Curzio Malaparte

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Curzio Malaparte

Curzio Malaparte (9 June 1898 – 19 July 1957), born Kurt Erich Suckert, was an Italian journalist, dramatist, short-story writer, novelist and diplomat. His chosen surname, which he used from 1925, means "evil/wrong side" and is a play on Napoleon's family name "Bonaparte" which means, in Italian, "good side".

Biography[edit]

Born in Prato, Tuscany, Malaparte was a son of a German father, Erwin Suckert, a textile-manufacturing executive, and his Lombard wife, the former Evelina Perelli. He was educated at Collegio Cicognini and at the La Sapienza University of Rome. In 1918 he started his career as a journalist.

Malaparte fought in World War I, earning a captaincy in the Fifth Alpine Regiment and several decorations for valor, and in 1922 took part in Benito Mussolini's March on Rome. In 1924, he founded the Roman periodical La Conquista dello Stato ("The Conquest of the State", a title that would inspire Ramiro Ledesma Ramos' La Conquista del Estado). As a member of the Partito Nazionale Fascista, he founded several periodicals and contributed essays and articles to others, as well as writing numerous books, starting from the early 1920s, and directing two metropolitan newspapers.

In 1926 he founded with Massimo Bontempelli (1878–1960) the literary quarterly "900". Later he became a co-editor of Fiera Letteraria (1928–31), and an editor of La Stampa in Turin. His polemical war novel-essay, Viva Caporetto! (1921), criticized corrupt Rome and the Italian upper classes as the real enemy (the book was forbidden because it offended the Regio Esercito). In Technique du coup d`etat (1931), Malaparte attacked both Adolf Hitler and Mussolini. Here he stated that "the problem of the conquest and defense of the State is not a political one ... it is a technical problem", a way of knowing when and how to occupy the vital state resources: the telephone exchanges, the water reserves and the electricity generators, etc. He taught a hard lesson that a revolution can wear itself out in strategy.[1] In the same book, first published in French by Grasset, he famously entitled chapter VIII: A Woman: Hitler. This led to Malaparte being stripped of his National Fascist Party membership and sent to internal exile from 1933 to 1938 on the island of Lipari.

He was freed on the personal intervention of Mussolini's son-in-law and heir apparent Galeazzo Ciano. Mussolini's regime arrested Malaparte again in 1938, 1939, 1941, and 1943 and imprisoned him in Rome's infamous jail Regina Coeli. During that time (1938–41) he built a house, known as the Casa Malaparte, on Capo Massullo, on the Isle of Capri.[2] It was a key location in Jean-Luc Godard's film, Le Mepris, (Eng: Contempt), starring Brigitte Bardot and Fritz Lang, based on an Alberto Moravia novel.

Shortly after his time in jail he published books of magical realist autobiographical short stories, which culminated in the stylistic prose of Donna Come Me (Woman Like Me) (1940).

His remarkable knowledge of Europe and its leaders is based upon his experience as a correspondent and in the Italian diplomatic service. In 1941 he was sent to cover the Eastern Front as a correspondent for Corriere della Sera. The articles he sent back from the Ukrainian Fronts, many of which were suppressed, were collected in 1943 and brought out under the title Il Volga nasce in Europa ("The Volga Rises in Europe"). Also, this experience provided the basis for his two most famous books, Kaputt (1944) and The Skin (1949).

Kaputt, 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 lyrical observations, as when he encounters a detachment of Wehrmacht 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.

As the Italian reporter, in his powerful Kaputt WWII testimony, Malaparte described an interview with Pavelic:[3]

While he spoke, I gazed at a wicker basket on the Poglavnik's desk. The lid was raised and the basket seemed to be filled with mussels, or shelled oysters, as they are occasionally displayed in the windows of Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly in London. Casertano looked at me and winked, "Would you like a nice oyster stew?"

"Are they Dalmatian oysters?" I asked the Poglavnik.

Ante Pavelic removed the lid from the basket and revealed the mussels, that slimy and jelly-like mass, and he said smiling, with that tired good-natured smile of his, "It is a present from my loyal Ustashis. Forty pounds of human eyes."

Milan Kundera's view of the Kaputt is summarized in his essay The Tragedy of Central Europe:[4]

"It is strange, yes, but understandable: for this reportage is something other than reportage; it is a literary work whose aesthetic intention is so strong, so apparent, that the sensitive reader automatically excludes it from the context of accounts brought to bear by historians, journalists, political analysts, memoirists."

