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Publisher's Summary

Naples '44 is an unflinching autobiographical account of a year in Naples after the armistice and Allied landings in Sorrento in 1943. 

Working as a British counterintelligence officer under the Allied occupation, Lewis documents the rich pageant of life in the city and its surrounding areas. There is suffering and squalor: Criminal gangs are on the rise, along with typhus and black market commerce, and the female population is forced into part-time prostitution, simply to obtain food. Corruption is rife as a Genovese crime family member makes his way into the US army administration, and local hospitals, short on supplies, buy equipment back from those who stole it. There is farce and humor, too, witnessed in the Roman uncle paid handsomely simply to appear at funerals and lend an air of gravitas, and in Lewis's own experience of vetting proposed marriages between British soldiers and local women. Unsparing, penetrating and profoundly humane, Naples '44 is a moving portrait of the costs of war, and the resilience of a society under extreme stress.

©1978 Norman Lewis (P)2019 Naxos Audiobooks

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  • Rachel Redford
  • 10-08-18

Brilliant essential listening

This is an iconic history /travelogue/memoir of a dire time during WW2 with both sides in the conflict driven by hideous brutality. Lewis was an intelligence officer sent for a 13-month stint to Naples in 1943 which was then under the Allied occupation. It was written 30 years after these indelible events which heightens the feeling of experiences which can never be expunged from memory.

Naples was a hideous shock to Lewis and his section. Whilst they were housed and fed in part of a once-grand house, the local Neapolitans were surviving and not surviving under unspeakable privation, helpless casualties of a bitter war. Their fishing had been forbidden; desperate little blind children begged at the men’s table; women were lined up for the soldiers who paid for their pleasure with a tin of food and frequently VD; acts of sickening vendetta savagery were considered justified; typhus was rife. The locals driven by hunger to acts of extreme desperation stole army hardware and rations and killed any creature that could possibly be eaten. The officers nonchalantly sent men to be shot or thought it reasonable to interview innocent suspects with the ‘encouragement’ of cracking them over the head with a chair.During this terrible time Vesuvius erupted. Lewis’s description is superb – driving out to inspect installations he’s met by lava moving down the main road with the church cupola cresting the flow as the people prayed that the liquefaction of the blood of their patron saint would save their city.

Excellently read by Nicholas Boulton, it’s one of the most powerful works of war memoir, reminding us of the obscenity of war and of the courage and resilience of those who suffer in it.