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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
102
Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year (FSG Classics)
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on August 9, 2015
This book was a major surprise. I was looking for something to read about Basilicata, the region in southern Italy between Puglia and Compania. I had heard of the title but no idea what it was about. The author, Carlo Levi, was a northern Italian anti-fascist, when in 1935 he was exiled by Mussolini to a small village in the south. He writes feelingly and poetically about the people and place, the daily struggle of the peasants, and what life was like in a region so remote and out of the way, it was considered a good alternative to prison for Mussolini's political enemies. When the book was published in the late 1940's, many Italians felt shamed by the description of inhuman conditions, eventually leading to a nation-wide movement to improve the lives of people who had been disregarded for so long. It may not sound that compelling, but the book's great surprise is that you are totally drawn into Levi's growing empathy and solidarity with his downtrodden neighbors.
1 helpful vote
2 helpful votes
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on October 3, 2017
I did not finish this book in time for my book group as it wasn't a page turner(I did later.) However, I really enjoyed the writing (or the translation?) which was excellent. Really interesting character studies and instant transportation to a specific time and place. The book did generate a good discussion about the people and the state of poverty. I'm not sure I liked the book as much as really appreciated it. An escapist novel it is not.
1 helpful vote
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Levi, a doctor and painter and intellectual, spent a year in the mid-1930's in Gagliano, Lucania, a peasant town in southern Italy, exiled there by the Fascist government for unspecified political offenses. CHRIST STOPPED AT EBOLI is his sensitive and loving portrait of life in Gagliano. In many ways the peasants were still pagans ("everything participates in divinity"); Christianity as a religion had not yet penetrated that far south in Italy; in other words, "Christ stopped at Eboli" (a city somewhat north of Gagliano). Levi recounts in detail the lives and world-view of these Twentieth-Century European peasants, which is summarized in the following passage: "This suffering together, this fatalistic, comradely, age-old patience, is the deepest feeling the peasants have in common, a bond made by nature rather than by religion."

Interesting as it is, the book moves slowly -- probably much like the pace of life in Gagliano, but too slowly for me. Levi is not a particularly rigorous or logical thinker; his mentality is more that of a poet. Yet the writing, while not quite pedestrian, is at times ponderous and never really outstanding (perhaps that is in part the fault of the translation). Hence, after reading the book, I was mildly surprised by the mostly glowing reviews on Amazon, and I initially refrained from posting my own review, thinking that perhaps I was being overly critical. But I just finished reading VOICES OF THE OLD SEA by Norman Lewis, which is a portrait of peasant life in two remote villages in Spain in the late 1940s. Despite the different countries and a 15-year gap in time, there are many similarities between the communal lives portrayed by Lewis and by Levi. Yet Lewis's is a much superior book, in large part because the pace is quicker and the prose far better. By no means do I wish to discourage anyone from reading CHRIST STOPPED AT EBOLI, but if you enjoyed it, or think you might enjoy it, I do encourage you to read VOICES OF THE OLD SEA as well.
6 helpful votes
7 helpful votes
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VINE VOICEon January 16, 2015
I have this in both English and Italian and it is one of my favorites. During Mussolini's rule political dissenters were exiled to small hilltop towns where they could not communicate with the outside world except through censored mail and Levi ended up in Lucania, so far south that Jess Christ was said to have stopped north of there in Eboli. Levi had a good eye for character and details that make his portrayal come alive. I stayed in the area in the late '60s and it still resembled the way Levi described, especially in the hamlets. IF you liked Cornelison's Torregreca you will love this.
1 helpful vote
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on November 12, 2015
I am impressed by the telling of the tale of these poor Italian people in southern Italy. They come to life as Levi describes them in detail and the social system that existed in the late 1930s just before WWII. When I finished the book, I looked up the village on Google Earth and it is exactly as described (different name) and not much different now then when the book was written. Very good writing by an outside observer living among very real poor people.
1 helpful vote
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on August 10, 2016
My grandparents emigrated to the USA from southern Italy in the early part of the 20th century and had thereafter always said they never wanted to return. Reading this book gave me an understanding as to why they felt that way. This is a compelling first-hand account of the hardships endured by people who lived south of Rome up until the end of WWII.
1 helpful vote
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on August 6, 2014
Excellent depiction of life in rural southern Italy during the mid-1930's. Very well written, terrifically descriptive with a real feel for the culture and the location, which have not really changed that much.
1 helpful vote
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on November 30, 2015
Reading Carlo Levi is like living in his shoes. His poetic style takes you through his exile in such lucid detail you smell the unfamiliar smells, hear the unfamiliar dialect of a forgotten people, and live vicariously through his well chosen words. He brings enlightenment to a particular time and place in history of which few who love Italy like I do are aware.
1 helpful vote
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on April 26, 2016
Very absorbing book. I started it while traveling in this area of Italy. A very different Italy than most experience in the northern cities. Well written, and a genuine insight to the background of the area. Somehow, a family member walked off with it. I anxiously await completing the book!
1 helpful vote
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on July 16, 2017
A touching story and a classic of its kind for anyone who wishes to know what Italy was like in WW2.
1 helpful vote
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