Today’s topic is Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte.

Kaputt is a very realistic novel, written by a person who was really there in the depicted landscape. Curzio Malaparte was an Italian diplomat in the second world war, and he had the chance to be on the eastern front, starting from Ukraine, Romania, Poland and ending in the Scandinavian countries.

His style is very frank, ruthless, and without mercy. Facts are depicted so naturally, which makes me consider him a part of the naturalism current from the early 1900’s. Kaputt presents the horrors of the war compared with the indulging and falsehood of the high ranked German society of the time. Malaparte depicts the story from his own perspective, of a man who waged wars before, who visits all the front line during the war years, who is friend to all nations, and enemy to all nations in the same time. Malaparte, acting as a main character as well, is ashamed by his condition of a dying European as a society, and as an axis ally, as a man, as a friend, as a soldier.

On one side of the story, the soldiers and their life in the war is depicted: people away from homes, brave and fighting in a war they never wished for. The soldiers have little desire for battle, have little desire to save their countries. many of them just fear the inevitable death, or wish to find a solution of escape for themselves. There is no altruism in men’s thoughts.There is no mercy for any enemy, not for their own comrades.

On the other side, there are the women and the people behind the front line, suffering in silence, on both sides, allies and axis. German women work full day in order to supply their men with what they need to wage a war of complying Europe to the German needs, a war of settling German order through death and blood. Italian or Romanian women just live, full of fear, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. Life itself becomes a gift from above.

Another side is the dead people, who according to Malaparte, they have the best condition: cannot be harmed, it’s an eventual state for all the people, and they have so much power in affecting the living. Dead have a huge psychological effect for the living. Dead can kill the bravest of the soldier’s courage, dead can attack and suffocate the living.

Yet another category can be seen, the high ranked German society, who is full of ridiculous and falsehood. While the Jews die of hunger, disease and cold, the Germans enjoy in parties, with drink, music, joy, and wonder with ridiculous humor, why the Jews children die so much and are so bad educated? The Germans are a nation full of culture, with their children happy in homes with their families, studying and enjoying childhood, while Jews children have no parents, no home, no bed, no toys, no books, no clothes, just death to play with. The cold blood of the Germans and their complete lack of whatsoever empathy or feelings, makes their humanity condition not greater than a beast’s, and sends them to the lowest ranking humanity ever experienced.

The suppressed, the Jews in the Polish ghetto’s are the people who are the most human, and the most kind and empathic. Even though they live a miserable life, they are willing to donate all their clothes to their friends when the Nazis are taking them for execution, and willing to walk naked in the snow facing their death, knowing that a small piece of garbled clothing may help their friends and family live a more livable few moments.

Surprisingly, Malaparte finds a strange explanation for the German’s massacres, which is the fact that the Germans fear and repel the weak, the ill, the old, and destroy it. Inside their soul they are so scared of these people, that they are willing to kill them, putting them through more suffering, just to not have them nearby and face their fear. The real Kaputt, the victims of this war, are the Germans as they have gone below zero with their humanity, and face a more grave danger than the people who have already died.

Kaputt is cold, poetic in many situations, a death song for the suffering, a ridiculous pointed finger to a nation who has decided by it’s own means that it’s superior, a pointed finger to the leaders of all countries, a depiction of suffering in it’s most elementary and powerful ways. On the other hand, Malaparte gives the feeling that Europe deserved it’s fate, and by this war, all the blood washes all the sins, and the novel ends with an image of Napoli trying to rebirth from it’s ashes, with the sick, the dead, and living altogether, surrounded by the cold and immense sea, which should wash away the blood and suffering, bringing new hope and a new way of life for the people who witnessed the most destructive events of human history and society.

What is mine

Today’s topic is What is mine by Anne Holt.

What is mine is a pure nordic crime novel, a book that doesn’t make you think too much, but fun and intriguing to read. I am not a big fan of crime novels, but because I read what gets into my hands, I will present you my insights about “What is mine”.

The main character, Johanne Vik, is a teacher in her forties, divorced, with a small child, and rather strange relationship with her former husband. Unfortunately she is the model of partly life-loser, a woman who did not manage to achieve neither a great professional success, neither on her personal plane, the family. She is a model for the 21st century woman, pursuing so many things, career and family, and being unsuccessful in both. However, she has her aces in her sleeves, she is a good psychologist, a good teacher, and a good investigator.

