Deviazione, de Luce d'Eramo
NOTA DE LEITURA
Lucette Mangione nasceu em França em 1925 e aí viveu até aos 14 anos. Usou na vida adulta o sobrenome de d’Eramo que era o do seu marido de quem teve um filho em 1947 (Marco d’Eramo ) e de quem se separou em 1953. Regressado a Itália, seu pai teve um cargo importante na República de Saló. Teve ela então a ideia peregrina de ir para a Alemanha, oferecendo-se para trabalhar numa fábrica. Queria ver se eram verdadeiras as acusações que se faziam aos alemães de escravizarem os trabalhadores. Usou vários nomes: em Itália era chamada Lucetta, mas foi chamada Luce, Lucie, Luzi, Lùszia. Tendo participado numa greve mais ou menos selvagem na fábrica onde trabalhava, foi mandada à força para Itália. Não foi ter com os pais e, em Verona, deitou fora os seus documentos e apanhou um comboio que levava trabalhadores forçados para Dachau. Sendo muito maltratada, decidiu fugir e vagabundeou pela Alemanha. Quando socorria pessoas soterradas numa casa bombardeada caiu-lhe em cima uma parede que lhe partiu as pernas e a deixou paralítica. Veio depois para Itália, sofreu várias operações, mas ficou numa cadeira de rodas para toda a vida.
Divorciada, teve altos e baixos, mas escreveu muito e por fim teve algum sucesso.
Este livro, Deviazione, publicado em Itália em duas edições em 1979 e 2002, teve bastante sucesso e foi traduzido para francês, espanhol, alemão e japonês. Só este ano foi traduzido para inglês e publicado nos Estados Unidos em Setembro último.
O livro deixou-me algo perplexo: é autobiográfico, mas intitula-se romance. É muito desordenado e a sucessão dos capítulos não está conforme à ordem dos acontecimentos, mas sim segundo as datas da sua escrita. A maior parte do livro está escrita na primeira pessoa, mas o capítulo “Finchè la testa vive” é narrado na terceira pessoa.
1954- “Asilo a Dachau”
1961- “Finchè la testa vive”
1975- “Ch 89”— 3.ª pessoa
1977- “La deviazione”
Que quer dizer o título “O Desvio”?
Cito aqui do texto de Nadia Fusini, com o título “Resilienza, una virtù” que prefacia a edição de 2002:
“E della memoria scopre i trucchi, le omissioni, le reticenze: insomma le “deviazioni”. Denuncia come i ricordi si possano falsificare come si possano inventare quelli che servono, eliminare quelli che non servono a vivere nel presente. Nell’intreccio tra il presente quando è presente e il presente quando è passato, la fiction interviene a smussare, a rimuovere, a dimenticare… È questa deviazione che alla fine le interessa più di ogni altra. “
Este entendimento dos desvios é muito importante para compreender o último capítulo onde a autora completa ou mesmo altera as descrições dos capítulos anteriores.
Mas eu entendo que “os desvios” não são apenas esses. São também as alterações nas convicções da autora, desde logo o abandono das convicções fascistas que eram as de seu pai.
Quem desejar aprofundar o conhecimento da autora, poderá ler esta monografia publicada em 2013, ao cuidado de Ana Maria Crispino e do filho dela Marco d’Eramo, com o título “Come intendersi con l’altro”:
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In 'Deviation,' Luce D'Eramo Rejects Her Past And Faces An Uncertain Future
MARTHA ANNE TOLL
Luce D'Eramo's , first published in Italian in 1979, went on to become a worldwide bestseller. Though considered a novel, the book's story and structure untangle its author's complicated life through a combination of autobiographical fiction and memoir. As such, it defies neat categorization. Finally, 39 years after its debut, comes its first-ever English edition, vividly translated by Anne Milano Appel.
