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Kaputt [Paperback]

Curzio Malaparte , Cesare Foligno
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mar 1991
Curzio Malaparte was a disaffected supporter of Mussolini with a taste for danger and high living. Sent by an Italian paper during World War II to cover the fighting on the Eastern Front, Malaparte secretly wrote this terrifying report from the abyss, which became an international bestseller when it was published after the war. Telling of the siege of Leningrad, of glittering dinner parties with Nazi leaders, and of trains disgorging bodies in war-devastated Romania, Malaparte paints a picture of humanity at its most depraved.

Kaputt is an insider's dispatch from the world of the enemy that is as hypnotically fascinating as it is disturbing.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Marlboro Pr; Reprint edition (Mar 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0910395012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0910395014
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,351,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Partly true and partly fiction, "Kaputt" is based on Malparte's experiences as a journalist following the Fascist armies invading the Soviet Union...Malaparte's grotesquely baroque stories do not need to be true. They speak honestly about the absurd horrors of war. -"The Times "[UK]Frank, glamorous and gruesome, Kaputt delivers a unique insider's verdict on the damned elite of a damnable system. -"The Independent "[UK]...a transcendent work about the admixture of high culture, bestial depravity and human sadism. Part autobiography and part fiction, it captures seemingly unfathomable history. No work has ever revealed more about the murderous blend of zeal and indifference that is fanaticism. Simultaneously mythic and wholly human, Kaputt haunts the reader forever.-- "Wall Street Journal"A scrupulous reporter? Probably not. One of the most remarkable writers of the 20th century? Certainly.-- Ian Buruma"Kaputt" is a sad, astonishing, horrifying and lyrical book. It shows us the results of ideological fanaticism, racism, twisted values masquerading as spiritual purity, and the hatred of life, in their most personal and shameful aspects. It is essential for any human understanding of World War II.-- Margaret AtwoodAn amazing and engrossing book...quite brilliantly done, crammed with incredible and terrifying stories. -- Orville Prescott, "The New York Times"["Kaputt"] is like a report from the interior of Chernobyl. Malaparte had gotten very close to the radioactive core of the Axis Powers and somehow emerged to tell the tale, simultaneously humanizing things and rendering them even more chilling as a result.... Required reading for every citizen of the Twentieth Century.-- Walter Murch --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Curzio Malaparte (pseudonym of Kur Eric Suckert, 1898-1957) was born in Prato and served in World War I. An early supporter of the Italian Fascist movement and a prolific journalist, Malaparte soon established himself as an outspoken public figure. In 1931 he incurred Mussolini's displeasure by publishing a how-to manual entilted Technique of the Coup-d'Etat, which led to his arrest and a brief term in prison. During World War II Malaparte worked as a correspondent, for much of the time on the Eastern Front, and this experience provided the basis for his two most famous books, Kaputt(1944) and The Skin (1949). Malaparte's political sympathies veered to the left after the war. He continued to write, while also involving himself in the theater and the cinema.

Dan Hofstadter's last book was The Love Affair as a Work of Art, a study of French writers. Falling Palace, about daily life in contemporary Naples, was published in 2005. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The everyday miseries of war 7 Aug 2006
Curzio Malaparte is the pseudonym of Kurt Erich Suckert, born in South Tirol (part of Italy). As a reporter he travelled extensively through German-occupied Europe during the Second World War and did not shun the front lines. But he also had access to the "Big Names" of fascism, such as Himmler, Franck (the governor of Poland) and the son-in-law of Mussolini. But above all Malaparte remained an outsider with deviant opinions that landed him in Italian prisons a few times.

In a rather unemotional style (for most of the book) he describes the everyday horrors of war: sleeping in a house with a horse carcass rotting next to it, the upper ten of a city playing bridge while at the same time the Jews of their city are massacred. But also the dinner conversations at Governor Franck's place, in which the arrogance, absence of (self)reflection and total lack of humor of the other attendants are both stunning and revealing. And the 'beau monde' of Italy which is more concerned with the latest developments in the love life of Mussolini's son-in-law than with the fact that Italy is very obviously losing the war.

But Malaparte also describes the everyday miseries of war: a father who hides some small presents in his backyard so that his kids think in the morning that the English fighter planes were there to drop of presents rather than bomb the city to pieces. To me this was the most touching story in the book.

A well-written book with as a minor criticism that the story does not relly lead anywhere, but this is probably normal for an autobiography: real life very seldom leads to something.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The evil of banality 23 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Curzio Malaparte fell out of favour with Mussolini after the publication of his scandalous treatise on how to mount a coup d'état - alas, unavailable in English at the moment. Released from prison he got himself accredited as a war correspondent, and travelled through the Europe of the Third Reich, from Yugoslavia to Finland via the occupied Soviet Union and Poland. This is the secret manuscript he was writing at the time, but instead of battles and heroism, it speaks of boredom, drunkenness, fear, inhumanity and simple stupidity. Most of all it speaks of decay and decline. Partly this is the decay of the inter-war elite of ambassadors and minor aristocrats, more interested in gossip and golf than the Europe which is disintegrating around them. Partly also it is the class of stupid but evil leaders which has arisen to replace them under the lash of war: the Croatian leader Pavelic, who keeps a bucket of human eyes gouged from his enemies on his desk, Heinrich Himmler glimpsed as a white blob in a Finnish sauna. Alles ist kaputt, says Malaparte: even the description of a liberated Italy offers despair and exhaustion, rather than hope.
How much of this is literal truth, and how much is fiction, is not really the point. The story is written with hallucinatory vividness, and is full of surreal scenes which are so bizarre that they probably actually happened. As a report from behind the front lines of the human soul in wartime it is unlikely to be bettered: even if some of it has been rewritten for effect. And what effect.
The translation is generally excellent, although the Afterword, which tries to explain why Malaparte was not writing as a contemporary politically-correct American historian would, adds nothing and may be dispensed with.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Although very well written with very evocative descriptions, the book has an insincere dishonest tone that detaches the reader from many of the scenes - imagined or not - of the undoubted horror and brutality of war. There's a narcissistic arrogance about the author that makes you feel the book is as much about justifying him as it is about damning the folly of war. It's due to this that, despite the beautiful writing style and the interesting perspective (behind enemy lines) it offers, I cannot go beyond three out of five.

That said, it does offer this alternative and often unheard perspective on the war and that can make it an interesting historical artefact for some despite its undoubted shortcomings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambiguity of a Timepiece 7 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Malaparte was an opportunist, social climber, raconteur and political amateur. He was also a gifted writer. How much is truth in this book, and how much is not, is actually irrelevant if one accepts this as the particular document of a fickle man during the war. The book is a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes, his encounters with personalities, most of them reviled. Whether or not Malaparte actually met them, spoke with them as he relates or whether or not he changed his opinion of them as the war for Italy took a downward course is open to conjecture. What he did do however, was to add to the mythology of war and its horrors. Himmler in a Helsinki lift and later a white blob in a sauna, and a murderer; Hans Frank as a cultured pianist, and murderer; the wives, girlfriends, their table talk that comes around always to the murder of Jews.

Kaputt is the title and the meaning is the destruction and end of European "Culture" as it appeared to be in the 1940s. The book does not dwell on war, and if you want a description of war or camps, this is not for you. If you want to experience the ambiguities and contradictions of people under pressure in a highly charged life and death situation, then you will get something from this book. The book was published in 1944 when the war was still going and the extermination of Jews, Gypsies and the "unfit" was taking place and as such is important as being perhaps an indicator that within the elites in the Fascist countries, people (WAGs insluded) - did know what was happening, despite post war denials of this.
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