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"The first book of real magnitude to come out of the last war." —John Dos Passos   John Horne Burns brought The Gallery back from World War II, and on publication in 1947 it became a critically-acclaimed bestseller. However, Burns's early death at the age of 36 led to the subsequent neglect of this searching book, which captures the shock the war dealt to the preconceptions "The first book of real magnitude to come out of the last war." —John Dos Passos   John Horne Burns brought The Gallery back from World War II, and on publication in 1947 it became a critically-acclaimed bestseller. However, Burns's early death at the age of 36 led to the subsequent neglect of this searching book, which captures the shock the war dealt to the preconceptions and ideals of the victorious Americans.   Set in occupied Naples in 1944, The Gallery takes its name from the Galleria Umberto, a bombed-out arcade where everybody in town comes together in pursuit of food, drink, sex, money, and oblivion. A daring and enduring novel—one of the first to look directly at gay life in the military—The Gallery poignantly conveys the mixed feelings of the men and women who fought the war that made America a superpower.


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"The first book of real magnitude to come out of the last war." —John Dos Passos   John Horne Burns brought The Gallery back from World War II, and on publication in 1947 it became a critically-acclaimed bestseller. However, Burns's early death at the age of 36 led to the subsequent neglect of this searching book, which captures the shock the war dealt to the preconceptions "The first book of real magnitude to come out of the last war." —John Dos Passos   John Horne Burns brought The Gallery back from World War II, and on publication in 1947 it became a critically-acclaimed bestseller. However, Burns's early death at the age of 36 led to the subsequent neglect of this searching book, which captures the shock the war dealt to the preconceptions and ideals of the victorious Americans.   Set in occupied Naples in 1944, The Gallery takes its name from the Galleria Umberto, a bombed-out arcade where everybody in town comes together in pursuit of food, drink, sex, money, and oblivion. A daring and enduring novel—one of the first to look directly at gay life in the military—The Gallery poignantly conveys the mixed feelings of the men and women who fought the war that made America a superpower.

30 review for The Gallery (New York Review Books Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Southwest Airlines is different from other airlines. They don't charge a fee for baggage, they don't have assigned seating, and whoever is speaking over the intercom system likes to crack jokes. I boarded one of their flights last week, holding my carry-on in one hand and this book, 'The Gallery' by John Horne Burns, in the other. The pilot -- the pilot -- was greeting us, the passengers, as we stepped on board. Warmly, too. When the pilot -- the pilot -- saw my book, he grabbed it, and said, "H Southwest Airlines is different from other airlines. They don't charge a fee for baggage, they don't have assigned seating, and whoever is speaking over the intercom system likes to crack jokes. I boarded one of their flights last week, holding my carry-on in one hand and this book, 'The Gallery' by John Horne Burns, in the other. The pilot -- the pilot -- was greeting us, the passengers, as we stepped on board. Warmly, too. When the pilot -- the pilot -- saw my book, he grabbed it, and said, "Hey! What's this about?" What's this about? I spend a good chunk of my life writing about what any given book is about; and I bemoan the fact that I don't get asked that very often in real life. So here I was being asked what a book was about when all I really wanted was to get to my seat, so my new best friend -- the pilot -- could get to his seat; and he could fly and I could read. But he asked. So, I hurriedly said, "It's a World War II novel. An nyrb-classic. It's kinda weird." "This looks great!" he said, handing the book back. "I'll have to get this." Well, won't he be surprised! Now. No line behind me, and no place to go. Ask me again, Captain. "Hey! What's this about?" (view spoiler)[Yes, It's a World War II novel. But there are no battle scenes. It's a gay novel. But there are no sex scenes. It's a novel of disillusionment. And there's plenty to be found. It's Naples, 1944. The Nazis have just left, though they still loft some shells, switching roles with the Americans, now in town as liberators. There is an interesting structure to the novel; the chapters rotate as Promenade and Portrait. The Promenades are by our narrator, our thinly disguised author, I presume, who had a similar experience. The Portraits tell the same story from a farrago of characters treading the same path. My heart finally broke in Naples, our narrator says. But it's not love that broke his heart. My heart finally broke in Naples. Not over a girl or a thing, but over an idea. When I was little, they'd told me I should be proud to be an American. And I suppose I was, though I saw no reason I should applaud