Naples ’44 – the classic Norman Lewis title

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

110037_naples44_jktHaving visited Capri and Naples reading one of the classic books on the city seemed like an excellent idea. Norman Lewis turned up in Naples in late 1943, immediately after the Armistice between Italy and the Allies was signed. He spent the next year in the city and his diary recounts the chaos and madness that followed. In fact much of what went on in Naples would be duplicated after the fall of Baghdad 60 years later. Liberators can soon become very unpopular.

Lewis did not publish his book until 1978, 35 years after the events, so clearly he had lots of time to reflect on and polish his observations, not unlike Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts. That wonderful account of Fermor’s walk from London to Istanbul in the 1930s took even longer to reach the printed page, it was published in 1977.

Two of the best books on South-East Asia are also by Norman Lewis. If arriving in Naples right after the Germans withdrew was a classic piece of timing so were his two Asian titles. A Dragon Apparent (published 1951) takes him through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with French power in Indo-China about to collapse and the Vietnam War waiting in the wings. Golden Earth (published 1952) takes him through Burma, a country also in chaos although the long dark years of rule by the generals was also still yet to kick off. All three classic Norman Lewis titles are published by Eland Books.