Curzio Malaparte The Skin

ISBN 13 : 9781590176221

The Skin

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9781590176221: The Skin

Book by Malaparte Curzio

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Extrait :

CHAPTER I
The Plague
Naples was in the throes of the 'plague'. Every afternoon at five
o'clock, after half an hour with the punch-ball and a hot shower in
the gymnasium of the PBS - Peninsular Base Section - Colonel Jack
Hamilton and I would walk down in the direction of San Ferdinando,
elbowing our way through the unruly mob which thronged Via Toledo
from dawn until curfew-time.
 
We were clean, tidy and well fed, Jack and I, as we made our way
through the midst of the dreadful Neapolitan mob - squalid, dirty,
starving, ragged, jostled and insulted in all the languages and dialects
of the world by troops of soldiers belonging to the Armies of Liberation,
which were drawn from all the races of the earth. The distinction
of being the first among all the peoples of Europe to be liberated
had fallen to the people of Naples; and in celebration of the winning
of so well-deserved a prize my poor beloved Neapolitans, after three
years of hunger, epidemics and savage air attacks, had accepted gracefully
and patriotically the longed-for and coveted honour of playing
the part of a conquered people, of singing, clapping, jumping for joy
amid the ruins of their houses, unfurling foreign flags which until the
day before had been the emblems of their foes, and throwing flowers
from their windows on to the heads of the conquerors.
 
But in spite of the universal and genuine enthusiasm there was not
a single man or woman in the whole of Naples who was conscious of
having been defeated. I cannot say how this strange feeling had arisen
in the people's breasts. It was an undoubted fact that Italy, and hence
also Naples, had lost the war. It is certainly much harder to lose a
war than to win it. While everyone is good at winning a war, not all
are capable of losing one. But the loss of a war does not in itself
entitle a people to regard itself as conquered. In their ancient wisdom,
enriched by the doleful experience of many hundreds of years, and
in their sincere modesty, my poor beloved Neapolitans did not
presume to regard themselves as a conquered people. In this they
undoubtedly revealed a grave lack of tact. But could the Allies claim
to liberate peoples and at the same time compel them to regard
themselves as conquered? They must be either free or conquered. It
would be unjust to blame the people of Naples if they regarded
themselves as neither free nor conquered.
 
As I walked beside Colonel Hamilton I felt incredibly ridiculous in
my British uniform. The uniforms of the Italian Corps of Liberation
were old British khaki uniforms, handed over by the British Command
to Marshal Badoglio and - perhaps in an attempt to hide the bloodstains
and bullet-holes - dyed dark green, the colour of a lizard. They
were, as a matter of fact, uniforms taken from the British soldiers
who had fallen at EI Alamein and Tobruk. In my tunic three holes
made by machine-gun bullets were visible. My vest, shirt and pants
were stained with blood. Even my shoes had been taken from the
body of a British soldier. The first time I had put them on I had felt ·
something pricking the sole of my foot. 1 had thought at first that a
tiny bone belonging to the dead man had remained stuck in the shoe.
It was a nail. It would have been better, perhaps, if it really had been
a bone from the dead man: it would have been much easier for me
to remove it. It took me half an hour to find a pair of pliers and
remove the nail. There was no gainsaying it: that stupid war had
certainly ended well for us. It certainly could not have ended better.
Our amour propre as defeated soldiers was undamaged. Now we were
fighting at the side of the Allies, trying to help them win their war
after we had lost our own. Hence it was natural that we should be
wearing the uniforms of the Allied soldiers whom we had killed.
When I at last succeeded in removing the nail and putting on my
shoe I found that the company of which I was to assume command
had been assembled for some time past on the barrack-square. The
barracks consisted of an ancient monastery, which had been reduced
by time and the air bombardments to a state of ruin. It was situated
in the vicinity of La Torretta, behind Mergellina. The 'square' was a
cloistered courtyard, bounded on three sides by a portico, which rested
on slender columns of grey tufa, and on the fourth by a high yellow
wall, dotted with specks of green mould and great slabs of marble, on
which were carved long lists of names, surmounted by great black
crosses. During some cholera epidemic of centuries before the monastery
had been used as a hospital, and the names referred to those
who had died of the disease. On the wall was written in large black
letters: Requiescant in pace
.
Colonel Palese had been anxious to introduce me to my soldiers
himself, in one of those simple ceremonies of which old military men
are so fond. He was a tall, thin man, with completely white hair. He
clasped my hand in silence and smiled, sighing dolefully as he did so.
The soldiers were nearly all very young. They had fought well against
the Allies in Africa and Sicily, and for this reason the Allies had
chosen them to form the first cadre of the Italian Corps of Liberation.
Lined up before us in the .middle of the courtyard, they eyed me with
a fixed stare. They too were wearing uniforms taken from British
soldiers who had fallen at EI Alamein and Tobruk, and their shoes
were dead men's shoes. Their faces were pale and emaciated; their
eyes, which were white and steady, consisted of a moist, opaque
substance. They seemed to gaze at me without blinking.
 
