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.