every time I saw the flag in a newsreel. ... in Naples I found out that America was a country just like any other, except that she had more material wealth and more advanced plumbing. (Which, by the way, I learned a certain hotel, just north of Naples, Florida, does not.) There were phonies, and cowards, and military pedants. Sounds like Catch-22, my pilot might have chirped in. Yes, I'd say, but 'The Gallery' came first: --I'm going rapidly mad, the lieutenant said. --If you think you are, it's a sure sign you're not. . . . Take the afternoon off and go to the movies. There is a scene, one of the Portraits, in the VD ward. One African-American soldier deplores the cure, and yet says, like a blues: Ah cain't do thout mah lovin. The white soldier, whose Portrait it is, imagines writing the truth back home: Dear Mother: You'll be surprised to know that I am writing you from the syphilis ward of the Twenty-third General Hospital . . . Another Portrait is called 'Father Donovan and Chaplain Bascom'. It is Father Donovan of whom it is said that: Never in his life had he raised his voice except to call for the murder of the umpire. Some sins are very understandable. This Portrait can stand on its own and is absolutely superb. (hide spoiler)] Oh, you know, the usual, Captain. A place in Naples, almost after the fighting. Not so much a clash of cultures as a rubbing against each other. Italian honor and hunger. American purchase, and a different hunger. All descending to the Galleria Umberto, The Gallery. Soldiers find solace, sometimes with each other. Sometimes in Louella's Bar, full of queens. Oh, okay, well thanks for my book back. You okay to fly?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    I might read everything the same way. Maybe I have some social anxiety lens like a toy view finder with stills all from the same movie. Click the handle and there's a GI soldier who can't talk to a girl. Click it again and a GI soldier is about to get scammed by a hot young Neapolitan lad (there is no other kind, I'm gathering). It's screwing bunnies and horny priests. I try to do something different. Last week I read a crime novel (The Friends of Eddie Coyle)! I rarely read those. You can't tru I might read everything the same way. Maybe I have some social anxiety lens like a toy view finder with stills all from the same movie. Click the handle and there's a GI soldier who can't talk to a girl. Click it again and a GI soldier is about to get scammed by a hot young Neapolitan lad (there is no other kind, I'm gathering). It's screwing bunnies and horny priests. I try to do something different. Last week I read a crime novel (The Friends of Eddie Coyle)! I rarely read those. You can't trust people. Okay, a WWII novel. Oh no. It's me. It has to be me! You would think it would be so easy in a war zone. If you can't know who your enemies are when people are shooting at you... I liked these short stories. They are meant to be like slices of life or little episodes in the lives of Americans in Italy and North Africa. Burns is good at the unease, the shift in what used to be a comfort and now isn't. When faces look happy without you and the romance of what's not really meant to be yours. It did get tiring that there was a tacked on moral at the end way too many times that Americans should think about different cultures. Burns, you did not need to do that. Sure, 1947 but still. I think that a good reader of any time would be capable of putting two and two together if they cared about what they were reading in the first place. Considering that there are a lot of stories in this book it got pretty old. Still, I liked The Gallery a whole lot better than The Moon and the Bonfire that I read last year about an expat returning home to Italy after the war. It was so pompous like a man who would sob over his raped daughter like she was dead and it was all about him and she was no good to HIM anymore. Despite the message! to possible American readers Burns was pretty good about not assuming too much about every person. I liked his tongue in cheek humor about how they took themselves seriously as if everyone around them noticed every thing they were doing when they probably didn't (just another American, right?). I liked the bittersweet edge to those impossible romantic dreams because of that humor. It's too bad that Burns probably did take him too seriously, if the biography is anything to go by. He allegedly drank himself to death after his writing career didn't take off. Too bad! I want to say: Burns you didn't put yourself out there THAT much. Didn't you read your own book? No one is going to pay that much attention to you! Dream a little and pull back to walk a little sadly on your way home. Maybe smile a little if you think they'll remember you. They probably won't. It's a sad sigh. Maybe he would walk on the bridge of sighs. Where in Italy is that? My geography sucks. Italy can put its boot up my ass if I'm wrong. Paul Fussell wrote the introduction for my NYRB copy. It took me way too long to remember where I know that name from. I used to stare at his name for hours and hours in my ex boyfriend's bedroom. Fussell wrote The Great War and Modern Memory (that giant book about pop culture in WWI). I can't tell you how many times I looked at that book and wanted to be somewhere else. Talk about noticing things when you are some place that you don't belong. Words cease to look like words. I could remember where every book goes. I never feel like I belong in someone else's home. See, that's the feeling that The Gallery needed more of... Mariel, you said you weren't trying to read social anxiety books. I lied! What else could this book possibly be than that? It's a war out there! There are other books but I wouldn't belong in them. Is anyone interested in this book? It's not popular by any means. I suppose I'm probably off putting with my "It's good but it's a lot". Burns is hornier than Barry White. He writes really good about kissing... Vicarious kissing. You know, not yours but lick your lips and it almost could be. You could move somewhere else.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gary the Bookworm

    John Horne Burns' The Gallery isn't always pretty, but neither is life. It takes us on a journey into the hearts and minds of an unlikely mix of American servicemen and vanquished Neapolitans after the Allied invasion of Southern Italy. In a series of nine portraits, we meet a few honorable Americans, some desperate Italians and a mountain of moral ambiguity. American greed complements Italian ingenuity in this caldron of destruction and despair which is Occupied Naples in the summer of 1944. No John Horne Burns' The Gallery isn't always pretty, but neither is life. It takes us on a journey into the hearts and minds of an unlikely mix of American servicemen and vanquished Neapolitans after the Allied invasion of Southern Italy. In a series of nine portraits, we meet a few honorable Americans, some desperate Italians and a mountain of moral ambiguity. American greed complements Italian ingenuity in this caldron of destruction and despair which is Occupied Naples in the summer of 1944. Not surprising, corrupt officers, effete clergy and hypocritical support staff are eviscerated, but a few of the Americans, the ones who can look beyond their prejudices and prerogatives, experience the rewards of perceiving life from a unique perspective. Each portrait reads like a short story and they are connected by a series of promenades, Burns' term for short, evocative descriptions of time and place. He is scathing in his depiction of widespread American callousness toward the starving Italians, but equally dismayed by the opportunistic perfidy of those Italians who benefitted from the corruption and incompetence of the occupiers; Naples, at the foot of Mt Vesuvius, is a powerful metaphor for the complexities of what Burns calls the worst war in history. He uses slang and dialect to humorously define his characters and the prose is as hard-boiled as anything written by Raymond Chandler. There are moments off unforgettable sweetness, like two scoops of gelato on a summer day, and of heartbreak as bitter as a swig of grappa, but in the end this is about human beings struggling to survive a series of catastrophic events beyond their control.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John

    If this suggestion seems to come out of left field, that's fitting, since my rediscovery of this mid-century American masterpiece swept me away from out of nowhere, recently. The novel appeared in 1947, widely hossana’d, though considerably ahead of its time in its jaundiced view of World War II — not the battlefield itself, but the terrible toll for those anyway near the shooting, the people we’d now call part of war’s “collateral damage.” Then, though, THE GALLERY fell from notice. Part of the If this suggestion seems to come out of left field, that's fitting, since my rediscovery of this mid-century American masterpiece swept me away from out of nowhere, recently. The novel appeared in 1947, widely hossana’d, though considerably ahead of its time in its jaundiced view of World War II — not the battlefield itself, but the terrible toll for those anyway near the shooting, the people we’d now call part of war’s “collateral damage.” Then, though, THE GALLERY fell from notice. Part of the problem was Burns himself: deep in the bottle & conflicted about his sexuality, he never brought off a worthy followup & died at 36. Still, his debut had insights too acute, sympathies too effulgent, to stay buried. Norman Mailer, among others, championed the novel, & so I rediscovered it, in paperback again. The setting, most of the way, is Naples, Italy, impoverished & blasted, just after the city switched from German hands to Allied in the fall of ’43. Nine “portraits” unfold, a series of chapter-length tragedies — galling, stark portrayals of human failing. Come to think, doesn’t Dante’s INFERNO spiral down through nine circles? In Burns, the “portraits” share the motif of prostitution, actual or figurative, in search of security & decent comfort. Each has a different perspective, yet each returns to the actual “Gallery” in downtown Naples, Galleria Umberto Uno, “a cross between a railroad station and a church.” Also a place of myth: “like that city in the middle of the city that rises every hundred years