Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Roberts Falls for Kaputt

oI see that yet one more grownup of whom you might expect to next better is showcasing one of the most corrupt misrepresentations of World War II misery and suffering for a "top books" list.  The culprit-recommender is Andrew Roberts, author of the highly rewarding Masters and Commanders, noted here.  The book recommended is Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt, noted in passing here.  It's a mystery to me why anybody takes Kaputt seriously; or why the NYRB bothered to publish this farrago of self-glorification and gothic fantasy.  Shelve it alongside Lovecraft or Philip Dick--at a pinch maybe Mervin Peake--and I suppose I could pass it off with a shrug.  Or better perhaps as a kind of high end Mary Sue, as imbued with wish-fulfillment as Hadrian VII.  But to pass it off as a genuine representation of World War II experience seems to me an insult to genuine representations everywhere.  I never cease to be baffled by the number and variety of  normally sensible grownups appear to be sucked in by it. 

More temperate followup: George MacDonald Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here is indeed an honorable entry on the list, but if Roberts wants a truly gnarly picture of the Burma campaign, he might consider Charlton Ogburn's Marauders.

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