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Mathes, B. (2014). Man like Me a Letter to Curzio Malaparte. DIVISION/Rev., 11:27-28.

(2014). DIVISION/Review, 11:27-28


Man like Me a Letter to Curzio Malaparte

Bettina Mathes, Ph.D.

Reading is a strange activity — it makes me want to speak with the dead. Literally. I exchange letters with authors that have long passed away; I write notes to characters that don't have an address. Why? Because I can. To play with reality, to dress up for a party and stay home — the joy of reading and writing.

This letter to the Italian-German writer, editor, and architect-of-sorts Curzio Malaparte was a long time in the making. Five years ago, (or maybe fifty) I read his lyrical essay DONNA COME ME, included in a slim volume of essays Malaparte published in 1952. DONNA COME ME / WOMAN LIKE ME. The text spoke to me; I wanted to respond. I wanted to write a letter, a letter with a title: Man Like Me. But I could not move past this title. For years Man like Me was all I had.

Not anymore.

Dear Curzio,

you want your woman to become a pretext for your dreams, hopes and deeds. a pretext, nothing more. that is a lot, you say, if it is true that nothing is more difficult or more dangerous than being the pretext for a noble existence — a man's existence. i'm not only man, you write, but woman, dog, stone, river. / that is ambitious! so you stay put, a prisoner in this lonely, unforgiving house you built for yourself: La Casa Malaparte on the isle of Capri. a red block, sitting on a dangerous cliff, like a reptile. beneath it the green and blue waters of the gulf of Salerno. Godard's Contempt was filmed here: the house as cruel companion to Bardot's inconsolable beauty.

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