D'Eramo, who died in 2001, was born to a bourgeois Italian family in Reims in 1925. Her family remained in France until 1938, at which point they returned to Italy. They were Fascists; her father became a government official in the Italian Republic of Salò, and her mother a volunteer for the Fascist party. Luce was a member of the GUF (Association of Fascist Students) at university.
As World War II rolled forward and Luce heard rumors of Nazi death camps, she began questioning her ideals. To test her beliefs, she left home at age eighteen to volunteer in German labor camps. These life-changing, harrowing experiences led to a "desire to shed her identify as the privileged daughter of a Fascist bureaucrat." She joined the Resistance and helped lead a failed workers' strike.
Because of her family's position, she was safely repatriated to Italy. But in Verona, she jettisoned her identification papers and slipped onto a train of deportees to Dachau where she spent time before escaping to wander as a stateless vagrant in Germany. In February 1945, as she helped rescue people buried from the rubble of bombing, a wall fell on her and she was paralyzed from the waist down. She was nineteen.
This devastating chain of experience cannot be told in linear fashion. The story must "deviate," as the memory and weight and brutality of D'Eramo's past unfolds in bursts. The book's four parts occur out of chronological order. At various times called Lucie, Luzi, Lùszia, the protagonist confronts her privilege as a Fascist, a western European, and as a member of a well-off family. She associates with Russians and others from the east, to experience life with the "lower classes" of enslaved inmates. (Luce was never interned in a death camp, where the Nazis exterminated those they considered below the lower classes.) She embraces lice, and cleaning sewers, and freezing, and hunger, and brute labor and the petty thieving that leads to a Darwinian hierarchy among slave laborers and more serious betrayals, along with unending danger and horror. She takes lovers, makes friends, is saved by them. In turn, she saves them, or watches them murdered or die of illness and starvation.
Criss-crossing Germany, Luce heads toward oblivion, intent on making herself a nullity.
"I know why they die," I reply. "Their real lives ended earlier, so they're throwing away the one they have now, it's hostile to them, like a wall. Not me, I'm keeping mine, the way bears do: don't feel, don't love, just sleep through the cold.
It is that "hostile" wall that truly imprisons her — in her body.
Later I only remember being trapped in the middle of a blaze and having the distinct impression of being in hell.
No one expects her to survive the injury. She spends months in hospital, enduring endless surgeries and procedures, feverish, nauseated, her insides leaking out of her, before she understands that she will survive, but will never walk again.
.... I lay in a body that I could no longer feel, that supposedly belonged to me but did not respond to me ... unable to destroy it because that damn body was alive, extremely vital, fond of living; ... [it] forced me to go along with its wishes, vomited my inebriations on me, so that I didn't know where to turn.... I clung to finding goodness in the people around me, warming myself with forced sentiment to try to melt the ice that bound me, that was me. Because this body oppressed me, I didn't want to be alone with its storms, which raged continuously within the ice.
She fantasizes about settling in Russia and makes serious preparations to do so. Instead, she returns to Italy.
D'Eramo's "German parentheses," as she calls it — 1944-1945 — leaves enough physical and psychic damage to last a lifetime. What did/does she believe? Why did she act as she did? How can she live within a family that held such beliefs? How will she manage her paralysis and the accompanying health complications? Can she keep herself morally pure? (She cannot.)
Hatred against Nazis boomeranged on us...and we internees attacked one another. I learned that, you know? That much at least I've learned.
How will she manage and/or tame the contradictions that are her experience? (She will not.)
s final section sees D'Eramo wrestling with memory, large swaths of which have been repressed; this repression allows her to move forward. She finishes her education, marries, bears a son, divorces, becomes a writer and translator. Her nightmarish past visits her in periods of crisis, when she grapples with addiction and tries to rebuild her life following the collapse of her marriage. We glimpse her parents, absent from the rest of the book despite their efforts to retrieve Luce from German hell. In this last part of the book, D'Eramo undergoes Olympian trials to unearth her tempestuous memory and fling it on the page. If we appreciate Karl Ove Knausgaard for his introspective tenacity, then we must genuflect before Luce D'Eramo.
was written over several decades. Its story, that of one young person trying to hew to her beliefs and save the world, represents one reason for its international popularity. D'Eramo bears witness to her teenage years, which stand in sharp relief even against the great conflagration. Her version of youth is unimaginably extreme, and the telling of it carves out new territory. It is not simply D'Eramo's personal story, but also her ruthless quest for self-knowledge, that render a literary tour de force.
