by Curzio Malaparte, introduction by Rachel Kushner, translated from the Italian by David Moore
This is the first unexpurgated English edition of Curzio Malaparte’s legendary work The Skin. The book begins in 1943, with Allied forces cementing their grip on the devastated city of Naples. The sometime Fascist and ever-resourceful Curzio Malaparte is working with the Americans as a liaison officer. He looks after Colonel Jack Hamilton, “a Christian gentleman … an American in the noblest sense of the word,” who speaks French and cites the classics and holds his nose as the two men tour the squalid streets of a city in ruins where liberation is only another word for desperation. Veterans of the disbanded Italian army beg for work. A rare specimen from the city’s famous aquarium is served up at a ceremonial dinner for high-ranking Allied officers. Prostitution is rampant. The smell of death is everywhere.
Subtle, cynical, evasive, manipulative, unnerving, always astonishing, Malaparte is a supreme artist of the unreliable, both the product and the prophet of a world gone rotten to the core.
The Skin is the NYRB Classics Book Club selection for November 2013.
In The Skin the war is not yet over, but its conclusion is already decided. The bombs are still falling, but falling now on a different Europe. Yesterday no one had to ask who was the executioner and who the victim. Now, suddenly, good and evil have veiled their faces; the new world is still barely known .... the person telling the tale is sure of only one thing: he is certain he can be certain of nothing. His ignorance becomes wisdom.—Milan Kundera
Malaparte enlarged the art of fiction in more perverse, inventive and darkly liberating ways than one would imagine possible, long before novelists like Philip Roth, Robert Coover, and E. L. Doctorow began using their own and other people's histories as Play-Doh.—Gary Indiana
Surreal, disenchanted, on the edge of amoral, Malaparte broke literary ground for writers from Ryszard Kapuscinski to Joseph Heller. —Frederika Randall, Wall Street Journal
A skilled guide to the lowest depths of Europe's inferno.—Adrian Lyttelton, The Times Literary Supplement
A scrupulous reporter? Probably not. One of the most remarkable writers of the 20th century? Certainly.—Ian Buruma