This book has sat on my bookshelf for at least 20 years without being read. Then last year I read in a newspaper that it was to be broadcast on BBC 4 and narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. Sadly the recording is not available on iPlayer, but the write up from the BBC website says this and I quote direct from the BBC 4 site:
“In late 1943 Norman Lewis was posted by the British Intelligence Corps to newly liberated Naples. He arrived to witness a city devastated by fascism, bombings, Nazi occupation and the Allied invasion. Written 30 years later, his remarkable memoir evocatively captures the resilience and resourcefulness of the city in the desperate months following the Nazis’ withdrawal.
Director Francesco Patierno combines extracts from this account, read by Benedict Cumberbatch, with powerful archival footage and clips from films set in Naples in the 50s and 60s, to portray a war-torn and once-dynamic city returning to life”
I was lucky enough to hear the broadcast and following the broadcast immediately started the book. I have always felt somewhat torn by emotions relating to the Second World War because being half Sicilian I had Grandparents who fought on both sides. I wondered for a long time if they fought in the same area and potentially were firing at each other. I don’t know the answer to that and perhaps that is for the best.
I have my maternal Grandfather’s military service and know that between 1940 when he joined the Army until late November 1943 he was in Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, my paternal Sicilian Grandfather never talked about his time in the military and always said that it was better to be captured by the British, which he was, than shot by the Germans after Germany and Italy split their alliance. He served his time as a Prisoner of War in England. I dare say he saw ruthless atrocities, just as any service man did during the Second World War, he like many others never spoke of them.
The book itself is a diary that was kept by Lewis reflects his time spent in Naples during September 1943 and October 1944. For me, this book gave me an insight into the life of the Italians in Naples and suspect that it was similar across Italy.
War is a shocking thing. I will never truly understand what both my Grandfathers experienced during this time. I can only attempt to read and research to gain an understanding.
We must never forget those that perished during the War years, regardless of where and how they perished. Equally we must never forget the experiences of those that survived the war. Everyone has a story to tell, and sometimes that story dies with them.
I am sorry to write such a deep post for this book, but to lighten the mood just very slightly.
Cumberbatch is a Surname registered by the Guild of One-Name Studies and Bob, who has registered the Cumberbatch surname will be one of the speakers on the Guild webinar next Tuesday where he, along with Paul Howes will be talking about Sharing the Joy of their respective studies. You can register for the Webinar HERE. The webinar will be available to everyone live and for a week after, when it will become a members benefit.
The webinar takes place at 7pm British Summer Time (BST) on Tuesday 15 May 2018.
I too have grandfathers who fought on opposite sides of the war 😦 One was a doctor and the other a cartographer so not actually shooting each other but still – they got on fine when they met as in-laws.
The thing is, as individuals they were each serving their country and had the integrity to do so.
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