Publication Date: February 2000
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History was written nearly thirty years after Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia spent a year in hiding among remote farming villages in the mountains south of Rome. There she witnessed the full impact of the war and first formed the ambition to write an account of what history - the great political events driven by men of power, wealth, and ambition - does when it reaches the realm of ordinary people struggling for life and bread.
The central character in this powerful and unforgiving novel is Ida Mancuso, a schoolteacher whose husband has died and whose feckless teenage son treats the war as his playground. A German soldier on his way to North Africa rapes her, falls in love with her, and leaves her pregnant with a boy whose survival becomes Ida's passion.
Around these two other characters come and go, each caught up by the war which is like a river in flood. We catch glimpses of bombing raids, street crimes, a cattle car from which human cries emerge, an Italian soldier succumbing to frostbite on the Russian front, the dumb endurance of peasants who have lived their whole lives with nothing and now must get by with less than nothing.
WILLIAM WEAVER has been the leading translator of Italian writing into English for half a century and several samples of his own work are included in "Open City," Among his previous books is "A Legacy of Excellence: The Story of Villa I Tatti," Weaver divides his year among Italy, New York City, and Annandale-on-Hudson, where he is on the faculty of Bard College.
Barbara Harrison is a middle school English teacher and codirector of Children's Literature New England. She is coauthor with Daniel Terris of biographies of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, both based on the authors' award-winning HBO documentaries. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.