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Kaputt (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – June 30, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Curzio Malaparte spent most of World War II as an Italian consul to other fascist states: Germany, Romania, Finland. His novelistic account of the war, surreptitiously written, presents the conflict from the point of view of those doomed to lose it. Malaparte's account is marked by sharp, lyrical observations, as when he encounters a detachment of German soldiers fleeing a Ukrainian battlefield: "When Germans become afraid, when that mysterious German fear begins to creep into their bones, they always arouse a special horror and pity. Their appearance is miserable, their cruelty sad, their courage silent and hopeless." Bleak and hopeless indeed, Malaparte's is a remarkable testimonial. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Partly true and partly fiction, Kaputt is based on Malparte's experiences as a journalist following the Fascist armies invading the Soviet Union...Malaparte’s grotesquely baroque stories do not need to be true. They speak honestly about the absurd horrors of war. 
The Times [UK]

Frank, glamorous and gruesome, Kaputt delivers a unique insider’s verdict on the damned elite of a damnable system. 

The Independent [UK]

…a transcendent work about the admixture of high culture, bestial depravity and human sadism. Part autobiography and part fiction, it captures seemingly unfathomable history. No work has ever revealed more about the murderous blend of zeal and indifference that is fanaticism. Simultaneously mythic and wholly human, Kaputt haunts the reader forever.
— Wall Street Journal

A scrupulous reporter? Probably not. One of the most remarkable writers of the 20th century? Certainly.
— Ian Buruma

Kaputt is a sad, astonishing, horrifying and lyrical book. It shows us the results of ideological fanaticism, racism, twisted values masquerading as spiritual purity, and the hatred of life, in their most personal and shameful aspects. It is essential for any human understanding of World War II.
— Margaret Atwood

An amazing and engrossing book…quite brilliantly done, crammed with incredible and terrifying stories.
— Orville Prescott, The New York Times

[Kaputt] is like a report from the interior of Chernobyl. Malaparte had gotten very close to the radioactive core of the Axis Powers and somehow emerged to tell the tale, simultaneously humanizing things and rendering them even more chilling as a result…. Required reading for every citizen of the Twentieth Century.
— Walter Murch


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review Books (April 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171479
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda Oskam on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Curzio Malaparte is the pseudonym of Kurt Erich Suckert, born in South Tirol (part of Italy). As a reporter he travelled extensively through German-occupied Europe during the Second World War and did not shun the front lines. But he also had access to the "Big Names" of fascism, such as Himmler, Franck (the governor of Poland) and the son-in-law of Mussolini. But above all Malaparte remained an outsider with deviant opinions that landed him in Italian prisons a few times.

In a rather unemotional style (for most of the book) he describes the everyday horrors of war: sleeping in a house with a horse carcass rotting next to it, the upper ten of a city playing bridge while at the same time the Jews of their city are massacred. But also the dinner conversations at Governor Franck's place, in which the arrogance, absence of (self)reflection and total lack of humor of the other attendants are both stunning and revealing. And the 'beau monde' of Italy which is more concerned with the latest developments in the love life of Mussolini's son-in-law than with the fact that Italy is very obviously losing the war.

But Malaparte also describes the everyday miseries of war: a father who hides some small presents in his backyard so that his kids think in the morning that the English fighter planes were there to drop of presents rather than bomb the city to pieces. To me this was the most touching story in the book.

