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Deviation (1979)

de Luce d'Eramo

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924299,604 (3.7)13
"First published in Italy in 1979, Luce D'Eramo's Deviation is a seminal work in Holocaust literature. It is a book that not only confronts evil head-on but expands that confrontation into a complex and intricately structured work of fiction, which has claims to standing among the greatest Italian novels of the twentieth century. Lucia is a young Italian girl from a bourgeois fascist family. In the early 1940s, when she first hears about the atrocities being perpetrated in the Nazi concentration camps, she is doubtful and confused, unable to reconcile such stories with the ideology in which she's been raised. Wanting to disprove these "slanders" on Hitler's Reich, she decides to see for herself, running away from home and heading for Germany, where she intends to volunteer as camp labor. The journey is a harrowing, surreal descent into hell, which finds Lucia confronting the stark and brutal realities of life under Nazi rule, a life in which continual violence and fear are simply the norm. Soon it becomes clear that she must get away, but how can she possibly go back to her old life knowing what she now knows? Besides, getting out may not be as simple as getting in. Finally available in English translation, Deviation is at once a personal testament, a work of the imagination, an investigation into the limits of memory, a warning to future generations, and a visceral scream at the horrors of the world." --… (mais)
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Exibindo 4 de 4
Un parcours incroyable, mais au final une personnalité à la fois terriblement attachante et particulièrement difficile. ( )
  Nikoz | Feb 9, 2024 |
This is a hard book to read, both emotionally and just in terms of following the narrative and the ideas. It's good to know going into it that this will not be a straightforward memoir of experiences during and after World War II; it does contain very precisely observed events and people from Lucette Mangione's experiences between 1944 and 1979, but at the same time it's extremely subjective and introspective. The author is trying to understand not only what happened to and around her, but why she did the things she did, and even why she's writing the book the way she is. If that makes it sound like navel-gazing: first, if you'd lived through these things you'd probably need to spend a lot of time sorting out your thoughts too, and second, reality in this book is very immediate, more solid than the narrator. You could say that this is someone gazing at where their navel would be, except a huge hole has been blasted through their body so they're looking through it at the world.

The short(?) version is this. Luce, a wealthy teenage half-hearted Fascist in Italy, travels to Germany to become a volunteer factory worker (alongside prisoners), to see what Nazis are really like. She quickly becomes disgusted and radicalized but has no idea what she's doing, gets in trouble but is protected by her family connections, becomes obsessed with escaping her privileged identity, attempts suicide, is sent back to Italy, and then impulsively throws away her documentation and gets herself deported to Dachau. Those last five words, and the question of whether she did it deliberately and why, will haunt the author later in life but she can't afford to think about it now—she's in survival mode for the next two years or so—first in the camp, then escaping and living with displaced people and ex-prisoners in the margins of a crumbling Germany. Two months before the fall of Berlin she's nearly killed in an accident, becomes paraplegic, spends a long time convalescing, is stalked by her ex-lover, and tries to become a refugee again before finally accepting that she has to go back to Italy. Years go by, she marries and separates, she starts trying to write autobiographical fiction, and then her other troubles begin as she realizes that she's been lying to herself about parts of her life for years.

That's not how the book is written. We get pieces out of context—after the escape, in the camp, in the factory, in the hospital—each written at a different time of her life, in a different style, and sometimes with crucial differences in events (usually trying to make them sound more logical than they really were). Luce in the camp—and after escaping the camp, living in the underground-but-not-really world of people the Nazis simply lost track of or couldn't be bothered with—is an observer with almost no personality, totally devoted to staying alive and figuring out what's going on with all the people she meets. Luzia in the factory, written about in the third person, is a very specific character: an angry adolescent simultaneously learning to care about other people and hating them for not immediately accepting her. The narrator of the hospital story is literally feverish, emotionally all over the place (but discovering that compared to some people she's resilient—she gets called upon to cheer up other patients), and alienated from her body. Later she's alienated from her mind too, obsessed with sorting out the difference between choice and fate and which one of the many social identities she's had is real.

Through the whole thing, we meet a lot of people and they all feel very real. The prisoners and refugees aren't romanticized at all, they're constantly making horrible compromises and selfish decisions, but with very few exceptions the author doesn't analyze or judge them and the clarity of her descriptions has a loving quality. Nazis are a less immediate presence just because she usually doesn't have that much time to observe them, but she does have some thoughts about them, often from odd angles: for instance, she believes that when the agents of a cruel and insane regime go above and beyond their duty to be extra cruel and insane, it's because they desperately want to think they have free will, and also because making the prisoners not only fear but hate them helps to clarify their role. For obvious reasons, those parts of the book particularly feel like food for thought in 2019. There are also some more specifically political thoughts in her telling of the labor walkout she took part in with the prisoners at IG Farben, an action that required secretly organizing a huge number of people who in most cases didn't trust each other at all.

