gives the author an opportunity to talk about the birth, rise to power and the fall of Fascism, the wars in Africa, trade union fights, and just the history of Italy from the beginning of the twentieth century till just after world war II. He realistically describes the life of the farmers and the poorer classes of the population during Fascism, with its joys and tragedies, its mistakes and fights, its hopes and rages. In other words, he describes life as it truly was, without that veil of political correctness bent on twisting the historical truth and separate the good people from the bad ones. In fact, as the book often repeats, everyone has their reasons for behaving like they do. No side or group is always right or always wrong, always good or always bad. There are just people trying to do what they think is best. The book is very long, but well-worth a read for everyone interested in Italian history of the first half of the 20th century.
Available at: amazon
Have you read these books? What do you think of them?