Like many people of his generation, Malaparte faced death on the front lines of World War I, believed in the ideas of fascism, and later became painfully disappointed.
During the Second World War, he traveled to many European countries and saw the horrors of war up close, delving into the effects of mass violence on the human psyche and society in his books.
It was from these painful and complex experiences that the authentic voice of the writer and unparalleled works were born.
Milan Kundera calls Malaparte’s novel Oda one of the cornerstones of the last century. “Oda” goes back to the autumn of 1943. Allies enter Naples. Such long-awaited freedom should seem to resurrect a city plagued by hunger and poverty, but people are forced to realize the painful truth that Neapolitans are just losers and will be treated as losers. Euphoria and illusions dissipate, the city is plagued by a moral epidemic. Ethical boundaries and humanity are disappearing, the inhabitants of the city are starting to take care only of physical survival, that “disgusting skin”.
Nature is also embroiled in this global rampage of the fall, threatening to end the destruction of what the war has not overcome. In the rage of the elements of war and nature, the primitive nature of man, the fears and instincts that govern it are exposed. The author spares no criticism to his compatriots, Allies, fanatics and adapters, nor to the “heroes of tomorrow”, to himself, to to Christian morality and to the European exaltation that led to mass graves of victims and extermination camps.
Oda is associated with Albert Camus Maru and Jose Saramago’s Blindness in various ways. It is a real, grim chronicle of the apocalypse of World War II, turning into an allegory of human existence. The novel was translated into Lithuanian by Toma Gudelytė. “Oda”, like all of Malaparte’s works, can be described as a peculiar mixture of reality and fiction, the author’s view is documentary and at the same time satirical, often even cynical.
We invite you to read more about C. Malaparte and the recently published novel Oda in Lithuanian in an interview with Letture magazine with Franco Baldasso, the author of a biographical book about C. Malaparte and a professor of Italian literature.
– C. Malaparte – one of the most prominent in the 20th century. The author of European literature, but his intellectual legacy in Italy still seems to be viewed with caution and distrust. Why?
– Yes, there is a real lack of an open critical relationship in Italy. In France, for example, it is one of the favorites of the twentieth century. foreign authors, discussed in universities and among contemporary writers. In the United States, where I live, this writer is better known for his beautiful villa on the island of Capri, but even books such as The Volga Born in Europe (1943) have been translated and made available to readers, and have not been distributed in Italy for many years.
I was deeply reminded of the New York Conference on the Eastern Front, during which Malaparte was compared to Vasily Grossman, the author of the monumental novel Life and Destiny, who wrote on the opposite side of the front during Operation Barbara. I have also seen C. Malaparte’s books in bookstores in Spain, the Netherlands, Serbia and Finland.
Why such a long introduction? With regard to Mr Malaparte, two things should be emphasized. On the one hand, the homeland was written and still is read by entire generations of Italians. Despite the fact that the university and the school censored it depending on the prevailing ideological fashion.
Malaparte, on the other hand, was initially an intellectual fascist, characterized by penetrating insights and sensitivities that were insanely difficult for left-wing thought to tolerate. His insights into technological power and violence against man, humanity in general, and social nature are staggering. C. Malaparte gave his thoughts and testimonies a prominent literary form, sending readers with all their moralizations to the devil. It is no coincidence that Milan Maldera loved Milan Kundera, praising the author in his book The Meeting.
I certainly do not intend to justify Mr Malaparte, but I would like us to understand that fascism has affected much of modernity. It has also become a starting point for authors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Elio Vittorini or Cesare Pavese. Writer Antonio Scurati noted perfectly well that fascism may have proved far more appealing than a whole catalog of virtues. In order to get rid of fascism, some Italian intellectuals had to break through it and try to understand how Italy could believe in this ideology and see the future in it. Only when they got to know them closely did they realize that they wanted something completely different.
– What was Mr Malaparte’s relationship with fascism?
