Background[ edit ] Carlo Levi was a doctor, writer and painter, a native of Turin. Despite his status as a political exile Levi was welcomed with open arms, for the people of this area were naturally gracious hosts. His book, Christ Stopped At Eboli, focuses on his year in the villages of the Lucania region and the people he encountered there. They lacked basic goods because there were no shops in the village.
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This book is his recollection of one of the three years he spent there. The village is very small, isolated, and was ridden with misery and illness. What gives the book a true soul, and really elevates it, is the deep, heartfelt sense of longing and love that Levi has for the people he lived with in this village, and in particular for the farmers. These farmers live in one-room houses, with their animals under their bed, and their infants hanging over their bed, in cribs.
On the walls, each of them have two images: a black Holy Mary, and, fascinating fact, President Roosevelt. Some came back from America, only to live the rest of their lives in regret. This trick really works wonders if delivered with a nasal voice, an under-average sensitivity, and a massive dose of stupidity. What Levi keeps hammering on is a sense of inevitable defeat of the farmer as a citizen of the state.
He sees good people being exploited by whoever has money and power, and he says that the state should be a state for the farmers as well. All very well, although he often comes across as idealistic, too theoretical and naive, especially in his political reflections, articulated at the end of the book. But my bet is, he was a rather idealistic man. Where do I sign up?
Sure, a wise approach for a young politician, but also a breath of fresh air. Recommended for readers who want to immerse themselves in the silence of a primitive, ancient reality that is light years from our neurotic lives of today, but at the same time feels more deeply authentic. For those farmers, and I guess for most farmers, life has always been stripped bare, to the bone.
A white, shining bone that we 21st century soft and plump westerners often forget. A hard-core experience to live through the eyes of an artistic outsider.
Christ Stopped at Eboli
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