The New York Times
By James Marcus
Oct. 12, 2018
By Luce D’Eramo
Translated by Anne Milano Appel
347 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $27.
More than seven decades after the Red Army threw open the gates of Auschwitz, the literature of the Holocaust has grown so voluminous and varied that we might assume there are no further tales to tell. If memoirists like Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, Tadeusz Borowski and Liana Millu have failed to exhaust that particular vein, readers can always turn to a huge corpus of secondary material, including such strapping volumes as “The Holocaust Encyclopedia.” Surely at this stage, there is little left to surprise them.
Wrong! “Deviation,” an autobiographical novel by the Italian writer and critic Luce D’Eramo, is a case in point. The author spent time in both a German labor camp in Frankfurt, run by the industrial giant IG Farben, and in Dachau, the very first concentration camp built by the Nazis. Her description of the horrors she encountered in these places is vivid but not especially novel. What is shocking is that she volunteered for both ordeals.
In 1944, the 18-year-old D’Eramo went to the IG Farben facility of her own accord, as a kind of Fascist candy striper, and was expelled only when she took part in an abortive strike. Soon afterward, having been shipped back to Italy, she insisted on going to Dachau. On the surface, this sounds like insanity, or the stuff of black comedy. That D’Eramo then escaped, drifted around the chaos of the collapsing Reich, sneaked into a transit camp a stone’s throw from Dachau, and was ultimately paralyzed when a crumbling wall fell on her back, only deepens the mystery of her motives.
In fact, that mystery is the whole point of “Deviation,” which was published in Italy in 1979 and viewed as a memoir with the thinnest of fictional veneers. D’Eramo is desperate to figure out not only what she did but why. We are meant to understand her initial rationale as ideological. The daughter of a minor Fascist official, who stuck by Mussolini even after the regime’s implosion in 1943, she concluded that the Nazis were victims of bad P.R. and set off on a fact-finding expedition of her own.
“I had to go to the places about which the most outrageous stories were told, the Nazi concentration camps,” she writes. “That’s why I ran away from home on Feb. 8, 1944, and went to Germany as a simple volunteer worker, with pictures of Mussolini and Hitler in my backpack, sure about what I was doing.” The naïveté is astounding. After all, the Fascist state was gone. A deflated and syphilis-ridden Duce presided over the shrinking Salò Republic — a German puppet regime that employed D’Eramo’s father as an under secretary for propaganda. Hitler’s thousand-year Reich was battered by Allied bombings and the scorched-earth approach of the Red Army from the east. This was a weird moment to argue for the essential goodness of the Axis powers.
Then again, D’Eramo’s first word on any subject is seldom the last, or best. The deeper we get into “Deviation,” which zigzags between historical periods and spurns any notion of chronology, the messier her motives appear. It becomes clear that she left for Frankfurt in a fit of adolescent angst, intent on defying the “inaccessible divinity” of her father. Yet she was no less determined to shed the skin of her middle-class background, to reinvent herself as a kind of Pan-European proletarian.
In this mission, at least, she made some initial headway. Assigned an easy job by IG Farben because of her connections back home, she lobbied the camp management for more wash basins and better food for the Russian prisoners. (“The soup is a disgrace,” she told the director, “it contradicts the Nazi-Fascist promises of civility.”) For her troubles, she was reassigned to work with the Russians, loading and unloading giant blocks of frozen sulfuric acid, which ate away at her hands.
