In this direct, eloquent book, Carlo Levi describes his year spent under political exile in southern Italy in the 1930′s. With honesty and a political incorrectness that would not exist in today’s writing, he speaks of people living simply and in deep poverty there. Those people, moving in ageless patterns, passed over by time, impervious to change, came to mean more to Levi than his more dashing friends back home in sophisticated Torino. Reading this book takes you back in time (to the time of its’ writing) and back again past time to ageless conflicts between the haves and the have-nots, between those who ingloriously inherit wealth and station, and those who, though talented, will never rise beyond their circumstances. For a video showing the land as it was, and is, click here.
This book touched me deeply. Its words help me to see a land as it was over 60 years ago. It helps me to understand why so many left Italy at the end of WWII. It reminds me that if you stay on the sunny side of Italy, of anywhere, you misunderstand the “dolce vita”, and think it’s a constant state rather than a piece of a bigger life pattern. It’s a wonderful book, a slice of life, that sucks you in and holds you down as you savor every. last. word.