Home > Uncategorized > Giuseppe Berto: It was a good night for an air raid. Somewhere or other there would be terror and death and destruction.

Giuseppe Berto: It was a good night for an air raid. Somewhere or other there would be terror and death and destruction.

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Italian writers on war and militarism

Giuseppe Berto: Selections on war

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Giuseppe Berto
From The Sky Is Red (1946)
Translated by Angus Davidson

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The siren sounded once, then stopped for s few seconds, then sounded again; then again stopped, and sounded again. When the siren stopped for the third time, there were a few moments of absolute silence in the town. Then the men on duty started walking again, and their footsteps echoed in the streets.

Everything had now assumed a shadowy appearance, because the lamps had gone out. The men could scarcely see the dark arches of the arcades, or the line the houses made where the roofs jutted out, or, if they looked down, even their own feet, which looked like mere shadows on the ground. Nevertheless, as they became accustomed to the darkness it seemed to them that the light from the clear sky was stronger now, and now they were able to see many more things. It was a good night for an air raid. Somewhere or other there would be terror and death and destruction.

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From the skylight came a luminous whiteness like moonlight, but brighter and more diffused and throwing hardly any shadow. In a light so white everything had an evanescent, alien look.

They went down a few steps. The woman walked with difficulty and the man went close beside her, supporting her. Meanwhile the sounds outside became louder. Hundreds of engines were in the sky over the town. Then, in addition, came the sound of falling bombs, like something sucking in the air in a horrible fashion.

The woman realized at once that they were bombs, although she had never heard a noise like that before. It seemed to be right above her head and it became more horrible every moment. First she felt a rush of wind on her face and heard glass breaking, and then every other noise was drowned in the explosion of the bombs. The house shook and the stairs rocked under her feet. She stopped and leant her back against the wall, her arms outstretched. She looked at the man imploringly, with dilated eyes, her mouth wide open so that she looked as if she were screaming.

The man shouted something that was lost in the din, and shook the woman and struck her. She clung to the wall with all her strength, and all the time she looked at him imploringly.

The man made as though to lift her in his arms, but he could not, because now the house was reeling beneath him. Then he too leant with his back against the wall and took the woman in his arms. She suddenly lost all her rigidity and abandoned herself to him, panting, her eyes closed. Ah, that was better, she thought; now she would not mind anything. He held her tightly as though trying to protect her, and he was quite calm, because he had never loved her so much, in all his life.

The last thing of which he was conscious was a hot wind which came up from below and lifted them up against the wall; and the wall at his back slowly, slowly gave way, till it no longer supported them.

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