Next came the strike, reportedly organized by a shadowy network of French resistance fighters. The idea, we read, was to shut down labor camps throughout the country, bringing the German industrial machine to its knees just as the Allies landed in Normandy. The author, who by now was not so much anti-Fascist as pro-labor, eagerly signed on. Yet the strike failed, at least in Frankfurt, and the disconsolate D’Eramo, with her fellow organizers now turning on her, attempted suicide by rat poison. At this point the Germans lost patience and sent her back to Italy. There, presumably, some good parental discipline would straighten her out.
But D’Eramo was not done deviating from her fate — which, in the author’s universe, is just another word for the expectations of other people. She climbed off the train in Verona, in the Salò Republic, and instead of joining her parents in Como, she attached herself to a convoy of Dachau-bound deportees.
The sheer perversity of this move will be hard for many readers to swallow. Chalk it up to PTSD, or to a crazed appetite for self-reinvention. In any case, it was equally indigestible for the author, who erased the whole episode from her mind for decades. “That this is how it happened,” she writes, “I later denied even to myself. I had to turn 50 before acknowledging that I had been repatriated. What I said initially — so often that I came to believe it myself — was that I had been deported to Dachau with my comrades after the strike.” In time, D’Eramo also blotted out other parts of her agonizing Wanderjahr. Such erasure became a form of anesthesia. “Deviation,” then, is not only (or even primarily) a narrative of incarceration. It’s a book about memory suppression, and about the slippery nature of identity itself, slapped together from docile facts and devious fictions.
For this reason, the recovery of D’Eramo’s experience is no less momentous than the experience itself. As it happens, her memories bobbed back to the surface during periods of extreme stress, not exactly uncommon during the postwar years, when the wheelchair-bound, drug-addicted author struggled to make a life as an academic, a wife, a mother. It took her husband’s serial philandering and the disintegration of her marriage, in 1953, to jog loose her flight from Dachau in 1944. In fact, forays into her private history felt oddly liberating: “Held captive by paralysis, by fever, by drugs, by the betrayals and by my jealousy, what else could I do but look for a less imprisoned version of myself?” It is the present that amounts to a kind of incarceration, both psychological and physical. The past, paradoxically enough, is full of freedom.
D’Eramo’s constant toggling between past and present, blindness and insight, would be a challenge for any translator. Anne Milano Appel, who has translated writers as stylistically varied as Primo Levi and Claudio Magris, rises to the occasion. Here and there she is a touch too literal, but for the most part, she deftly tracks the quicksilver and sometimes knotty texture of the author’s prose.
There is, however, another challenge to reckon with. Although D’Eramo earned a doctorate in philosophy, her treatment of such matters in “Deviation” is subpar. Confronted with the problem of evil, which inescapably reared its head in Dachau, she decides that it’s all about class — a Marxist remedy that seems shallow and evasive. To concede that we are all capable of ghastly behavior is plain honesty. To thereby blur any distinction between monsters and victims is the sort of nonsense that Primo Levi, to choose just one example, spent a lifetime protesting. There is also the fact that D’Eramo, for all her fascination with the return of the repressed, never really gets to the nub of her own behavior, never really penetrates beyond her cognitive dance of the seven veils. For what it’s worth, I suspect that shame — a simple, supple, completely disabling emotion — is at the root of her self-imposed amnesia. No matter. Even at its dullest and most doctrinaire, “Deviation” is kept afloat by D’Eramo’s archaeological ardor, and by the surreal twists and turns of her narrative. There is indeed another tale to tell.
new york journal of books
is an amazing, courageous book by an amazing, courageous woman. It is not, however, the eye-opening book a reader might expect.
The promotional material explains that author Luce D’Eramo “was a devoted teenage fascist in the waning years of WWII” who “decided with a stunning mixture of bravery and foolishness to leave [her Italian] home and volunteer at a German work camp. She was hoping to discredit the rumors she had been hearing” about Nazi atrocities.
