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This brilliant book is an account of Carlo Levi's banishment to a remote village in southern Italy for his opposition to Fascism in 1935. The title may be a bit misleading: this book is not about an incarnation of the deity that alighted in a place called Eboli. Eboli, a town of no consequence to the action of the book, is, rather, the farthest south Christianity (read: civilization) got. Gagliano, the town in which Levi arrives to carry out his exile, is as far south from Eboli as Eboli is from Naples, and is the end of the road in more than one respect. In Gagliano, Levi lives a somewhat enviable (for an exile, at least) existence painting, writing, and, as a doctor, administering to the sick and injured. But the book is not about Levi's good works among the peasants. Rather, it is a series of sublime sketches about a people so grim, so primitive, so impoverished, so imbued with superstition and pagan ritual (Gagliano has a village priest, but he's drunk most of the time) that they seem an alien species. Levi doesn't so much understand them as observe them and paint them with words. Levi's artistic gifts extend to his descriptions, and phrases such as "Grassano...is a streak of white at the summit of a bare hill" make the book come alive. It is clear that Frances Frenaye, the translator, deserves no small credit in this respect. This is a haunting work, and one of the most memorable books I have ever enjoyed.
This a memoir of Carlo Levi`s experience as a political exile during the fascist regime, at the outset of the Abyssinian war. The setting is a remote village in Lucania, southern Italy, a region characterized by poverty, malaria, completely forgotten and neglected by the State. Levi's artistic sensitivity describes the people, the landscape, with an acute human feeling. This is the other side of Italy, the reverse of the rich, famous, well-developed North. After reading this book, it is easy to understand why so many Italians were tempted to emigrate to the American continent. Levi's ability to socialize and understand the peasant mentality is outstanding; it's a merit to his personality. The fact that he did not isolate himself from the people around the village, regardless of social and cultural level, enable him, after his realease, to write this book with a deep understanding of the social, political, religious, economical, and cultural problems of Southern Italy. The style is simple, direct, and elegant. Why Christ, why Eboli? the author only wants to say that the "civilized world" of Christianity has not reached this region of Italy, be it in Eboli or any other village of the South. An interesting book, written by someone whose main occupation in life was not be a writer. Levi was trained as a doctor, and as a "social doctor" he brush-stroked his thoughts into this memoir.
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This is a moving account of Carlo Levi's house -- or better, town -- arrest in a remote corner of Italy during the Mussolini era, when the fascists determined that it was much less expensive for them to put political prisoners in out of the way villages and have the local police responsible for keeping them there, than to put them in prison.
What must have felt like banishment, Levi soon turned into one of the most lyrical books I have ever read.
Now, remember, that he was writing about a place that had not changed since the time of Christ--hence the title. He is not writing about religion, but rather, about a region, where the realities of poverty, of peasants farming a harsh landscape controlled by absentee landowners, nonetheless had the power to interest and enchant.
Levi describes both the warmth and the backwardness of the people, the humbleness of their homes (so humble the only natural light comes into them when the door is open--there are no windows). He recounts the marvelous meals he enjoyed there, made from next to nothing, the sound of the workers' return from the fields, and more. He laments that when he asks about local folk songs, there are none. This -- a wild terrain chosen as backdrop in the recent film "The Passion of the Christ" -- is not a landscape to inspire singing.
The towns are like small outposts on the steep sides of the valleys. The only signs of rising above the poverty are displayed in households where someone in the family has gone far away to work in places like Pittsburgh, and sent money home. Think what it must have meant, that the rigors of steel mills and coal mines were an improvement over life in this region.Read more ›
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Why read this book? The title won't reel you in. It's not about Christ. It's not religious. It's not even about Eboli. It's about Lucania, a remote village in Italy. So remote, so inconsequential that even Christ never bothered to visit the village, but stopped short at Eboli. It's not really a novel, but more of a cross between a novella and a diary. Having said all that it isn't, let me tell you what it is. It is the true story of a doctor who is banished to a remote village in Italy due to his anti-fascist views during the Abyssinian war. What a turn off! So why read it? It is humorous. It is poignant. It is timeless. And yes, it is a page turner. May we all face adversity with the grace and dignity of Carlo Levi