Me, You by Erri DeLuca

By Erri DeLuca

The unnamed narrator of this slender, attractive novel remembers a summer time spent at age 16 on an idyllic Italian island off the coast of Naples within the Fifties, the place he spends his days with Nicola, an area fisherman. The narrator falls in love with Caia, who stocks with him that she’s Jewish, stored through Italian squaddies from the Nazis, who killed the remainder of her Yugoslav kinfolk. The boy calls for solutions concerning the conflict from the adults round him, yet is rebuffed through each person yet Nicola, who tells him of Italy’s complicity with the Nazis. His ardour for Caia and his ardent patriotism lead him to a flamboyant, cataclysmic act of destruction that brings his story to an finish.

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Example text

That was thanks to Daniele, my uncle’s son, who was four years older than I. He was the head of a group of young men of good family who had scooters, and a few of them had boats. Though without such means himself, Daniele was nonetheless the born leader of any group. He was a guest in the house my parents rented, and slept in the same room with me. That summer he became aware of me. I can’t account for his interest, but that’s how it was. He taught me chords on the guitar, he took me to the place on the beach where his friends got together and let me stay with them.

Uncle dived into the water, followed by Caia and Daniele. Nicola and I held the lines. I splashed some water on my head but did not go in for a swim. Nicola said not a word to Caia. Women fishing? He wouldn’t dream of taking them; it wasn’t done. Not that they were in the way, but he felt intimidated. “Makes me uncomfortable,” he would say. On the return trip Daniele took the rudder, Uncle lowered a trolling line from the stern, Nicola set to work cleaning the fish. I went forward and Caia joined me.

It had slipped out, perhaps unwillingly, but in this one thing something of her pain and her secret came to light, and I had brought it about. I was moved, and felt even more compelled to protect her. Something had happened between us, a secret exchange, an understanding. I was no longer the kid who went fishing, wore the mark of the trade on his hand, and was always mute. What I was besides that I didn’t know, couldn’t know, but my distance from her had been bridged. Caia had done it with a piece of news communicated to no one else.

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