cover image Into the War

Into the War

Italo Calvino, trans. from the Italian by Martin McLaughlin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner, $13.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-544-14638-9

Sixty years after its original publication in Italy, Calvino’s trio of war stories has been translated for the first time into English. The line between fiction and autobiography is decidedly blurred in the character of the unnamed, first-person narrator. A lengthy translator’s note draws parallels to the author’s life. The book also includes a previously unpublished note by Calvino that provides further contextualization. The title story, set in 1940, about Italy’s entry into WWII, is both nostalgic and ominous. On vacation from school, the narrator and his friend Jerry want to visit the beach, where they hope to get lucky with a haughty blonde beauty. The city is flooded with refugees, and Fascist Party members are viewed as saviors. The story concludes with a random sighting of Mussolini. “The Avanguardisti in Menton” is set a few months later, and there’s a larger military presence: the small French town of Menton is now a new Italian border post, which is visited by the narrator and his Fascist friend Biancone. “UNPA Nights” describes the teenage narrator’s first night away from home, at his once-a-week night watchman post for the Italian Anti-Aircraft Corps. Calvino is a supreme storyteller, writing with ease and transparency that make the reader a confidante. (Sept.)