Into the War

Into the War

Italo Calvino

Language: English

Pages: 128

ISBN: 0544146387

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“This book deals both with a transition from adolescence into youth and with a move from peace to war: as for very many other people, for the protagonist of this book ‘entry into life’ and ‘entry into war’ coincide.” — from the Author’s Note

These three stories, set during the summer of 1940, draw on Italo Calvino’s memories of his own adolescence during the Second World War, too young to be forced to fight in Mussolini’s army but old enough to be conscripted into the Italian youth brigades. The callow narrator of these tales observes the mounting unease of a city girding itself for war, the looting of an occupied French town, and nighttime revels during a blackout. Appearing here in its first English translation, Into the War is one of Calvino’s only works of autobiographical fiction. It offers both a glimpse of this writer’s extraordinary life and a distilled dram of his wry, ingenious literary voice.

“All three stories attest to the potentially magical, transformative space of adolescence . . . The seeds of the later Calvino — the fabulist who worked profound moral and ethical points into his narratives — are all here.” — Joseph Luzzi, Times Literary Supplement

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my comrades raised cries of enthusiasm. He was a young commander, from Tuscany. He wore a uniform of khaki gabardine, with cavalry twill trousers and yellow boots; but this outfit, military in appearance, was in its cut, material, lightness, and in the arrogance with which he wore it, the furthest thing you could imagine from the army’s uniforms. And perhaps because of my awkwardness in the way I wore my uniform, because it had been forced on me, and because I was predestined to belong to

‘No, we didn’t go to her,’ we replied, without stopping. But he was trotting backwards, still standing in front of us, with those round sparkling eyes: ‘Kneel down! That’s what you say to her: Kneel down! And she, Pierina, kneels down …’ We went back to Meri-meri. This time, at our shouts, she came down and opened the door ajar. I had a good look at her: she was tall, thin and horsey, with elongated breasts; she did not look us in the face, she kept her half-shut eyes staring straight in

War; and the protagonist is a boy who is privileged in many respects, untouched by the trauma of more pressing problems, and who – perhaps for this very reason – still knows little about himself. However, the facts narrated already contain a large part of the future, prefigured and implied; and already there is at work in those facts, in their stop-start rhythm, the eternal interaction between the movement of collective history and the maturing of individual consciences. What I wanted to

from the front before the war broke out, and had already rented a house in a little village in Emilia Romagna from September. That morning we continued to say how good it would be if we did not go to war, so we could relax and go swimming. Even the girl, with her neck craned forward and her hands between her knees, ended up by admitting: ‘Oh yes … oh yes …’ and then in order to dismiss such thoughts: ‘Well, let’s hope that this time, too, it’s a false alarm …’ We came across a jellyfish

he said, shrugging his shoulders, ‘there is nothing needing to be done.’ All around us the refugees were transforming the schoolrooms into a labyrinth of streets like you would find in a poor village, unfolding sheets and tying them to ropes in order to get undressed, hammering nails into their shoes, washing stockings and hanging them out to dry, taking fried zucchini flowers and stuffed tomatoes out of their bundles, and looking for each other, counting those in their party, losing and

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