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The whole of human history
seems to be the story of men who kill,
and of men who are killed;
of murderers who light their cigarettes
with trembling hands,
and of poor, unlucky kids staring into the eyes
of those who bring them their deaths.

But history is not about murderers, after all.
It is just the story of some poor kids.
The whole history of the world
is just the story of millions of poor kids
overwhelmed by the fear of death, or
by the fear of bringing death to others.

    -POEM: Murderer [Part I] (CURZIO MALAPARTE, TRANSLATED BY WALTER MURCH, Poetry Foundation)

Everybody almost thought I was telling the truth. Just like I thought so myself. -Curzio Malaparte

There is notoriously something in Curzio Malaparte for everyone to hate. Born Kurt Erich Suckert, in Prato, Tuscany, to a German father and an Italian mother, he took the pen-name Malaparte as a play on Bonaparte. When you consciously cast yourself as the bad version of the already awful Napoleon you're setting off on a dubious path. Having fought in WWI, he was attracted to the idea of purifying violence and became one of the leading intellectuals of Italian fascism. He subsequently broke with Mussolini, however, over criticism of his choice of ties? And the dispatches he wrote from the Eastern Front--first embedded with the Germans and later with the Finns--got him in further trouble because he suggested that the Nazis would not easily defeat the Soviets. Goebbels demanded he be recalled and he spent an awkward time in a kind of internal exile before becoming a liaison officer to American forces when they entered Naples. Having tried on fascism, Francophilia, and anti-fascist collaboration, his subsequent journey saw him try out Communism, Maoism and finally Catholicism. He is the quintessential untrustworthy narrator.

The two main views of the man are that none of his adopted identities were ever sincere, that it was always just role-playing, and/or, contradictorily, that everything he wrote was autobiographical. So this collection of his war writings is necessarily a curious artifact. The reader can hardly know what is honest reportage and what self-aggrandizing propaganda. It doesn't help that the Introduction, which he added in 1951, boasts that herein he not only predicted post-war history (the Cold War) but was nearly alone in doing so.

One clue to help us decipher at least this work, and explain its main weakness, is that Malaparte desperately longed to be another Marcel Proust. [Yet another reason to hate him, in my book.] as Proust imagined it possible to depict humankind while gazing at his own navel in a cork-lined room, so Malaparte draws sweeping conclusions about Germans, Soviets and Finns while intentionally ignoring global events and looking only at the men in the contained space where he is operating. It would be nice if you could draw accurate conclusions about the Russian "race" by observing a few of them fighting, but if you don't consider that the troops fought, at least in part, because they feared reprisals from the NKVD for refusing, you're only getting a part of the picture. On the other hand, Malaparte does demonstrate a gift for detail and, considered solely as a personal war memoir, this is an interesting read no matter which reason you choose to dislike him.


Grade: (C+)


See also:

