Julia Purdy

The Sky Is Red

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The Sky Is Red by Italian author Giuseppe Berto is an unsung classic emerging from World War II in Italy. It was first published in 1947 in Milan, then published in an English translation in the U.S. in 1948. That publisher called it “one of the most important . . . books of the year.” The 1948 translation, in British English, is linguistically removed from current American usages and therefore I produced this all-new translation for American readers. This novel offers an unblinking exposè of daily life in a small, southern Italian city in the foothills of the Liri Valley before, during and after a devastating bombing campaign by Allied forces in 1944. The author does not identify the locale but I have traced it to the Diadem air support for Operation Strangle, a concerted effort to break through the German army's “Winter Line” in which the city, San Pietro Infine, played a key role. The true-to-life story line shines a spotlight on the struggles of four adolescents, orphaned in the bombing, to survive amid the ruins of their childhood and their fears for the future. It is truly a love story on many levels. In the tradition of Italian neo-realism, the author graphically recounts many street scenes he himself undoubtedly witnessed or learned about from people who did. These scenes include the many encounters with American troops, who occupied the city briefly. The scenes are presented as if through a camera's lens, but with great affection and flashes of gentle humor. In all, the novel issues a timeless warning to all nations of the waste and tragedy of war, even those deemed necessary.
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