Lawrence Grant White (review date 19 April 1947)
SOURCE: White, Lawrence Grant. “Beyond Civilization.” Saturday Review of Literature 30, no. 16 (19 April 1947): 12.
[In the following positive review of Christ Stopped at Eboli, White contends that Levi “has proved his competence by making a readable and interesting book out of grim and forbidding material.”]
[Christ Stopped at Eboli] is a well-written account, by a sensitive and cultivated anti-fascist, of a year spent as a political exile at Gagliano, a primitive and remote village in Lucania, which forms the ankle of the Italian peninsula. Here civilization had hardly penetrated. The natives said that “Christ stopped at Eboli,” a town in the neighboring province of Campania; and to them, Christ is synonymous with civilization. This explains the obscure meaning of the title.
It was in 1935 that the author, wearing handcuffs, was escorted from the Regina Coeli prison in Rome to Gagliano. With a painter's understanding he describes the stark beauty of the countryside; windswept hills denuded of their once luxuriant forests; white clay pitted with caves in which strange swart people, descendants of some aboriginal Italic race, lived like troglodytes. The intangible characteristics of the locality were hatred, superstition, ignorance, and malaria. There were family feuds dating back to the days of the Bourbons and the Carbonari. The horns of a dragon, slain by a Colonna prince with the timely aid of the local madonna, were venerated in the next village; and the author's housekeeper was a successful witch. The malaria was unchecked by the two incompetent local doctors, who prescribed a harmless white powder sold as quinine by the unlicensed pharmacy.
In such surroundings the author appeared like a visitor from another planet. He had been trained as a physician, and did what he could, without instruments or...
(The entire section is 790 words.)