With no end in sight to the war that is bloodying Europe, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy writes, “I was back in the Donbass, on the front lines, in those lanes of blood that they call trenches, where men, as at Verdun, as at Malaparte’s Caporetto, buried themselves so as not to die.” Today’s bleak international situation calls to mind other bloody conflicts and ghosts of wars past.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Curzio Malaparte who left some of the most incisive accounts by a European writer of the brutality of war and the physical and moral damage that a long conflict brings. Some of his pages come “from the heart of darkness of the twentieth century.”
Curzio Malaparte, born Kurt Erich Suckert, German from Saxony on his father’s side, Lombard on his mother’s, was born in Prato on June 9, 1898, and died in Rome on July 19, 1957. In between, straddling two world wars, the terrible two decades of European dictatorships and a tormented postwar period, he was a prominent figure on the Italian cultural, literary and journalist scene.
The biographers who narrate his life emphasize his opportunism, the chameleon-like changing of his tunic, selfishness and a certain cynicism. At the same time, they recognize his marked freedom of thought, his being true to himself and against the tide, sometimes naively, as the good Tuscan he was and who loved freedom above all.