Curzio Malaparte Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Curzio Malaparte
    -MILITARY WIKI: Curzio Malaparte
    -ENTRY: Curzio Malaparte: ITALIAN WRITER Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -ENTRY: Curzio Malaparte (The Modern Novel)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Curzio Malaparte (IMDB)
    -Curzio Malaparte 1898–1957 (Poetry Foundation)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Casa Malaparte
    -POEM: Murderer [Part I] (CURZIO MALAPARTE, TRANSLATED BY WALTER MURCH, Poetry Foundation)
    -SHORT STORY: The Traitor (Curzio Malaparte, translated by Walter Murch, 7/28/11, London Review of Books)
    -ETEXT: THe Volga Rises in Europe by Curzio Malaparte
    -ETEXT: The Technique of Revolution by Curzio Malaparte)
-VIDEO: ARCHITECTURE: Villa Malaparte in Le Mépris (YouTube)
    -EXCERPT: from The Skin: Freedom of sorts (Curzio Malaparte)
    -VIDEO: The Forbidden Christ (Curzio Malaparte)
    -ESSAY: Foreigner And Fascist: Malaparte In Paris: He later turned Communist as his counterparts on the Left went the other way. (HELEN ANDREWS, 7/17/20, American Conservative)
    -ESSAY: Author, author: Why everyone hates Malaparte (Adam Thirlwell, 27 Feb 2009, tHE gUARDIAN)
    -VIDEO: Malaparte's "The Kremlin Ball" presented at New York University (Translator Jenny McPhee (NYU) in conversation with Franco Baldasso (Bard))
    -REVIEW ESSAY: How Far Can Fascist Satire Go?: On the Troubling, Compelling Work of Curzio Malaparte (Tobias Carroll, August 21, 2017, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Curzio Malaparte: Self-love among the ruins (Boyd Tonkin, Boundless)
    -ESSAY: Italy’s Curzio Malaparte: Eccentric Ideologue Or Dangerous ‘Fascist Pen’? (Reece Choules, MAY 17, 2017, Culture Trip)
    -ESSAY: Curzio Malaparte: The Illusion of the Fascist Revolution (A.J. DeGrand, January 1, 1972, Journal of Contemporary History)
    -ESSAY: MALAPARTE: portrait of an Italian surrealist (Lawrence Russell, Culture Court)
    -ESSAY: 'A House Like Me': Curzio Malaparte and Jean Luc Godard (John Bailey, 4/20/14, ASC)
    -ESSAY: Assignment to Armageddon: Ernst Jünger and Curzio Malaparte on the Russian Front, 1941-43 (Arthur R. Evans, Jr., december 1981, Central European History)
    -ESSAY: Publishers Unleash a Wave of Books on Italian Fascism (RICHARD BYRNE JUNE 10, 2005 , Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY: Part Palace, Part Temple, Part Prison: On the Casa Malaparte (Michael Z. Wise, JANUARY 17, 2013, LA Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: WHORE OF POWER: Curzio Malaparte, Mon Amour: Mussolini’s Michael Wolff is the writer to rediscover for the Trump era. (BEN JUDAH, 4/30/18, American Interest)
    -ESSAY: Curzio Malaparte and the Tragic Understanding of Modern History (Franco Baldasso, Annali d'Italianistica)
    -ESSAY: Forgotten Communication: Humans and Dogs in Curzio Malaparte’s and Carlo Levi’s Literature (José Maurício Saldanha Alvarez, 2019, Review of European Studies)
    -INTERVIEW: Adaptation: For decades, film editor and sound designer Walter Murch has been a champion of the Italian writer Curzio Malaparte. But it wasn’t enough to read his work; he had to translate him. (JOY KATZ, Poetry Foundation)
    -ARCHIVE: Curzio Malaparte (Unz Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Volga Rises in Europe by Curzio Malaparte (International Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of The Volga Rises (In-Between Two Worlds)
    -REVIEW: of The Volga Rises (A Common Reader)
    -REVIEW: of Coup d'etat: The Technique of Revolution. Curzio Malaparte (L. P. Edwards, American Journal of Sociology)
    -REVIEW: of Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte (Alexander Lang, Not Even Past)
    -REVIEW: of Kaputt (Tim Parks, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Kaputt & the Skin (Edmund White, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Kaputt (Jason Brezinski)
    -REVIEW: of Those Cursed Tuscans by Curzio Malaparte (NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin by Curzio Malaparte (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (John Gray, New statesman)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Peter Biello, 3 Percent)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Ralph Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Drew Toal, TimeOut)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Eric Banks, Book Forum)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Jordan Anderson, Music & literature)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Patricia Anderson, Daily review)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Andrew Marzoni, Rain Taxi)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Andrew Stuttaford, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Gary Indiana, BookForum)
    -REVIEW: of The Skin (Will Kirkland, All in One Boat)
    -REVIEW: of The Kremlin Ball by Curzio Malaparte (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of The Kremlin Ball (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Kremlin Ball (Marcel Inhoff, Review 31)
    -REVIEW: of The Kremlin Ball (Daniel Dellechiaie, Medium)
    -REVIEW: of The Kremin Ball ( Ryan K. Strader, Cleaver)
    -REVIEW: of The Kremlin Ball (Jessica Loudis, Four Columns)
    -REVIEW: of Diary of a Foreigner in Paris By Curzio Malaparte (Robert Xaretsky, LA Review of Books)
    -FILM REVIEW: of Strange Deception (NY Times)
    -FILM REVIEW: of The Forbidden Christ 1951 ‘Il Cristo proibito’ Directed by Curzio Malaparte (Letterboxd)

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