to dry itself in the sun.” In the barely-legal watering holes of the Galleria, nowhere do we encounter an idealized G.I. band of brothers. Rather, Burns prefers the company of outcasts. Many of its major actors are Neapolitans, derided as "rats" and worse by the swaggering Americans. The city has “a taste at once modern and medieval, all grown together in weariness and urgency and disgust.” Other chapters consider a Jew in the U.S. infantry, an African-American saddled with VD and trying out the experimental new drug penicillin, and — in what may be the most astounding, most moving portrait — the tumultuous crowd in the Galleria’s gay bar, one evening in summer '44. The party proves glum & unfulfilling, no more than a liquor-soaked peek out of the closet, yet still “even in her half-death Naples is alive and furious with herself and with life... very tender in her ruin.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    One of the pleasures in searching through the book reviews of the late 1940s is finding a book such as this: a war novel—one highly lauded in its own time, barely mentioned in succeeding years, and the subject of revival attempts—which still stands up, and in fact exceeds its reputation, after six decades of similar works. Though Shirley Hazard claims, in a blurb on the book cover, that “no one will ever forget this book” it is not one of the more well-known WWII novels, though it was one of the One of the pleasures in searching through the book reviews of the late 1940s is finding a book such as this: a war novel—one highly lauded in its own time, barely mentioned in succeeding years, and the subject of revival attempts—which still stands up, and in fact exceeds its reputation, after six decades of similar works. Though Shirley Hazard claims, in a blurb on the book cover, that “no one will ever forget this book” it is not one of the more well-known WWII novels, though it was one of the first in the wave of those published by servicemen. It is likely due to the author’s inability to launch a glorious career after its publication that it is today more obscure than some lesser WWII novels from the same era—like Gore Vidal’s taut but narrowly focused Williwaw—whose authors went on to literary celebrity. Vidal has been The Gallery’s chief champion since Burns’ death in 1953 at the age of 36. He has repeatedly called the book the finest novel of WWII, and wrote a profile of Burns in which the man comes across as a homosexual supremacist, an alcoholic, as well as “a gifted man who wrote a book in excess of his gift, making a masterpiece that will endure in a way he himself could not.” The book was reprinted in 2004 as part of the invaluable New York Review of Books Classics series, but I couldn’t easily find a copy of this edition. I ended up getting a hold of a first edition through inter-library loan. It is less a novel than a series of short stories set in allied-occupied Italy and linked by the Galleria, an arcade in Naples where US Servicemen interface with the locals through the black market and prostitution. I’m reminded of Alfred Hayes’ All Thy Conquests, for, as in that book, the US Military is shown as a lumbering group of horny, dishonest, naïve, bureaucratic, segregated, xenophobic boy-men occupying a nation (in both cases Italy) with a culture too intricate and ancient for them to understand. A nurse with a severe attitude toward those she’s come to help hides her valuables from her Italian maid: She knew full well that ten minutes after she’d locked her apartment door the signorina would be entertaining some fisherman from the Bay of Naples on the couch. They’d jabber at each in dialect, laugh at the Allies, hang Mr. Roosevelt’s picture upside down, and have one another til supper time. Or two clergymen with divergent views on the poor: (Father Donovan) thought of the tragedy of the children of Europe, born and passing their formative years under a rain of bombs, keeping alive by catering to the desires of soldiers. If these children grew into cold bitter reptiles, then the world would really have lost the war… —Next week, said Chaplain Bascom, if we’re still here, I mean to bring some soap and wash these children’s mouths out. —There are better uses for soap in Naples than that. Burns’ perceived that America would be the reigning military behemoth of the rest of the 20th century and that though it wished to be judged by its stated values and official benevolence toward the peoples whom it sought to liberate, it would be judged by the individuals it chose to represent itself. Individuals, like the officer who sets up his own petty mail censorship empire in the conquered land. I’m tempted to just keep reproducing passages from the book, for there are hundreds of examples of Burns’ excellent, ironic or sometimes odd prose. I’ll end with a quote that is a little of each: But often Hal thought that his only salvation would be to marry Jeanne. For she had that awareness and resignation of spirit that has sipped everything lovely in life, letting such values be her guide through some mortal experience that has purged her. The focus of her compassion was in her breasts, geometric as cones. Her nipples seemed to see.

