Monday, 21 September 2015

A private affair, Beppe Fenoglio

The Italian author Beppe Fenoglio is known in his own country as one of the best writers since WWII and his books are considered modern classics. Not all of his works are translated, but A private affair is.

Milton fights with the partisans in the region of Alba, where he also grew up. During a march he sees the house where the girl he loves used to live. He writes letters to Fulvia and she is the reason he tries to survive. When he goes up to the house, the housekeeper tells him she was even more friendly with Milton’s old friend Giorgio.

From that moment the war is no longer important to Milton, the only thing that matters is that he will find Giorgio to ask him if it is true that he was Fulvia’s lover. This private affair becomes the most important thing to Milton.

After the armistice of September 8th 1943, Italy became occupied by the German forces, who worked together with groups of fascists. In the mountains there were the partisans who fought against the Germans and the fascists for control over the country.

Among the partisans were socialists, communists and social-liberals and each group had its own brigade, although they did work together against their common enemy.

Beppe Fenoglio had been a partisan himself during the war and this is noticeable in the lively descriptions. This is not written by somebody who read about it, this is somebody who experienced it.
Still, the mud, the cold, the hunger, the fear and the horrible decisions they have to make are not what sticks out the most, it is all just there.

Isn't the Dutch cover beautiful? 
These experiences form the background for the private question, while Milton does everything to get to Giorgio who unfortunately has been made prisoner by the fascists. Milton has to find a fascist prisoner to trade him against Giorgio. Not because he wants to spare Giorgio, but because he wants to know what happened between Fulvia and Giorgio.

It is a senseless journey and it will come to nothing, it will only bring more grief. The choices Milton makes also have consequences for others, although he will never know that.

Beppe Fenoglio is a wonderful writer and his sober sentences and dialogues draw you into those mountains along with the partisans.
A private affair is a beautiful book and it will linger in your memory for a long time.

Original Italian title: Una questione privata
Published in 1963

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