cover image Deviation


Luce D’Eramo, trans. from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-13845-5

This powerful and provocative novel from D’Eramo (Nucleo Zero), published in Italy in 1979, recounts the WWII experiences of the 18-year-old daughter of Italian fascists, based on D’Eramo’s own past. Lucia leaves home in February 1944 to volunteer at a German chemical plant. She is arrested for participating in a strike, then repatriated to Italy, but rather than rejoin her parents, she turns herself over to a Nazi patrol, not really believing the things that are being said about the atrocities the Nazis are committing, as they don’t mesh with her upbringing. Imprisoned at Dachau, she is disabused of that notion. She eventually escapes during an air raid while cleaning sewers in Munich as part of a forced labor crew. By war’s end, she has made her way to Mainz, where a bombed-out wall collapses, leaving her paralyzed. In December 1945, she returns to Italy in a wheelchair but “non doma” (not crushed), and goes on to become a mother, academic, and writer. Readers see Lucia calming terminal patients, staring down a police dog, shedding identities like snake skins, all while formerly repressed memories of the war keep bubbling up in her narration. D’Eramo vividly conveys the cruelty and wretchedness of war. An excellent translator’s note from Appel clarifies the sometimes confusing chronology of events and the mix of memoir and fiction in this audacious novel. (Sept.)