  6. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    I have a tendency to ruthlessly divide art dealing with war into two categories which dovetails nicely with my experience in what people like when it comes to portrayals of war: you're either a "Full Metal Jacket" kind of war person, or a "Thin Red Line" kind of war person. That is, you like it brutal or you like it thoughtful. "The Gallery", probably one of the most expressive and darkly sublime portrayals of war I've ever encountered, falls into the second category. It's thoughtful, beautiful, I have a tendency to ruthlessly divide art dealing with war into two categories which dovetails nicely with my experience in what people like when it comes to portrayals of war: you're either a "Full Metal Jacket" kind of war person, or a "Thin Red Line" kind of war person. That is, you like it brutal or you like it thoughtful. "The Gallery", probably one of the most expressive and darkly sublime portrayals of war I've ever encountered, falls into the second category. It's thoughtful, beautiful, philosophical, and downright disturbing. For all that, there's not a single moment of war in the entire novel (except for a single scene). No, this novel is about everything that goes sour, that shatters one's illusions, that drives the narrator at one point to discover about himself that there is absolutely nothing to love about being an American in "liberated" Italy in 1944. It points up the corruption and often hilarious incompetency of officers, the greed of the common soldier, and the blindness with which one blunders through war's aftermath, rapine and insatiable. The novel's structure is wonderful. It's based around the bombed-out Galleria Umberto in Naples, center of the black market and lasciviousness in the occupied city, we are treated to nine portraits of people out of the Gallery: a recuperating soldier goes to the opera; a WAC nurse tries to "bolster morale" among officers; an upper-class officer is tormented by the ghost of war slain; a Catholic priest and a Baptist preacher get drunk and argue; a matronly Italian woman runs a gay bar for soldiers in the Gallery; an insane and racist Virginian officer runs the censorship office into the ground in occupied Italy; a young Italian woman looks for true love; a sergeant with syphilis recuperates in a medical clinic; and, finally, a Jewish officer searches for meaning at the feet of death. Outstanding.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    "I remember my mother's teaching me out of her wisdom that the possession of Things implies a responsibility for Their use, that They shouldn't be wasted, that Having Things should never dominate my living. When this happens Things become more important than People. Comfort then becomes the be-and-end-all of human life. And when other people threaten your material comfort, you have no recourse but to fight them. It makes no difference who attacks whom first. The result is the same, a killing and "I remember my mother's teaching me out of her wisdom that the possession of Things implies a responsibility for Their use, that They shouldn't be wasted, that Having Things should never dominate my living. When this happens Things become more important than People. Comfort then becomes the be-and-end-all of human life. And when other people threaten your material comfort, you have no recourse but to fight them. It makes no difference who attacks whom first. The result is the same, a killing and a chaos that the world of 1944 wasn't big enough to stand."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I will begin by saying that I didn't even finish a third of this book, so yes, I will own up to the criticism of not being capable of accurately reviewing this book without having completed it. That being said, I have never encountered a book that is so mind-numbingly dull that simultaneously asks so much of the reader at the same time. I, at no point in time, found even the slightest moment of interest in what was a series of disjointed, erratic, and haphazard ramblings. No, I'm not afraid or he I will begin by saying that I didn't even finish a third of this book, so yes, I will own up to the criticism of not being capable of accurately reviewing this book without having completed it. That being said, I have never encountered a book that is so mind-numbingly dull that simultaneously asks so much of the reader at the same time. I, at no point in time, found even the slightest moment of interest in what was a series of disjointed, erratic, and haphazard ramblings. No, I'm not afraid or hesitant of stream of consciousness style; my background is Modernism. I immersed myself in this. Certainly the disjointed, stream of consciousness style can be productive and novel...when it happened as a result of the FIRST great war. Joyce, Woolf, Remarqe, Barbusse, and Junger have already been there. The fragmented structure of the novel as a representation of the fragmented soldier/warrior has been done *successfully*. This novel did nothing but alienate the reader with it's painfully esoteric military jargon and bits of broken French. This possibly could have been forgiven if any of the characters were interesting, but what little I could excavate from the superficial interior monologues didn't seem like it was worth my time anymore. Again, I concede, I did not finish this book. I'm ok with that. There are plenty of other worthwhile reads out there.

