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The Skin Paperback – January 1, 1988


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Marlboro Pr (1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0910395373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0910395373
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,188,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Italian

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By P. volini on December 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is not an easy book, and it is not a book for everybody. In fact, if you believe in the manifest destiny of your country or are used to dividing people between winners and losers, save your time and do not buy this book because you would not understand it.
Malaparte's book is a series of autobiographic episodes set in WW2 Italy. It shows the despair and degradation of a place where everything, everything is for sale and the only thing that matters is your skin, saving your skin and living another day. In many respects, however, Italy becomes a metaphor for the whole of Europe (watch the movie "Berlin - year 0") in those times, and perhaps mankind. In fact, Malaparte's language is often poetic and his book transcends his times to become a universal portrait of suffering man. It is the suffering, defeated man that Malaparte takes pity of, while describing man in his hour of triumph as "unbearable".
Among all the rhetoric on the Liberation and the magnificent new future that awaited Europe after the war, here is a writer who preferred to set his eyes on a painful present. Malaparte gives us a description of a terrible time which has the same timeless value as Thucidides' account of the plague in Athens.
A particularly enjoyable part of the book is the description of the contact between the Old and the New World. Malaparte, an officer of the Italian Corps that fought alongside the Allies in the Italian campaign from 1943 onwards, was very good friend with some American officers and knew General Clark.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Vince Cabrera on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Skin" is a complex and fascinating book.
Ostensibly it is about the American army arriving in Italy during WWII and coming into contact (often for the first time) with Europe's spiritual and moral corruption and degradation. The idea was copied a (little) bit by Joseph Heller in Catch-22. If you've read Catch-22, you have SOME an idea about what to expect.
But "The Skin" is a deeper book than Catch-22, and Malaparte was much more interested in the differences between the decadence of the old world and the brash, conquering innocence of the New World, where things such as defeat are considered physically and morally impossible. Defeat is actually seen as morally reprehensible and somehow or other, the fault of the defeated.
Unlike Heller, Malaparte never portrays the military or the politicians as out and out bufoons: he realizes that people are invariably more complex than that.
It is a rare combination of intellectual writing, combined with moments of vibrantly dark humour. An example: when an American liason officer speaks about Italian women selling their bodies, Malaparte replies that all that they are actually selling is their hunger. And that it'd be a marvellous thing if every American soldier could take home a piece of hunger to show his wife what amazing things you can buy for money.
The title, by the way, refers to Malaparte's comment that once flags have been proven worthless and shamed, the only flag people are willing to fight for is that of their own skin. The indomitable spirit of mankind is shown to be a greedy, grasping thing that will stop at nothing in order to continue existing. And the spectacle is anything but edifying.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ian Burley on March 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I don't know this translation but "The Skin" is one of the most powerful books that I have ever read. Ostensibly a portrait of Naples following the city's liberation by the allied forces in 1943, it in fact provides a view of the state of Europe before, during and in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Rather than a constructed narrative, it's a series of episodes set in war-time Naples or on the Russian Front where Malaparte witnessed the horrors committed by the Nazis (one particularly terrifying episode set in a Russian forest at night will haunt me for a long while). There are also lighter moments (such as the blackly comic dinner for American officers when the last surviving fish of the Naples aquarium is served on a bed of coral) but the one thing that comes to the fore throughout is the sheer power of the survival spirit, the lengths that human beings will go to save their skin. Malaparte's magnificently poetic language makes this one of the classics of the 20th century.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Enrique Garcia de Gabiola on November 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of the better written books I've ever read. In fact, I've read it three times and each time I was suprised by its superb irony, excellent dialogues and lyric style. Reading it, I used to think I was reading again Dante's Comedia, but written in 1943 and sewed to our material earth and humanity, instead to Heaven or Hell.
Now that the world is at war again, may be we should read again this book...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By michael helsem on August 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
Curzio Malaparte is a curious case, both politically & aesthetically suspect, yet a writer of undeniable power. You hardly dare trust his bizarrer testimony, but remain convinced that some terrible things must indeed have happened to him. His writing features an ornateness & musical repetition that puts it closer to fin de siècle poetry & prose poetry, than rather seems suited to the darkest crannies of the Second World War, which he experienced apparently from both sides & both low & high, bewilderingly invulnerable but deeply wounded in sensibility, so that from Kaputt, where he is able to view the infernal panorama almost with detachment, to The Skin, a cruel progression is revealed; he becomes nearly deranged, so despairing that even rescue feels fake, and victory hollow. I can't think of another writer (not even Céline--his closest analogue) quite so corroded with irony, nor able to wring such scathing, poignant beauty out of the depths. He is a Rilke who shipped out, or the one Fascist who kept his conscience to the end: thus a witness who has much to teach us today, for all our howling & desperate complicity.
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