A German woman living in Rome during World War II falls under the spell of the Eternal City.
Over the course of one afternoon, the heavily pregnant young narrator of this stream-of-consciousness novella takes a long walk though the streets of Rome en route to a Bach concert at a protestant church. But while that is all that actually happens, her thoughts wander freely, touching often on her absent husband, Gert, a soldier stationed in North Africa. Suffering from a chronic but not life-threatening leg wound acquired in Russia, Gert had hoped to be stationed in Rome as a minister. But in 1943, with the Germans losing the war, he is redeployed to Tunis. His bride remains in Italy, sharing a room with another girl named Ilse in a mission run by German nuns. Pious and naïve, she counts herself blessed to be wintering in the Italian sun while so many are struggling, and fixates on the timeless (and un-German) beauty and sensuality of Rome. And while she finds the vestiges of its pagan culture mildly disturbing, she nonetheless looks forward to the days when she and her husband can enjoy “Roman delights.” The specific horrors of the war figure little in her thoughts, other than a vague recognition that the Führer who "places himself above God” should not be obeyed blindly. She’s a good girl, with her many opinions shaped by the men in her life. But apart from her personal fears, this notably healthy mother-to-be has an unshakeable faith in her and her baby’s future—come what may. Written as one long sentence broken up by indentations, this slender volume has a dreamlike quality and an unapologetically autobiographical theme. Delius (The Pears of Ribbeck, 1991) was born in Rome in 1943, the son of a German pastor.
An intriguing blend of travelogue and love letter.