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Raffaele La Capria: Ferito a morte (The Mortal Wound)

This is a novel written by a poet and, as such, it is not concerned with plot and only to a certain degree with character but far more with impressions and images. Indeed, music could be said to influence this novel as La Capria gradually builds up his story, layer by layer, starting at a casual pace and building up, over time, to a more intense pace. More particularly, as with many good novels, the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists – particularly but not exclusively Massimo de Luca – mix in with what is happening in the real world, so that the two merge. Indeed, La Capria himself sums it up – Possibile che tutto avviene come in un film, che tu lo vedi e pare che sta succedendo qualche cosa proprio in quel momento, e invece il film è stato già girato in un ordine diverso, e tutto è fermo nel rotolo del tempo? Si. È possible, è possible. (Is it possible that everything happens as in a film, that you see it and it seems that something is happening at just that moment and, instead, the film has been projected in a different order and everything is standing still in the reel of time? Yes, it is possible, it is possible.)

Massimoi di Luca is a young man who is one of the new post-war generation of Italians. The story starts at the seaside in 1943 and ends in 1960 in Naples and it follows the story of Massimo. Massimo has two inspirations. Firstly, there is Carla – Lo sguardo di Carla che splende come un mattino tutto luce in fondo al mare. (The look of Carla that shines like a bright morning at the bottom of the sea.) The second is Naples – una città che ti ferisce a morte o t’addormenta, o tutt’e due le cose insieme. (A city that wounds you to death or puts you to sleep or both together. This ambiguous love-hate relationship with Naples can be seen in the brilliant Francesco Rosi film Le Mani sulla Città (Hands over the City), which La Capria co-scripted with Rosi. Massimo is tempted to leave Naples and nearly goes off to Rome but he stays, though all his friends go. In the end, we are left with a bitter Massimo (and a bitter La Capria).

Publishing history

First published in Italian 1961 by Bompiani
First English translation 1964 by Collins
Translated by Marguerite Waldman