Colonel Palese nodded his head, and the sergeant shouted:
'Company - 'shun.' The soldiers riveted their gaze upon me; it was
sorrowful and intense, like the gaze of a dead cat. Their limbs became
rigid and they sprang to attention. The hands that grasped their rifles
were white and bloodless. The flabby skin hung from the tips of their
fingers like a glove that is too big.
 
Colonel Palese began to speak. 'Here is your new commanding
officer,' he said, and while he spoke I looked at those Italian soldiers
with their uniforms that had been taken from British corpses, their
bloodless hands, their pale lips and white eyes. Here and there on
their chests, stomachs and legs were black spots of blood. Suddenly
I realized to my horror that these soldiers were dead. They gave out
a faint odour of musty cloth, rotten leather, and flesh that had been
dried up by the sun. I looked at Colonel Palese, and he was dead too.
The voice that proceeded from his lips was watery, cold, glutinous,
like the horrible gurgling that issues from a dead man's mouth if you
rest your hand on his stomach.
 
'Tell them to stand at ease,' said Colonel Palese to the sergeant
when he had ended his brief address. 'Company, stand at - ease!'
cried the sergeant. The soldiers flopped down on to their left heels
in limp and weary attitudes and stared at me fixedly, with a softer,
more distant look. 'And now,' said Colonel Palese, 'your new
commanding officer will say a few words to you.' I opened my mouth
and a horrible gurgling sound came out; my words were muffled,
thick, flaccid. I said: 'We are the volunteers of Freedom, the soldiers
of the new Italy. It is our duty to fight the Germans, to drive them
out of our homeland, to throw them back beyond our frontiers. The
eyes of all Italians are fixed upon us. It is our duty once more to hoist
the flag that has fallen in the mire, to set an example to all in the
midst of so much shame, to show ourselves worthy of the present
hour, of the task that our country entrusts to us.' When I had finished
speaking Colonel Palese said to the soldiers: 'Now one of you will
repeat what your commanding officer has said. I want to be sure you
understand. You!' he said, pointing to a soldier. 'Repeat what your
commanding officer said.'
 
The soldier looked at me; he was pale, he had the thin, bloodless
lips of a dead man. Slowly, in a dreadful gurgling voice, he said: 'It
is our duty to show ourselves worthy of the shame of Italy.'
Colonel Palese came up close to me. 'They understand,' he said in
a low voice, and moved silently away. Under his left armpit was a
black spot of blood which gradually spread over the material of his
uniform. I watched that black spot of blood as it gradually spread, my
eyes followed the old Italian colonel, with his uniform that had
belonged to an Englishman now dead, I watched him slowly move
away and heard the squeaking of his shoes, the shoes of a dead British
soldier, and the name of Italy stank in my nostrils like a piece of
rotten meat.
 
 
'This bastard people!' said Colonel Hamilton between his teeth
forcing his way through the crowd. '
 
'Why do you say that, Jack?'
 
Having reached the top of the Augusteo we used to turn off each
day into Via Santa Brigida, where the crowd was thinner, and pause
a moment to regain our breath.
 
'This bastard people,' said Jack, straightening his uniform, which
had been rumpled by the terrible pressure of the crowd.
 
'Don't say that, Jack.'
 
'Why not? This bastard, dirty people.'
 
'Oh, Jack! I am a bastard and a dirty Italian too. But I am proud
of being a dirty Italian. It isn't our fault if we weren't born in America.
I am sure we should be a bastard, dirty people even if we had been
born in America. Don't you think so, Jack?'
 
'Don't worry, Malaparte,' said Jack. 'Don't take it to heart. Life is
wonderful.'
 
'Yes, life is a splendid thing, Jack, I know. But don't say that.'
 
'Sorry,' said Jack, patting me on the shoulder. 'I didn't mean to
offend you. It's a figure of...

Revue de presse :

“An embodiment of Europe’s bad conscience, Malaparte’s voice was one that right-thinking people of every denomination preferred not to hear. That is why this difficult book was so hated and condemned when it first appeared, and remains so well worth reading.” — The New Statesman

“The sordid underclass of the town possess a lust for life and a will to live, and the unbearable becomes bearable - even magnified - for the reader in this beautiful homage to his hometown which Malaparte tinges with the absurd and black humor.” — Vogue Paris 

“In The Skin the war is not yet over, but its conclusion is already decided. The bombs are still falling, but falling now on a different Europe. Yesterday no one had to ask who was the executioner and who the victim. Now, suddenly, good and evil have veiled their faces; the new world is still barely known . . . the person telling the tale is sure of only one thing: he is certain he can be certain of nothing. His ignorance becomes wisdom.” —Milan Kundera