A well-written book with as a minor criticism that the story does not relly lead anywhere, but this is probably normal for an autobiography: real life very seldom leads to something.
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Format: Paperback
Curzio Malaparte was like me, an infantry officer and a journalist. He served in the ranks of the French Army in World War 1 and then as a war correspondent on the eastern front with the Germans, on the northern front with the Finns, and in Poland with the occupation authorities during world war 11. A man who acquired both culture and status by sheer force of personality he was the director of press at the fatal 'Peace' conference of Versailles in 1919, which half ended World War 1 and set the scene for World War 11. The book, as Walter Murch wrote in Zoetrope magazine in 1998 is a searing revelation not only of war and its manifest evil, but of something much more serious, that of the evil that apparently civilised men and women can do, when all restraints are lifted. There comes a time when the facts soar out of our reach, either of the imagination or of the mind, when they are too terrible to contemplate. I find this with the Holocaust. My mind simply refuses to grapple with the enormity of it, taken together with the enormity of the Russian losses, which always make me weep as I enter Moscow past the anti tank traps that are still there. In Kaputt I can feel Malaparte cringing from the horror, but at the same time determined to find some way to decscribe it. And I feel he succeeds. He does enable a person to confront the fact that it was a bunch of classical music lovers, led by Frank, the Nazi Governor of Poland, who created the Ghetto in order to "liberate the Jews". More than almost any other writer on World War 11, he gets under the skin of the Germans, and into the Nazi mind and perhaps even more so, into the mind of the anti semites of Roumania, Poland anD Russia, who made their own awful contribution to the Holocaust.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Yes, it's overwritten. Yes, One becomes impatient with its often flowery prose (translated from the Italian). And no, it's impossible to tell what's true and what's fiction.

I first read "Kaputt" when I was about 12 years old and accepted it as journalism. Later, I was surprised to find it described as a novel. Whatever it is, it's a masterpiece.

Italian journalist Malaparte, who converted from fascism to a kind of quasi-socialism (despite what some might think, he was never a communist and eventually became a devout Catholic), served time in an Italian prison for his dangerously critical writing about Mussolini. He was freed through the intervention of the italian foreign minister, Count Ciano, who was Mussolini's son-in-law and who was himself later shot by Mussolini for treason.

Sounds interesting already, eh? Malaparte gives us supposedly first-hand accounts, while working as a war correspondent in the uniform of an Italian captain, of his experiences in the drawing rooms of fascist officials; at the Leningrad front and the Warsaw Ghetto; and at the sites of massacres of Jews, gypsies, and intellectuals.

He writes in two complementary styles. His ironic, laid-back style accentuates the horror of the nazis' matter-of-fact attitude about the atrocities they committed. His lyrical style paints word-pictures of his impressions of the sights and sounds of the towns and fields of old Europe.

The result is an almost exhaustingly epic depiction of the destruction of European culture from the unique perspective of one who mingled with many of those responsible. Be patient with the book when you start it. It grows on you.
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As is stated in the Hofstadter's Afterword, in my edition, Malaparte's writing is "....haunted by the desire to have been Proust." For anyone who has read Proust, this is clear from the title of the first chapter of the work, "Du Cote de Guuermantes". But of course, Malaparte is no Proust. No writer in all of literature is. Further, the setting of the opus is not the dinner tables of the aristocracy or of the haute bourgeoisie, but battlefronts in Eastern Europe and the dinner tables of ruthless men at war-Nevertheless, Malaparte does manage to capture some of the Proustian effect in his camera-eye, vivid, detailed snapshots of this environment.

But-caveat lector-this environment is so loathsome, bestial and vile-as wars tend to be-that one is in danger in becoming, by absorbing one's self in this book, in losing any hope in or affection for humanity. From horseheads rising from the surface from the frozen over Lake Laguda (perhaps the most lasting image, because so beautiful and horrific at once), to the officer who keeps a jar of human eyeballs of the partisans he is fighting on his desk to, well, any number of ghastly scenes, it is impossible for the reader to come away from Malaparte's take on the war, unaffected (excepting, of course, "readers" who dismiss the book out of hand and leave it deliberately on the airplane as one reviewer admits to doing).-But, perhaps, this reviewer's reaction is understandable. None of us relish looking on the dark, bestial side of men and women who might well be ourselves, given different circumstances of time and place.

But what significantly marks this book apart from all other war writings is the unwillingness to overtly take sides.
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