The Banality of Goodness: The Story of Glorgio Perlasca

Enrico Deaglio, Author, Gregory Conti, Translator University of Notre Dame Press $20 (180p) ISBN 978-0-268-02154-2
This incredible story confirms an antipode to, or maybe just a variant of, Hannah Arendt's idea of the banality of evil. Perlasca's automatic courage in response to evil is a brand of opportunism that redeems our often overblown claims for humanity. Little in his youth marked him for a hero: after a poor showing in school, he joined Franco's forces, serving in both Spain and Ethiopia. Hoping to avoid further fighting, Perlasca married and got a job with a livestock import company that led him to Budapest. The Italian surrender in 1944 suddenly made Perlasca an enemy of the Germans and he obtained protection from the neutral Spanish embassy. There he joined first secretary, Angel San Briz, working to set up safe houses for Hungarian Jews. After San Briz was recalled from Budapest, Perlasca, fearing for the safe houses, declared himself the new charg d'affaires, an audacious charade that placed his own life in jeopardy. Perlasca's unlikely background and his modesty no doubt both contributed to his obscurity--he wasn't ""discovered"" until 1987, five years before his death in 1992, when those he had helped demanded his recognition. But this same unlikeliness and modesty amplify his inherent challenge to be human, and indict those who did nothing. Perlasca was indeed heroic in extraordinary proportions, choosing risk over safety on a daily basis, and this book is rich with vivid accounts of Budapest, Raoul Wallenberg, Horthy, the papal nuncio and his chilling confrontation with Eichmann. If the writing occasionally veers more to a rather European partisanship, the story itself triumphs. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
Hardcover - 165 pages - 978-0-268-02151-1
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