I found this a beautiful book which speaks deeply of the margins. Because of his opposition to Fascism, Carlo Levi was banished at the start of the Abyssinian War in 1935 to a small village, Gagliano, in a remote province of southern Italy.
The first chapter contains a description of the margins which I find powerful and moving:
‘We’re not Christians,’ they say. ‘Christ stopped short of here, at Eboli.’ ‘Christian’, in their way of speaking, means ‘human being’, and this almost proverbial phrase that I have so often heard them repeat may be no more than the expression of a hopeless feeling of inferiority. We’re not Christians, we’re not human beings; we’re not thought of as men but simply as beasts, beasts of burden, or even less than beasts, mere creatures of the wild.
Towards the end of the book, he recounts going up North for a family funeral. In the train back down south again, he meditates on his feeling of strangeness, and the lack of understanding amongst his friends who concerned themselves with political questions: ‘They had all asked about conditions in the south and I had told them what I knew. But although they listened with apparent interest, very few of them seemed really to follow what I was saying….Many of them were very able, and all claimed to have meditated on the ‘problem of the south’ and to have formulated plans for its solution. But just as their schemes and the very language in which they were couched would have been incomprehensible to the peasants, so were the life and needs of the peasants a closed book to them, and one which they did not even bother to open.’
It reminds me of many of todays comments by those concerned with those living in Grenfell Tower, suggesting that others are out of touch with them.