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Allied EncountersThe Gendered Redemption of World War II Italy$
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Marisa Escolar

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823284504

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823284504.001.0001

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Sleights of Hand, Black Skin, and the Redemption of Curzio Malaparte’s La pelle

Sleights of Hand, Black Skin, and the Redemption of Curzio Malaparte’s La pelle

(p.111) 5 Sleights of Hand, Black Skin, and the Redemption of Curzio Malaparte’s La pelle
Allied Encounters

Marisa Escolar

Fordham University Press

This chapter analyzes Curzio Malaparte’s La pelle (1949; The Skin), a graphic depiction of the interracial, sexual encounter between the hypersexual Buffalo soldiers and the local prostitutes on the streets of Naples. Interspersed within these spectacles, La pelle evokes the Franco-Moroccan goumiers—the accused perpetrators of mass rape after their victory at the battle of Monte Cassino. Using the historical referent to inform the allegorical reading of the “colored” soldier as “other” and “penetration” as a metaphor for the failure of redemption, this chapter argues that the racialized soldier opens redemption beyond the U.S.–Italian encounter. As the title shouts, “skin” is a major concern, yet the question of “saving one’s skin” shifts attention away from the way in which black-skinned figures insert Italians and Allies into a global network that undermines neat moral distinctions. These interracial, sexual encounters evoke the war’s interrelated colonial conflicts and the misogynist, racist logic that sustains both.

Keywords:   Buffalo soldier, Curzio Malaparte, goumier, Italy, La pelle, Naples, prostitution, redemption, The Skin, World War II

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