Slammed by Hurricanes

Jenny Turner

  • The World Saved by Kids: And Other Epics by Elsa Morante, translated by Cristina Viti
    Seagull, 319 pp, £19.50, January 2017, ISBN 978 0 85742 379 5

Elsa Morante’s longest novel, La Storia, or History, is set mostly in Rome during the nine-month Nazi occupation that started in September 1943, and draws on her experience as a woman of partly Jewish heritage, forced into hiding until the liberation of the city in 1944. It was published in Italy in 1974, with an epigraph from César Vallejo: ‘Por el analfabeto a quien escribo’ (‘for the illiterate, to whom I write’). Above all, her biographer, Lily Tuck, explains, Morante wanted the book to be ‘read by the general public – the poor general public’. She pushed for a paperback original publication, with an unusually low cover price subsidised by her own royalties. She picked a picture by Robert Capa for the cover, a young man lying dead on a heap of rubble, and composed a line of text to run underneath it: ‘A scandal that has lasted ten thousand years’.

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