Last month my NYRB Classics subscription book never arrived (there should be a replacement copy in the mail now, fingers crossed), but my August book appeared just a few days into the month. Go figure! I read Iris Origo's War in Val d'Orcia a few years ago and was thoroughly impressed, so I was quite happy to discover that NYRB has reissued this rather slender diary she kept in 1939-1940, A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary.
In keeping with my resolution to keep my night table reading pile in check, I actually finished two books already this month so happily was able to reward myself with two new books and one of them had to be this diary. If the introduction is anything to go by, I think I am going to enjoy this very much. There will hopefully be the added satisfaction of this likely being a very quick read since the diary is less than 200 pages and with brief entries a nice way to read a bit of Italian/WW II history as well.
I have a short teaser to share. I think the book will be curiously timely even though the events she writes about occurred more than half a century ago!
"The diary is a curious mixture of news--both fake and genuine--rumour, comment and observation. Origo was to write later that she had joined 'the wide captive audience, all the world over, listening to confused, discordant voices coming out of a little bo'. The radio is at the centre of this diary. Iris and Antonio Origo and their friends gather round it, fiddle with the controls in an attempt to get the foreign stations, and anxiously discuss afterwards what they have heard. Mussolini knows how to exploit the medium. Propaganda pours over the airwaves. Discerning listeners like Iris sift the bombastic output for truth."
I won't comment on how that excerpt might parallel life today, but that's history for you, I suppose. Apparently the diary is very much about the world at large, or at least life in Italy and her village at a most interesting time in history. There is little of the personal here. She never meant to publish the book, it was meant to be solely for her own personal use. I think it should be a very good picture of the times and expect I will be writing more about it here later.
[Side note--just a week in I realize, but I actually find that I very much like keeping my reading pile to a (for me that is) bare minimum--four books even seems like too much of an indulgence--maybe this won't be as hard as I was anticipating.]