According to D. Moore's editorial note, in The Skin:

Malaparte extends the great fresco of European society he began in Kaputt. There the scene was Eastern Europe, here it is Italy during the years from 1943 to 1945; instead of Germans, the invaders are the American armed forces. In all the literature that derives from the Second World War, there is no other book that so brilliantly or so woundingly present triumphant American innocence against the background of the European experience of destruction and moral collapse.

The book was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, and placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.[5] It was adapted for the cinema in 1981.

From November 1943 to March 1946 he was attached to the American High Command in Italy as an Italian Liaison Officer. Articles by Curzio Malaparte have appeared in many literary periodicals of note in France, the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States.

Malaparte tomb on Monte Spazzavento (Prato)

After the war, Malaparte's political sympathies veered to the left, and he became a member of the Italian Communist Party. In 1947 Malaparte settled in Paris and wrote dramas without much success. His play Du Côté de chez Proust was based on the life of Marcel Proust, and Das Kapital was a portrait of Karl Marx. Cristo Proibito ("Forbidden Christ") was Malaparte's moderately successful film—which he wrote, directed, and scored in 1950. It won the "City of Berlin" special prize at the 1st Berlin International Film Festival in 1951.[6] In the story, a war veteran returns to his village to avenge the death of his brother, shot by the Germans. It was released in the United States in 1953 as Strange Deception and voted among the five best foreign films by the National Board Of Review.

He also produced the variety show Sexophone and planned to cross the United States on bicycle.[7] Just before his death, Malaparte completed the treatment of another film, Il Compagno P. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Malaparte became interested in the Maoist version of Communism, but his journey to China was cut short by illness, and he was flown back to Rome. Io in Russia e in Cina, his journal of the events, was published posthumously in 1958. Malaparte's final book, Maledetti Toscani, his attack on middle and upper-class culture, appeared in 1956. He died in Rome from lung cancer[8] on 19 July 1957.

Main writings[edit]

Directed[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Political Writings, 1953-1993 by Maurice Blanchot, Fordham Univ Press, 2010, p. xii
  2. ^ Welge, Jobst, Die Casa Malaparte auf Capri in Malaparte Zwischen Erdbeben, Eichborn Verlag 2007
  3. ^ Impossible Country by Brian Hall, Random House, Apr 30, 2011
  4. ^ Milan Kundera's essay 'The Tragedy of Central Europe' in La Lettre internationale 1983.
  5. ^ Casa Malaparte, Capri by Gianni Pettena, Le Lettere, 1999, p. 134
  6. ^ "1st Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  7. ^ Casa Malaparte by Marida Talamona.Princeton Architectural Press, 1992, p. 19
  8. ^ Time - Milestones, Jul. 29, 1957

Secondary bibliography[edit]

  • Malaparte: A House Like Me by Michael McDonough, 1999, ISBN 0-609-60378-7)
  • The Appeal of Fascism: A Study of Intellectuals and Fascism 1919–1945 by Alastair Hamilton (London, 1971, ISBN 0-218-51426-3)
  • Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte, E. P. Dutton and Comp., Inc., New York, 1946 (biographical note on the book cover)
  • Curzio Malaparte The Skin, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, 1997 (D. Moore's editorial note on the back cover)
  • Curzio Malaparte: The Narrative Contract Strained by William Hope, Troubador Publishing Ltd, 2000 ISBN 1-899293-22-1, ISBN 978-1-899293-22-3
  • The Bird that swallowed its Cage selected works by Malaparte translated by Walter Murch, Counterpoint Press, Berkeley, 2012, ISBN 1-619-02061-0.
  • European memories of the Second World War by Helmut Peitsch (editor) Berghahn Books, 1999 ISBN 1-57181-936-3, ISBN 978-1-57181-936-9 Chapter Changing Identities Through Memory: Malaparte's Self-figuratios in Kaputt by Charles Burdett, p. 110–119
  • Malaparte Zwischen Erdbeben by Jobst Welge, Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt-am-Main 2007 ISBN 3-8218-4582-1
  • Benedetti italiani: Raccolta postuma, di scritti di Curzio Malaparte, curata da Enrico Falqui (1961). Ristampato da Vallecchi Editore Firenze, (2005) prefazione di Giordano Bruno Guerri, ISBN 88-8427-074-X

External links[edit]