  9. 5 out of 5

    T

    When the family tombstone finally has my name on it, I'm fairly certain this book will rank as my all-time favorite. And if I spend eternity thinking about The Gallery, I think I'll be content. The structure of this book, the vivid characters, and the historical significance of it make it truly a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Burns did us a solid to note for the future that among the millions of soldiers from World War Two: some of them were gay, some of them fell in love, and many of When the family tombstone finally has my name on it, I'm fairly certain this book will rank as my all-time favorite. And if I spend eternity thinking about The Gallery, I think I'll be content. The structure of this book, the vivid characters, and the historical significance of it make it truly a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. Burns did us a solid to note for the future that among the millions of soldiers from World War Two: some of them were gay, some of them fell in love, and many of them were lonely. But they were present, and their unique point of view is only one of many, which the uniquely creative narrative points out to us. But while the wealthy or famous, the Generals and statesmen would have countless books written about their point of view, that of the socially marginalized would be infinitely more rare; and therefore more precious. I appreciate that Burns is to be noted as a pioneer of gay literature. I am thankful that he had the balls to tell this story, and the imagination to do it so beautifully. If you haven't read The Gallery, do it now. But don't ask to borrow my copy, I will read it again and again. Phew! Is it obvious that I'm extremely passionate about this book?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I found it helpful to be reading the biography of John Horne Burns while I was reading The Gallery to get some insight into the writer's life while he was writing the book and after it had been written. The Gallery is very unsympathetic to the American soldiers of WW2. Many of the men (and some of the women) stationed overseas during this time are portrayed as arrogant, selfish, and downright ugly. This is not the greatest generation Tom Brokaw spoke of. There are some wonderful glimpses of the I found it helpful to be reading the biography of John Horne Burns while I was reading The Gallery to get some insight into the writer's life while he was writing the book and after it had been written. The Gallery is very unsympathetic to the American soldiers of WW2. Many of the men (and some of the women) stationed overseas during this time are portrayed as arrogant, selfish, and downright ugly. This is not the greatest generation Tom Brokaw spoke of. There are some wonderful glimpses of the claustrophobic life of a serviceman here and Burns does a great job of showing the despair many of these men felt. There's also a lot of homosexuality going on within these pages, but it's often covert. (This book was published in the 1940s.) Everyone talks about the chapter "Momma" that focuses on a gay nightclub, but both "The Leaf" and "Queen Penicillin" focus on male relationships that border on the homoerotic and, to me, are equally as interesting. It's a fascinating book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    A series of vignettes connected mostly by the crushing dread of the machinery of war. Brave to write a book about war that features almost no combat, but also perfect and often times just as violent. Took me a long time to finish because there was no hurry.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Julian Gray

    The Gallery is a book with no overall narrative - a series of vignettes really, all based on the author’s experiences in North Africa and, chiefly, Naples in the period of Allied occupation during World War Two. Burns was an American soldier, with aspirations to be a writer, realising this ambition in this book, his one masterpiece. The Gallery is the Galleria Umberto, the centre for much of the action that Burns describes. I focus here on the material set in Naples. The vignettes cover a variety The Gallery is a book with no overall narrative - a series of vignettes really, all based on the author’s experiences in North Africa and, chiefly, Naples in the period of Allied occupation during World War Two. Burns was an American soldier, with aspirations to be a writer, realising this ambition in this book, his one masterpiece. The Gallery is the Galleria Umberto, the centre for much of the action that Burns describes. I focus here on the material set in Naples. The vignettes cover a variety of characters, all of them in some way illustrating the tensions of the occupation. Burns calls them ‘portraits’ or ‘promenades’. The first portrait concerns a frazzled GI in an alcoholic stupor trying to pick up an Italian girl in a bar, his inner torment conveyed in visceral terms. A second concerns Louella, a haughty female Red Cross officer who patronises Italians while experiencing the loneliness typical of all who consider themselves to be a cut above their fellow human beings. A couple of army chaplains carry on a jealous debate about morality, end up in a strip joint by accident and then, bizarrely, are run down and killed in a street accident, as if by divine punishment. An air of cynicism and disappointment pervades these portrayals - cynicism about the possibility of finding goodness anywhere in this fallen city, and about the impossibility of finding, or keeping, love. One of the more unusual vignettes is set in a gay bar, with its characters portrayed in a fascinating detail that clearly derives from Burns’ own deep familiarity with