Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Skin by Curzio Malaparte 1949

Question, I love the books published by The New York Review of Books, but I prefer the old cover before the book got labeled a classic- how do you react to the covers?

The Skin by Curzio Malaparte (1898 to 1957, Prato, Italy) is an amazing, incredibly intelligent and beautifully dark work of art.  It is set in Naples in 1943, the American Army has just taken Sicily from the Nazis.   The Skin combines the cultural depth of Ford Madox Ford, the seen it all veneer of decayed aristocracy of Gregor Von Rezzori, with depth of Joseph Roth.  I have thought and thought about what I might say about The Skin.  I can come up with nothing more than to say I hope to read this work once a year for the rest of my reading life.  

Curzio Malaparte (pseudonym of Kurt Eric Suckert, 1898–1957) was born in Prato, Italy, and served in World War I. An early supporter of the Italian Fascist movement and a prolific journalist, Malaparte soon established himself as an outspoken public figure. In 1931 he incurred Mussolini’s displeasure by publishing a how-to manual entitled Technique of the Coup-d’Etat, which led to his arrest and a brief term in prison. During World War II Malaparte worked as a correspondent, for much of the time on the eastern front, and this experience provided the basis for his two most famous books, Kaputt (1944; available as an NYRB classic) and The Skin (1949). His political sympathies veered to the left after the war. He continued to write, while also involving himself in the theater and the cinema. New York Review of Books.  

This work was translated by David Moore in 2012.  Prior translations were heavily bowdlerized.  There is an insightful introduction by Rachel Kushner, the author of Flamethowers. 

Here is the publisher's description:

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-ranking 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.

The Skin is the NYRB Classics Book Club selection for November 2013.

Made into a movie, this would be near x rated.  There is something in this book to offend everyone! 

This is just a flat out brilliant must read book. Sadly this his only title published as an e book.  I hope more come out and I hope The New York Review kindly gives me a copy as they did of The Skin.

Mel u

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