Beyond Gibraltar interweaves memory and history as it traces the life of its author-protagonist through a fascinating period of modern history the birth of Fascism, World War II in Rome Open City, the beginning of the Cold War at the border with Yugoslavia, McCarthyism in the US. Born in the Austro-Italian Alps in the first part of the twentieth century, struggling and fighting her way for survival in war-torn Rome, boarding a military ship in February 1947 to travel to her new home in the United States as an American war-bride, and building her own version of the American Dream in New York City these are the basic elements of her story. A story of personal transformation, of resilience, courage, confusion solved by resolution, Beyond Gibraltar is also a precious historical document on life during the first half of the 20thcentury, as seen from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The memories of Maristella impose themselves to the attention of the reader, from childhood in the Tyrol, in the second half of the twenties, till her maturity and the beginning of his career at Columbia University in New York, where, at the end of the Second World War, she moved after marrying an American officer. Written masterfully by a straight and privileged observer of momentous events, the narrative is fascinating, in the succession of personal events into the eager and keen understanding of the feelings of all the characters involved. Their personal experiences, which are interwoven with the great history, are never separated from a punctual, careful and realistic chronicle of the related facts. In the fresco painted by Maristella, each episode stands in witness of her tale and, with precious literary memories of time, weather and place, always interwoven in the historical context; it captures the reader attention with the clarity of the psychological analysis. Moreover her critical clear vision of the whole offers more than an opportunity for a re-reading and a reflection on those years crucial for Europe and the whole humanity.
Knowing about history is one thing, and living through it is another. Beyond Gibraltar is a fascinating memoir covering the author’s experience of growing up in Italy between two World Wars, living through the rise and collapse of Fascism under Mussolini, and beyond. Trying to pursue the normal life of schooling and to earn a living even while experiencing hunger, bombardment, German occupation and even imprisonment in war-torn Rome, the author fills the pages of her memoir with stories that bring into sharp relief the realities of everyday life for a family coping with constant political and military upheaval. Once Rome is liberated by the Allies, the author falls in love with and marries an American soldier, and like so many immigrants from generations past, moves to America in search of greater freedom and a new life. Again like so many immigrants, the early years of that move prove far more difficult than anticipated by the fantasies of the young bride, and foster a maturing through struggle that lays the foundation for future success. Written by a woman who eventually became a leading intellectual at New York City’s Columbia University, and left her childhood trauma far behind, this memoir is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the hardship of past wars from the inside.
Maristella Lorch, who was born in the Alto Adige right after World War I, has written the second vivid book of her trilogy recounting the deep mountain roots of her family in the Alto Adige – the Alpine region that with the stroke of a pen in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles went from being Austrian to Italian – and her own journey to professorship at Columbia University. Maristella’s grandmother and mother, each successively widowed, managed to raise their children despite the privations of hunger, roving soldiers, sickness and politics that threatened life during the three decades spanning World War I and II. Woven through both books is the compelling fabric of family and culture; a passion for education as an essential tool of survival; and stories of insistent love and romance against all odds. Above all, Maristella’s sensory descriptions take you from rural Italian kitchens to remote Alpine valleys to the bombed out streets of Rome, ending with the struggle of making a new life with her GI husband in New York City of the 1950s.
About the Author
Maristella de Panizza Lorch is Professor Emerita of Italian and Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Barnard College and Columbia University, as well as Founding Director Emerita of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. She is the mother of three daughters and the widow of the mathematician Edgar Raymond Lorch. Beyond Gibraltar is the second volume of the trilogy Beyond Gibraltar, following Mamma in her Village and preceding The Other Shore.