– The writer dreamed of becoming a revolutionary. At the age of 16, he found himself on the front of the First World War, and at the age of 18 he suffered a gas attack – a confrontation with death marked his whole generation, so when they returned from the war, these young people were determined to do everything. Clearly, this does not justify the writer’s actions, nor does it justify the insults of the first period of fascism. The ideas of fascism and Mussolini were seen by C. Malaparte as a powerful force to wipe out the rotten way of life of the European bourgeoisie. He also believed that fascism could give him a strong Italian identity that his German father could not give him.
C. Malaparte wanted to be an ideologue of fascism, hoping to become an influential intellectual, a coryphaeus of the new era. However, Mussolini considered him eccentric and exercised it while it was convenient. When C. Malaparte raised his head too high, he was exiled far from Rome. In the end, it’s just a sad story of great frustration and untold compromises with power. But from this frustration and the defeats of a revolutionary youth, an authentic voice of the writer and unparalleled works were born.
– What scandals marked the writer’s biography?
– The biggest scandals in C. Malaparte’s biography are his books. Beginning in 1921. “Long live Caporeto!”, where the crushing of the Italian army is described as the beginning of a social uprising, until 1931. “State Coup Techniques” were published, appearing against a hot ideological background just before Hitler took power. Two of Malaparte’s masterpieces are also scandalous: the novels Kaput (1944) and Oda (1949), where heroism or the struggle of civilizations gives way to a naked life – the daily life of war.
The Leather turned out to be so scandalous that the Vatican in 1950. added it to the list of banned books. About the American-occupied Naples, full of poverty and humiliation, Malaparte talks about leading a long gallery of humanization scenes: soldiers wearing uniforms, prostitution, parents selling children at the market, betrayal, destruction, contagion of evil. Plague as a disease of the soul. The author tells all this in literary language using the codes of journalistic reportage and historical chronicle, based on facts.
– How to understand Mr Malaparte’s concept of “cruelty”?
– Mr Malaparte developed this idea in the 1930s by reacting critically to the French literature of the time. He rejects any possibility of human salvation through art, literature, or politics. In Malaparte, the notion of cruelty is associated with loss – he no longer believes that it is possible to create a new man, the dream of totalitarianism, on which respect for life was sacrificed on the altar, fails. Obviously, a religious solution is also impossible for him. The cruelty seen by the military correspondent allows the writer to distort reality through the means of magical realism and surrealism, while neorealism has become increasingly prevalent in Italy.
– What do C. Malaparte’s novels testify to the destructive power of modern technology?
– The clash of technology and naked life is the core of the novel Kaput. In the novel, the stories of the Second World War Front are divided into sections according to animals: horses, rats, dogs, birds, deer, flies. The world of wildlife is introduced not by chance: in the bodies of beasts and despised, dehumanized war victims, C. Malaparte sees the decline of all humanity to which Nazism has led. The chapters of the novel Oda are also arranged in such a way as to speak of the impossibility of salvation.
For example, a scene about a dog’s vivisection for research is followed by a story about an American soldier who was fatally bleeding after an explosion. Both characters die a similar death – the abdomen of both is cut by advanced technology. It is a time when humanity connects all possible resources in the struggle for survival.
– What is the value of Malaparte’s lesser-known works, such as Das Kapital or his only film Forbidden Christ?
– C. Malaparte was a constipated reader of Greek tragedies and his cruel literature tries to rethink the genre of tragedy in the context of modern history. This is especially evident in the novel Oda. 1949 The premiere of Das Kapital in Paris, Malaparte, brought a lot of problems, because the play was very hostile to the intellectuals.
On the other hand, the author sought to do so: to use Marx’s figure to criticize both totalitarianism (Stalinism) and the bourgeoisie. The play tells the story of Marx, who is destitute in exile in London, whom circumstances force him to choose: to save his starving children or to complete a revolutionary work. The author raises horrific ethical dilemmas that go far beyond political controversy.
In the film Forbidden Christ, C. Malaparte tells the story of the defeated Italian soldiers returning from the war and the accompanying chain of revenge and revenge. 1951 In Italy, this topic was an absolute taboo. At the same time, C. Malaparte returned to the reflection on sacredness, which was very much in line with R. Rossellini’s films, both in terms of themes and visual expression.
From Italian value by T. Gudelytė