Giuseppe Berto: The sound of the bombs whistling, the sounds of human suffering, the groans, the screams, the agonized appeals
From The Sky Is Red (1946)
Translated by Angus Davidson
She reopened her eyes, and it was as though she had been born again, for during those moments of terror her power of thought had been extinguished. In front of her stood a soldier, who must have come in during the bombing, because he had not been there before. He stood there panting, with a hard expression on his face, and he was staring straight at her, or rather at something behind her which he could see right through her head.
Carla was standing close by, leaning heavily against the boy with her face hidden in his shoulder. Carla’s boy wore the same expression as the soldier, hard and at the same time empty, and he too was staring in the same blank way at a point on the wall opposite him. Perhaps they were all dead. Perhaps she was dead too, and the woman who was so monotonously calling upon God. And here they were, already in a different world, alive and yet not alive, each one of them disconsolate and alone. The feeling of loneliness was painful…
She listened to the noise of the engines, which grew steadily until it drowned every other noise, even the lament of the woman who was calling upon God. Then came the sound of the bombs whistling as they began to fall.
The part of the arch above the splinter-wall glowed with a cloudy, reddish light which did not penetrate inside the shelter. It was the light of fires. And the low, confused rumble, punctuated every now and then by the sudden crash of something collapsing, was the noise made by fire. Perhaps, after the attack, the whole town was burning.
More and more people kept arriving at the shelter. They came in the dark without paying any attention to anything, abject with terror or despair. They started weeping or shouting, or they just stood there, utterly stunned…
The noise of the fire came to her more distinctly, up there on the walls, together with the smell of things burning. From time to time a lorry passed quickly and noisily along the road that led round the walls. And there came to her also the sounds of human suffering, the groans, the screams, the agonized appeals.