Now a documentary narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch: This memoir of the Italian city after Nazi occupation “sings like poetry” (ThePlain Dealer).
As a young man with a gift for linguistics, Norman Lewis was assigned to the British Intelligence Corps’ Field Security Service, tasked with reforming civil services, dealing with local leaders, and keeping the peace in places World War II had devastated.
After a near-disastrous Allied landing at Salerno, Italy, Lewis was stationed in the newly liberated city of Naples. But bringing the city back to life was unlike anything he had been prepared for. Much of the populace was far from grateful, stealing anything they could, not only from each other but also from those sent to help them. Local vendettas and endless feuds made discerning friend from Nazi collaborator practically impossible, and turned attempts at meting out justice into a farce. And as the deprivations grew ever harsher, a proud and vibrant people were forced to survive on a diet of prostitution, corruption, and a desperate belief in miracles, cures, and saviors.
But even through the darkness and chaos, Lewis evokes the essential dignity of the Neapolitan people, their traditions of civility, courage, and generosity of spirit, and the indefatigable pride that kept them fighting for life during the greatest calamity in human history. And with his detached British wit, Lewis finds the absurdity in almost any situation.
A masterpiece of a memoir, Naples ’44 is the heartbreaking, humorous, and starkly human account of the true cost of war as seen through the eyes of a young, untested man who would never again look at his world the same way.
About the author
Norman Lewis (1908–2003) was one of the greatest English-language travel writers. He was the author of thirteen novels and fourteen works of nonfiction, including Naples ’44, The Tomb in Seville, and Voices of the Old Sea. Lewis served in the Allied occupation of Italy during World War II, and reported from Mafia-ruled Sicily and Vietnam under French-colonial rule, among other locations. Born in England, he traveled extensively, living in places including London, Wales, Nicaragua, a Spanish fishing village, and the countryside near Rome.
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