“Malaparte enlarged the art of fiction in more perverse, inventive and darkly liberating ways than one would imagine possible, long before novelists like Philip Roth, Robert Coover, and E. L. Doctorow began using their own and other people’s histories as Play-Doh.” —Gary Indiana

“Surreal, disenchanted, on the edge of amoral, Malaparte broke literary ground for writers from Ryszard Kapuscinski to Joseph Heller.” —Frederika Randall, Wall Street Journal
 
“A skilled guide to the lowest depths of Europe’s inferno.” —Adrian Lyttelton, The Times Literary Supplement
 
“A scrupulous reporter? Probably not. One of the most remarkable writers of the 20th century? Certainly.” Ian Buruma

Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.

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Description du livre The New York Review of Books, Inc, United States, 2013. Paperback. État : New. Revised ed.. 202 x 126 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. This is the first unexpurgated English edition of Curzio Malaparte s legendary work The Skin. The book begins in 1943, with Allied forces cementing their grip on the devastated city of Naples. The sometime Fascist and ever-resourceful Curzio Malaparte is working with the Americans as a liaison officer. He looks after Colonel Jack Hamilton, a Christian gentleman . . . an American in the noblest sense of the word, who speaks French and cites the classics and holds his nose as the two men tour the squalid streets of a city in ruins where liberation is only another word for desperation. Veterans of the disbanded Italian army beg for work. A rare specimen from the city s famous aquarium is served up at a ceremonial dinner for high Allied officers. Prostitution is rampant. The smell of death is everywhere. Subtle, cynical, evasive, manipulative, unnerving, always astonishing, Malaparte is a supreme artist of the unreliable, both the product and the prophet of a world gone rotten to the core. N° de réf. du libraire AAS9781590176221

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Curzio Malaparte
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Description du livre The New York Review of Books, Inc, United States, 2013. Paperback. État : New. Revised ed.. 202 x 126 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. This is the first unexpurgated English edition of Curzio Malaparte s legendary work The Skin. The book begins in 1943, with Allied forces cementing their grip on the devastated city of Naples. The sometime Fascist and ever-resourceful Curzio Malaparte is working with the Americans as a liaison officer. He looks after Colonel Jack Hamilton, a Christian gentleman . . . an American in the noblest sense of the word, who speaks French and cites the classics and holds his nose as the two men tour the squalid streets of a city in ruins where liberation is only another word for desperation. Veterans of the disbanded Italian army beg for work. A rare specimen from the city s famous aquarium is served up at a ceremonial dinner for high Allied officers. Prostitution is rampant. The smell of death is everywhere. Subtle, cynical, evasive, manipulative, unnerving, always astonishing, Malaparte is a supreme artist of the unreliable, both the product and the prophet of a world gone rotten to the core. N° de réf. du libraire AAS9781590176221

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Description du livre The New York Review of Books, Inc. Paperback. État : new. BRAND NEW, The Skin, Curzio Malaparte, David Moore, "It is a shameful thing to win a war." The reliably unorthodox Curzio Malaparte's own service as an Italian liaison officer with the Allies during the invasion of Italy was the basis for this searing and surreal novel, in which the contradictions inherent in any attempt to simultaneously conquer and liberate a people beset the triumphant but ingenuous American forces as they make their way up the peninsula. Malaparte's account begins in occupied Naples, where veterans of the disbanded and humiliated Italian army beg for work, and ceremonial dinners for high Allied officers or important politicians feature the last remaining sea creatures in the city's famous aquarium. He leads the American Fifth Army along the Via Appia Antica into Rome, where the celebrations of a vast, joy-maddened crowd are only temporarily interrupted when one well-wisher slips beneath the tread of a Sherman tank. As the Allied advance continues north to Florence and Milan, the civil war intensifies, provoking in the author equal abhorrence for killing fellow Italians and for the "heroes of tomorrow," those who will come out of hiding to shout "Long live liberty" as soon as the Germans are chased away. Like Celine, another anarchic satirist and disillusioned veteran of two world wars, Malaparte paints his compatriots as in a fun-house mirror that yet speaks the truth, creating terrifying, grotesque, and often darkly comic scenes that will not soon be forgotten. Unlike the French writer however, he does so in the characteristically sophisticated, lush, yet unsentimental prose that was as responsible for his fame as was his surprising political trajectory. The Skin was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, and placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. N° de réf. du libraire B9781590176221

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Description du livre NYRB Classics, 2013. État : New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "It is a shameful thing to win a war." The reliably unorthodox Curzio Malaparte's own service as an Italian liaison officer with the Allies during the invasion of Italy was the basis for this searing and surreal novel. N° de réf. du libraire ABE_book_new_1590176227

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