The last quarter of the book is relatively slow and repetitive, as the author has fewer external problems to deal with and more time to think. I still found it surprisingly dramatic just to see this person growing up and pulling together the pieces, watching Italy try to forget about the nightmare, and figuring out how to communicate with other people who lived through the same period in totally different ways and who don't see things as she does at all. I don't know if it could have been written any other way. ( )
  elibishop173 | Oct 11, 2021 |
“A volte quando si tocca il fondo di uno sviamento, si sbuca infine dall’altra parte.” Luce d’EramoLucia è una giovane donna di origini borghesi, figlia di un sottosegretario della Repubblica di Salò, che è vissuta in Francia e ha alimentato, attraverso la lontananza, i miti del fascismo dentro i quali è cresciuta. (fonte: Google Books)
  MemorialeSardoShoah | Apr 29, 2020 |
The book is an account of a horrific chain of events that in fact happened to the author, who survived Dachau.

But it is also unabashedly subjective: part-memoir, part fiction, a mix of first- and third-person accounts, and in no way trying to hold itself up as 'the truth,' and it's told in a non-linear, fractured manner, in four broken parts where even the protagonist/author's name is different from one section to the next.

I realize that what I just wrote contradicts itself. If something "in fact happened," then it's not "subjective," or usually it isn't, anyway.

In fact, the author contradicts herself many times about what is true and not-true, right here in the text:

There is a fact that I evaded. By so often saying that i had been deported to Dachau, I ended up believing it. But it's not true. My companions were transferred to that Lager. Not me. I was repatriated.

As I read this book I began to think about how different it was from the shaped memory of [b:Night|1617|Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)|Elie Wiesel|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1473495285s/1617.jpg|265616] by Elie Wiesel, a book in which each scene is written novelistically; a book that Wiesel called his true experience.

Wiesel's truth is presented in a more polished way for the reader than Deviation, though. Wiesel's people die in well-written ways, with the tools of fiction vivifying each scene, as in this passage about three Jews who are hanged:

Both adults were already dead. The noose had choked them at once. Instantly they expired. Their extended tongues were red as fire. Only the slight Jewish child with the lost dreamy eyes was still alive. His body weighed too little. Was too light. The noose didn't catch. The slow death of the little meshoresl took thirty-five minutes. And we saw him wobbling, swaying, on the rope, with his bluish-red tongue extended, with a prayer on his grey-white lips, a prayer to God...When we saw him like that, the hanged child, many of us didn't want to, couldn't keep from crying.

In Deviation there is no such scene-building, no use of metaphor, and very little reportage of how witnesses felt to see others brutalized and killed. There is a flatness in the storytelling, frequently to the point where I felt detached from the brutalizing deaths of victims portrayed. It could be that this detachment is closer to the "truth" of what survivors felt when they witnessed so much senseless death all around them. It could be that Wiesel's emotionally vivid scene-building where survivors cry and pray to God gives readers solace, though, and reminds readers of the truth that human lives were lost, and in that way Night provides another kind of truth--truth with a bit of hope in it, maybe.

In Deviation people come and go, events seem utterly random, and what is significant and what is meaningless blend together. By consistently calling attention to itself as subjective, and by refusing to mold itself into a narrative or to use Bildungsroman structural elements, it remains deeply unsatisfying in some ways. It's a lot of work to read this book. Without fictional and scenic props to pull me along, it could be tedious. I find Night much more heart-rending because it's full of the tools of fiction to drive its messages into our hearts. But D'Eramo's kind of storytelling offers an alternative that might bring us closer to the truth of an author's own experience. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Luce d'Eramoautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Appel, Anne MilanoTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Birk, LindeTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Eyre, JustineNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lucas, CorinneTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Michel, SarahTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Spinella, MarioIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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"First published in Italy in 1979, Luce D'Eramo's Deviation is a seminal work in Holocaust literature. It is a book that not only confronts evil head-on but expands that confrontation into a complex and intricately structured work of fiction, which has claims to standing among the greatest Italian novels of the twentieth century. Lucia is a young Italian girl from a bourgeois fascist family. In the early 1940s, when she first hears about the atrocities being perpetrated in the Nazi concentration camps, she is doubtful and confused, unable to reconcile such stories with the ideology in which she's been raised. Wanting to disprove these "slanders" on Hitler's Reich, she decides to see for herself, running away from home and heading for Germany, where she intends to volunteer as camp labor. The journey is a harrowing, surreal descent into hell, which finds Lucia confronting the stark and brutal realities of life under Nazi rule, a life in which continual violence and fear are simply the norm. Soon it becomes clear that she must get away, but how can she possibly go back to her old life knowing what she now knows? Besides, getting out may not be as simple as getting in. Finally available in English translation, Deviation is at once a personal testament, a work of the imagination, an investigation into the limits of memory, a warning to future generations, and a visceral scream at the horrors of the world." --

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