For most of the period from February until October 1944, D’Eramo worked at slave-labor factories at Siemens, I. G. Farben, and Dachau, until escaping from the last camp during an air raid. Four months later, when a building collapsed on her in Mainz, Germany, she was permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
This autobiographical novel was written over a period of 30 years, published in Italian in 1979, and just now translated into English. The author died in 2001.
With stunning detail and honesty, D’Eramo explores her physical pain, the unreliability of her memories, daily life in the labor camps, and the depths of inhumanity she encountered.
When she was first injured, for instance, she liked “to clench my teeth and tighten my fists, so tense that I shook, spasmodically, mentally willing my legs to move . . . I dreamed that I was running. I would wake up panting, and each time I had the sensation of having arrived a fraction of a tenth of a second too soon.”
However, the book brushes past the most important and unusual part of D’Eramo’s story: her original fascination with fascism. The only attempt at an explanation is the following, terse exchange with a French bunkmate at Farben (where D’Eramo calls herself Lucia)“Martine wanted to know what the Italian girl had ever found good about Fascism.
“As she listed the merits of her country, its dedication to the cause, its fortitude and courage in difficult times, Lucia felt a sense of vagueness that humiliated her and for which she held Martine responsible.”
Without a more complete picture of D’Eramo’s upbringing—without any before-after comparisons of her political views—her descriptions of the labor camps, horrifyingly pungent as they are, become just another on the “Holocaust” bookshelf.
Nor does D’Eramo give more than a couple of flicks toward the core of the Holocaust, the Nazis’ genocide against the Jews.
On its own terms, however, is a compelling book, written with a powerful immediacy.
From the opening line—“Escaping was extraordinarily simple”—the novel jumps straight into D’Eramo’s flight from Dachau, without any explanation of who she is or why she is in that notorious place. (Contrary to common misunderstanding, Dachau was not an extermination camp dedicated to Jews. Rather, it was a slave-labor facility for political prisoners, religious minorities, prisoners of war, and other “asocials.”)
The first half of the book covers the author’s nomadic efforts to survive during the war’s last, freezing winter and her paralysis. Then, doubling back, D’Eramo describes her naïve and relatively less grueling months at Siemens and Farben. Finally, in one more re-doubling, she tries to dig up the memories she has repressed over the decades and analyze why she has trouble remembering.
“I had based the recovery of my memories on a falsehood; therefore that recovery was also unsubstantiated,” she decides at one point.
She also ponders how people—including her fellow prisoners—can lose their basic humanity. “Hatred of the Nazis became an exclusive passion that did not socially unite the inmates,” she realizes. Not only were the inmates divided against each other by the Nazis’ carefully color-coded badges marking Jews, political prisoners, homosexuals, Roma, and other categories, but “along with his physical existence, each one fought tooth and nail to defend his personal identity.”
While D’Eramo never talks much about her political change of heart, she reveals some other motivations for her actions.
She obviously felt a need to punish herself for her class privilege. After she is taunted by fellow prisoners at Siemens for the preferential treatment she is accorded, as a fascist volunteer from Italy, she decides to eat with the Russians and Poles—who, under the Nazis’ strict ethnic hierarchy, were treated worse than D’Eramo’s Western bunkmates. However, she won’t go so far as to join the Eastern Europeans in their more wretched dormitory.
Another, albeit unacknowledged, motivation seems to be standard teenage rebellion. She frets at the prospect of a curfew, “home at sunset, my mother’s eyes aimed at the grandfather clock in the hallway if I was late coming back . . . not being able to go out anymore except accompanied by my mother, to those unbearable ladies’ teas like in Rome.” Hell no, Dachau has to be better than that!
D’Eramo—whose essays and other fiction were praised by such literary giants as Alberto Moravia and Ignazio Silone—does not make it easy for her readers. In addition to the time shifts, she also switches the narrative from first to third person and alternates her name among various versions of Lucia.
Although this is not the fully realized book it could have been, is well worth reading and an important addition to the Holocaust library.
Fran Hawthorne is the award-winning author of eight books on business and public policy including (Beacon Press, 2012) and (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
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