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Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year (FSG Classics)

Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year (FSG Classics)

Carlo Levi


An autobiographical tale set in a minimally-disguised corner of southern Italy, in which an anti-Fascist activist is sentenced to internal exile. And it really is an exile for a cultivated and urbane man who finds himself in a peasant community that's radically different to his experience: almost a different country.

In many ways this is a study of how two different cultures can co-exist almost side-by-side and yet touch only in the most minimal and superficial ways. The peasantry have a fatalistic view of their lot, assuming they'll be mis-treated and used by the rich; the richer members of the villages see themselves as far above the norm; while the visitor from outside remains long enough to uncover the petty jealousies and insecurities of people desperately trying to achieve and maintain their position within a strictly limited environment. The only real way to rise is to leave, to go to America and then either send home money or return and become – hopefully – someone of distinction.

There are some comic insights into how little Fascism actually penetrated into the heartlands of Italy, and how many were willing to unofficially look the other way as Levi practices as a doctor (despite being forbidden to do so) while demanding that he respects the other, most trivial, aspects of his exile. The village already has two doctors, who charge more than the peasants can afford for their services (and so remain poor themselves) but who are both determined to protect their positions – one is tempted to say to the disadvantage of their fellow villagers, but of course they don't see the peasants as "fellows" at all. A perception of social position locks everyone into place, unable to co-operate to improve things or to influence the outside world to bring help.

4/5. Finished 15 October 2022.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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