WOMEN OF MESSINA by Elio Vittorini


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The last work of Vittorini (see above) -- this is a curious reverie-like extended fable of a group of random traveler/refugees who decide to settle in a small, apparently abandoned village somewhere near Bologna after the end of the Second World War. They are more than happy enough to forget the past in their work of clearing mine fields, fixing a truck, planting wheat, building communal rooms -- not even bothering to find out in their trips to town that the monarchy had been overthrown and a republic established. Inevitably trouble creeps in during this pastoral semi-idyll -- apparently from Carlo the Bald, a landlord's representative who served in the fascist army with Ventura, one of the town's leading citizens -- but ironically and more truly from a group of former partisans, who beguile the simple peasants with tales of exotic things like jukeboxes and refrigerators available to those who live in the cities. Only the peasant women of Messina, the village's former inhabitants, remain, and one other, who chooses to stay outside history in an agrarian idealism that nonetheless fails as the community splits up into families -- a failure of communal living ignored by politicos who talk conceptual Communism in the cities. A sad rather naive elegy to a lifestyle that might have been.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1973
Publisher: New Directions