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Book Talk: Carcaterra, ‘Street Boys’

Lorenzo Carcaterra is one of my favorite authors of fiction that is loosely based on historical fact. However, his novel “Street Boys” (2002, 336 pages in paperback format) seemed like such foolishness that I had to check the history of World War II in Italy to find out how closely he followed actual events. Fact: It is, indeed, fabrication that stretched my imagination to the breaking point. That doesn’t make it a bad story or an inferior book. It simply means that the reader must be prepared to read a supposedly fact-based book as pure fantasy.

“Street Boys” is based on “Four Days in Naples” when residents staged protests, demonstrations, and rebellion against the occupying Nazi forces. In 1943, on September 27, 28, 29, and 30, there were violent outbreaks in various parts of Naples by various contingents of people. On October 1, German forces began to clear out because of the arrival of allied troops.

Carcaterra’s fictional account informs us that all of the adult population (along with virtually all of their young daughters) had evacuated the city. All that remained were the scugnizzi, boyhood street urchins who were left with bombed-out houses, no electric power, and enough “food scraps” to keep them alive (with no explanation of where such “scraps” originated). Aside from the kids (who ranged in age from about 4 to 16), there was an old drunk and his beautiful daughter Nunzia.


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