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War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 Paperback – 4 Aug 2000
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It is hard to belive that the popular Italian region of Tuscany, or Chiantishire as it is known these days, was, just 40 years ago, a no-man's land fought over by conflicting armies and ideologies. But British-born writer and wife of an Italian Marchese Iris Origo kept a diary during the Second World War, and has left behind her a compelling account of those turbulent times. Even while German troops were occupying her house, she wrote at night about her valiant attempts to shelter refugee children, burying her diary in the garden each morning. What makes this elegantly written testament so enduringly powerful is Origo's bravery in secretly taking in escaped Allied soldiers, and her modesty--she was too "busy" to be afraid. She also reveals a clear-sighted understanding of the peasants' desperate situation: "Profoundly disillusioned, cynical, tired, fully conscious that more suffering and privations still lie ahead, they are a defeated nation--and the only universal incentive still left is that of self-preservation." Origo is the exception--fearlessly involved in distributing illicit aid, she ran the gamut of German bullets. Essentially, though, hers was a personal war--that of compassion and humanity against politically motivated invaders. -- Lilian Pizzichini
'It is jolting to recall, through Origo's sober and self-effacing prose, the atrocious conditions of the summer of 1944, as the Allies fought their way painfully up the peninsula from the beachhead of Anzio.' Financial TimesSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
A crazy dance of events, a dance macabre, I would define it.
A daily war diary written by Marchesa Iris Origo, an English- American lady married to an Italian and living near Siena.
Marchesa Origo gives us an account of facts which happened in Val d'Orcia and were directly or indirectly related to her and her family.
Hardships and tragedies suffered by Italian civilians by the hands of a bloodthirsty German army whose only aim seemed to be the slaughter of harmeless people and a more than crazy fascist horde the "repubblichini"; all together they succeded in murdering hundreds of Italian civilians and foreign "allies" mostly Americans.
The bombing of Italian cities like Rome, Florence, Naples by the hands of allied armies trying to destroy the German headquarters. This is all told in the book.
Marchesa Origo sheltered in her "Villa" and in the adjoining farms all the Italian and foreign refugees who were able to escape the maddened German SS or the vile "repubblichini".
The courage of a woman who risked her life to protect children, women, old people and refugees of the allied armies from the fury of the enemy.
Stories told also by our parents or grandparents who happened to go through the crazy tragedy of world war II.
A beautiful read which I would recommend to everyone, in order not to forget.
Iris writes the diary and she states that she resisted the urge to edit it. This helps the immediacy, although much of the book is so full of rumour, false news and confusion that you do feel how difficult it was for those in the Val D’Orcia to really know what was going on. The diary opens with the arrival of refugee children and, news of political upheaval. It is obvious to Iris that the war is lost and that it is just a matter of time before the Allies arrive. Before this happens, though, there is the arrival of English POW’s and this could be difficult for the locals to accept with bombs falling in Italy. Still, cordial relations are soon established and the prisoners welcomed. This is one of the most heart warming parts of the diary – the fact that, despite all the hardships, the local people open their hearts, and homes, to everyone who passes through. An elderly woman is asked whether she has seen an escaped American by soldiers searching for him. No, she replies, and when Iris tells her how dangerous this could have been, she tells her that she has an escaped English prisoner of war in her house, not an American one…
We read of the fall of Mussolini, Italy becoming a battlefield and the locals either ‘half-hearted participants or passive spectators,’ who just want the war to finish. Certainly, German martial law, which arrives before the Allies, is not welcomed and it is obvious that Italians generally feel betrayed by the Germans. As we get to the end of 1943 Jewish refugees join those traipsing through the Italian countryside, with Jews being rounded up in the cities. Throughout this book there are endless guests – some welcome, others less so – partisans, deserters, German soldiers and British ones. Some, like the British, stay for a while and become part of the fabric of the local society – helping on the farms, and in the local houses. Others need food, medical help or supplies before trudging on. The locals are determined to help those who need it and there is no complaining about the demands made on people who are struggling to feed themselves, let alone others. This is a moving read about a less documented part of the war and I am glad I read it.
and local villagers escape from German oppression in Tuscany. An insight into the horrors of the last days of the war in Italy. Easy to read and full of the harrowing details of everyday life at that time.
I read it in one long, riveting sitting. Origo is not sentimental - but her writing produced in me much profound sentiment.
There is remarkably little emotional commentary for such a time of war.
In it's place is an unfolding of the history of the Allied Front through the various sources available at the time, and how it relates to the story of a gentle family, who deal with testing circumstances in the most humble, generous, and unprovocative of ways.
It is truly a story of heroism at it's finest, not just from the Origo family, but from the contadini and partisans, the soldiers, the carabinieri, the prete - from many individuals faced with the desperate plight of other individuals.
It is an eye witness account, without romance or glorification, of a story of hope and bravery, kindness, and all things that make humanity good.
Having lived in Italy for many years, I find this book has explained more about the Italian psychology today than any other I have read.
It is a testament to mankind, and explains what we, as individuals, might be capable of in an intensely distressing situation - both good and bad.
Any person who has ever been to Montepulciano, the Val D'Orcia, or to Tuscany, even, or anyone who loves Italy in the way so many of us do, should read this book and remember.
I will carry this book with me in my heart for a long time to come.
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Also very informative of WW2 times for the day to day Italian peoples that were not fans of il duce!
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