History (Penguin Modern Classics)

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9780141186924: History (Penguin Modern Classics)

HISTORY was written nearly 3 decades after Morante spent a year hiding from the Germans in remote farming villages in the mountains south of Rome. There she witnessed the full impact of the war and first formed the ambition to write an account of what history does when it reaches the realm of ordinary people struggling for life and bread. The central character in this powerful and unforgiving novel is Ida Mancuso, a schoolteacher whose husband has died and whose feckless teenage son treats the war as his playground. A German soldier on his way to North Africa rapes her and leaves her pregnant with a boy whose survival becomes Ida's passion, and her source of joy and meaning amid universal catastrophe.

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From the Inside Flap:

"History was written nearly thirty years after Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia spent a year in hiding among remote farming villages in the mountains south of Rome. There she witnessed the full impact of the war and first formed the ambition to write an account of what history - the great political events driven by men of power, wealth, and ambition - does when it reaches the realm of ordinary people struggling for life and bread.
The central character in this powerful and unforgiving novel is Ida Mancuso, a schoolteacher whose husband has died and whose feckless teenage son treats the war as his playground. A German soldier on his way to North Africa rapes her, falls in love with her, and leaves her pregnant with a boy whose survival becomes Ida's passion.
Around these two other characters come and go, each caught up by the war which is like a river in flood. We catch glimpses of bombing raids, street crimes, a cattle car from which human cries emerge, an Italian soldier succumbing to frostbite on the Russian front, the dumb endurance of peasants who have lived their whole lives with nothing and now must get by with less than nothing.

"One of the few novels in any language that renders the full horror of Hitler's war, the war that never gets into the books . . ."-- Alfred Kazan, "Esquire
"A storyteller who spellbinds."-- Stephen Spender, "The New York Review of Books
"A marvel of a novel . . . all the pleasures that fiction can offer."-- Doris Grumbach, "Saturday Review

About the Author:

Born in Rome in 1918, Morante was married to the writer Alberto Moravia. During the last years of World War II, the couple were refugees in the countryside near Cassino. Her first novel, MENZOGNA E SORTILEGIO (1948) was a critical success and won the Viareggio Prize. She was not a prolific writer, with L'ISOLA DI ARTURO appearing nearly ten years later. At the time of publication in 1974 HISTORY was called the novel of the century. Morante died in Rome on November 25, 1985.

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