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Books You Should Know ...

(February 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 5, 2 February 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Christ Stopped at Eboli
Carlo Levi
Progressive Book Club. $2.00 for members.

Though it hardly justifies the lavish praise bestowed on it by critics who inspire the suspicion that they were animated in great measure by the weak, futile political conclusions of the book, Carlo Levi’s account of a year spent in a remote village in Southern Italy is nevertheless exceptionally interesting. Doctor and painter, Carlo Levi was exiled to Eboli by the Mussolini dictatorship because of his opposition to the Ethiopian War. He found a village so poverty-stricken, so desolate, so removed from even the miserable civilization of oppressed peasant Italy that, according to peasant folklore, Christ stopped BEFORE entering it.

Written with moving simplicity and a genuine love for the peasants who eke out a bare existence cultivating non-arable land and raising starved goats, Levi’s book is a captivating description of a section of Italy (and its people) where magic and primitive incantation maintain an edge over official and organized religion. At the same time it reduces with superb literary precision, the cruelty and stupidity of fascism to its basest common denominator. The book is definitely worth reading and the Progressive Book Club is to be commended for adding it to its list. (Merely parenthetically – so much has been made of Carlo Levi’s anti-fascism in the tremendous publicity attending the book, that we are led to inquire as a matter of sincere interest: what was the nature of this anti-fascist record apart from opposition to the Ethiopian War?)

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