The model of the villain is a troubled man, like in most crime novels, a justitiary, a punisher, a man who wants to pay back his former lovers for what he considers he was mistreated with. Most of them have a happy life, have a family and kids, while our villain has nothing that can please him. He is very ingenuous, knows a bit of medicine, deceit, and how to play with the authorities and the mind of the people.

In the landscape we also have Stubo, a man who has been badly struck by fate, both his wife and daughter died in a horrible and stupid accident, and he is stuck with a pity about himself and with a nephew he can’t grow alone. He finds Johanne attractive, but his pity of himself, advanced age and bad looks make him feel terrible only thinking about it. He finds an obsession with Johanne by truly believing in her being able to help him solve his case. Even though she consistently refuses to help him, he insists and in the end manages to get her helping him.

The last piece of the puzzle is an old convict, Aksel Seier based on a true story, a man who was blamed for other people’s actions, but not powerful enough to prove himself innocent, and not willpowered enough to deny what is happening to him, accepting the blame other people have been putting on his shoulders.

Everybody in the novel is displeased with themselves, tired of being oneself, having missed life’s great opportunities and never been able to achieve their dreams or fulfill their desires. Aksel is the victim, a man who pays for the future sins of his own son he never meets, Johanne is the losing woman, Stubo is a deception, a man struck so bad by fate that he can only find consolation by solving crime mysteries.

The criminal is found, and the atrocities one person can make, as usual, always make me ask how believable life is, how believable the facts are, if the world Anne Hold proposes is veridic, and if somewhere in the real life there are such kind of persons. You could call me naive, but I prefer not to believe in this, as I rather have a restful sleep. Otherwise, my nights would be terrible.

Las cuatro fugas de Manuel

Today’s topic is Las cuatro fugas de Manuel, by Jesus Diaz.

Literal translation of the title is “The four flees of Manuel”, which is a representative title for a young cubanese student living in Ukraine, caught in the demolishing of the Soviet Union, and desperately trying to escape his departure in his natal country.

Manuel is a promising student in physics, studying in Kharkov, Ukraine, at that moment under the Soviet Union. He has little knowledge about human behavior, but he is very good in science. He has a good experiment running and working on his thesis, that shows great potential. He also has a dream relationship with a girl, under the pink view of an adolescent, where he does not expect too much, and puts even less thought in it. He begins from a dreamer, worry-free adolescent. All this will soon fall apart, as the Soviet Union is disbanded, and he has to return to his natal country, Cuba.

He knows he cannot go back, as it would mean his destruction as a scientist, and return to a miserable life full of debts that his relatives are living. He has no means of continuing his studies and become what he wants back in his country.

Manuel’s run begins here, where he attempts to go to Germany, then Poland and Switzerland. During his kafkian initiation journey, he faces so many perils that a full grown-up should be capable to face, but he is too young, too naive to even think about people trying to do him harm, or not wanting to help him. He finds refuge in Ayinray, a chillian student who becomes his lover and protector. She tries to awake him to the real world, but she is too a dreamer, thinking that she can keep him for herself. Life’s demands are too strong for Manuel, he doesn’t have identity card, passport, liberty to work or follow his dreams. Ayinray soon realizes she cannot keep him for long, and decides to let him go.

In his life, the girl represents a hook point, where his falling apart life hangs on. She is the mean to keeping him sane, and with a desire to continue the struggle.

All his attempts to flee are a representation of growing up: he entrusts another person with the belief that they could both attempt to cross the border to Poland by foot in the snowy winter of Siberia. He entrusts the local authorities in Germany to offer him asylum and gives them his passport. The Europe at this time is too hurt itself to care for a poor cubanese student. Nobody wants to protect him, and he is too weak to protect himself.

Manuel grows from a simple adolescent to an adult, to a person who can look after himself, and manages to find a place to temporarily live. His dreams continue about his ideal platonic love, and to be able to help one day his poor mother living in Cuba, or his dream as a scientist. He hardly acknowledges that the one needing most of help is himself.

Manuel’s story is one of the helpless individual against the system, with the individual being unable to break through or reach a state of happiness. That’s why Kafka’s universe keeps coming into my mind. Manuel is too innocent for this world, and this will cost him terribly. However, everything that is not killing him, it makes him stronger. Manuel grows and starts to discover human relationships, true friendship and the requirements one needs to have to pass through life.

Both Europe and Manuel are faced with destruction, just to emerge after some time with a lesson learned, a new future, and washing away all the sorrows.