La Storia

by Jerre Mangione, Ben Morreale

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"La Storia," also known as "History: A Novel," was written by Italian author Elsa Morante approximately 30 years after she was forced to hide out in a remote farming village south of Rome during World War II and is a controversial depiction of socio-political norms at the time, especially as they relate to the struggle between men of power and ordinary folks trying to survive. The timeline of the story falls largely between 1941 and 1947 during the height of Mussolini's fascist rule and just after his demise. The main characters are:

Ida Ramundo - The protagonist of the story. She's the mother of two boys, the second of which she births as the result of a rape at the hands of a German soldier while she has an epileptic seizure. She is a schoolteacher who is secretly half Jewish. Throughout the story, her timid but caring nature gradually devolves into racial paranoia and survivor's guilt as she becomes unable to properly teach her first grade class and unwilling to seek medical treatment for her youngest son's depression and epilepsy. Some critics have speculated that Elsa based the character of Ida at least partially on herself.

Nino - Ida's older son. He's a teenager when the story begins and gradually grows more delinquent. His escapades see him first enlisting in Mussolini's army, but then later leaving to join the resistance. He has an affectionate side and often makes promises to bring his family money, but almost never delivers. And while he's good to his younger brother, he is not at all protective of him. His violent opposition to government eventually leads him to a life of illegal gun smuggling, which in turn leads to his death at the hands of the authorities.

Useppe - Ida's younger son. He was the result of her rape at the hands of the German soldier and the spelling "Useppe" is a play on his own mispronunciation of his actual name, Giuseppe. He represents childlike innocence early on as he is forced to witness adult situations like his older brother Nino having sex and savagery like the violent coraling of Jews bound for concentration camps. As he gets a little older, he begins suffering bouts of depression and epileptic fits just like his mother does. He dies after fighting some other children, which results in a string of ultimately fatal seizures.

Davide Segre - An acquaintance and eventual friend of Ida who proves to be very influential on her thinking. He initially claims to be an army deserter named Carlo Vivaldi, but later reveals that he is a Jewish poet, philosopher and anarchist. After being tortured by the SS, he begins suffering from schizophrenia and starts to self-medicate using morphine. His anarchist lectures often fall on deaf ears and he eventually dies from a fatal morphine overdose.

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