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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
101
Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year (FSG Classics)
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on May 7, 2016
Haunting and beautifully written Carlo Levi gives us a glimpse of a part of Italy that was forgotten and neglected and tells of the daily life of an impoverished, superstitious people who had resigned to their lot. Banished to a small town in Lucania (now the region known as Basilicata) because of his anti-fascist activity, Levi, a doctor, writer and artist, spent one year in captivity internalizing his experiences. A few years later during WWII, while hiding out in a room in Florence because he was a Jew, he wrote the book, Christ Stopped at Eboli. The book is poetry, prose, and a scathing condemnation of the Italian government who shamefully neglected southern Italy after the Risorgimento and subsequent unification of Italy. Christ did not literally stop at Eboli. The title infers that the peasants of Lucania felt they were less than human...that the term "Christian" was synonymous with the word human and humanity stopped north of them. Centuries of oppression led them to consider themselves not much more than mules. Levi's lucid description helped begin the conversation of the "Problem of the South" after the war ended. As a descendant of grandparents who emigrated from this Italian region, the book touched me on a personal level.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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on December 13, 2017
If you want to understand the divide between the North and South of Italy prior to WW2, this is the book. The insights into the customs and mindset will make this book a historical reference in hundreds of years to come.
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on January 31, 2017
Interesting historical look at how Carlo Levi, a political prisoner in Fascist Italy, spent a year in a small, malarial-infested Calabrian village as punishment for his dissent against Mussolini.
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on April 16, 2018
What a marvelous book about people. It is not about religion, despite its title. A cultured Northern Italian is exiled by Mussolini to a primitive village in southern Italy, and learns humility, love and beauty.
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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.
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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!
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