this scene. Two British ‘queens’, both army sergeants, carry on an enjoyably camp banter; a female officer sits in a corner, reading, every evening, free from the unwanted attentions of men; soldiers and sailors from different nationalities come together, presided over by ‘Mamma’, who watches the passing crowds in a state of benevolent fascination. Then military police enter the place and aggressively break up the scene. Another portrait describes the punitive medical regime meted out to soldiers who acquire sexually transmitted disease, using the newly discovered penicillin. Then there is the story of Giulia and her brother, Neapolitans whose middle class dignity is eroded and finally destroyed by the necessities forced on the family by the acute lack of resources, including food, that require both of them to engage in demeaning behaviour, theft, near prostitution, in serving the desires of various Americans. Much of the book is descriptive of characters, their situations and their dilemmas, but every now and again Burns reflects on the meaning of what he sees. His analysis of the occupation, of the delusional nature of American ideals, of their casual oppression and stigmatisation of Italians, arising from thoughtlessness and ignorance of the true nature of the culture in which they temporarily occupy, does not, in fact, differ a great deal from that of Curzio Malaparte, whose book The Skin I have also reviewed. But Burns expresses himself, and his criticisms of the occupation, so much more gently than Malaparte, and is the more believable for it. Read this book in conjunction with Malaparte’s and alongside Norman Lewis’s wonderful Naples ’44 and you will have a thoroughly rounded picture of this fascinating period in the history of Naples.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    Interesting. Burns worked in intelligence during WWII, and his job appears largely to have been trying unsuccessfully to keep his fellow soldiers from selling their equipment and rations to the starving Italian population which surrounded them. In this curiously structured novel – consisting mostly of sketches of characters that might have been found in Naples during the US occupation, smugglers, down on their luck GIs, syphilis victims, arrogant officers, club owners, etc. – Burns presents a vi Interesting. Burns worked in intelligence during WWII, and his job appears largely to have been trying unsuccessfully to keep his fellow soldiers from selling their equipment and rations to the starving Italian population which surrounded them. In this curiously structured novel – consisting mostly of sketches of characters that might have been found in Naples during the US occupation, smugglers, down on their luck GIs, syphilis victims, arrogant officers, club owners, etc. – Burns presents a vision of the war which seems utterly unfamiliar, miserable and resolutely unheroic, the mindless destruction of an ancient civilization by the brute force of modernity, and the human wreckage left behind. A closeted homosexual, Burns also offers a distinct view into the gay subculture which (flourished? Existed?) around the army at that time. His experience provides some really fascinating insights, and he’s a skilled writer, but he was also like 25 when he wrote this, and it reads like it. He tries to do to much, and actually one gets the sense that this would have been more effective if it had eschewed the peculiar format for a straighter narrative. It’s not at all bad, but it’s also pretty miserable and quite difficult, and so I can only offer a sort of mixed-recommendation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matt Ross

    I first encountered John Horne Burns as a character in Eugenio Corti's novel The Red Horse. I decided to read The Gallery in order to better understand this character in Corti's novel and to better understand the situation in life of WW2 Italy. Although The Gallery is a dramatically different novel than The Red Horse, it definitely did not disappoint. In many ways The Gallery is more like a collection of short stories than it is a novel. Each chapter in the book is alternatively arranged as "Port I first encountered John Horne Burns as a character in Eugenio Corti's novel The Red Horse. I decided to read The Gallery in order to better understand this character in Corti's novel and to better understand the situation in life of WW2 Italy. Although The Gallery is a dramatically different novel than The Red Horse, it definitely did not disappoint. In many ways The Gallery is more like a collection of short stories than it is a novel. Each chapter in the book is alternatively arranged as "Portrait" and a short "Promenade." This arrangement makes the reader feel as if he is strolling through an art museum to examine an exhibit that is tied together by theme, but each individual work of art is unique. The promenades share a common narrative voice of a soldier who traveling from Northern Africa to Naples. The war has made the soldier disillusioned with the ideal of the American dream. Instead he comes to view America to be the same as any other country–a country full of people with both dignity and perversity. The portraits in the novel are tied together by setting rather than characters. In each of the portraits the characters encounter the Galleria Umberto, the cross-shaped cultural center of Naples. "The Gallaria was jammed with Allied soldiers and sailors, women sweeping, bars, art shops, small booths selling jewelry, columns, tattered flags and standards, lights suspended from the vaulted room as though this were some vast basketball court." Its vaulted glass ceiling had been shattered by the recent bombing of Naples. The Gallaria serves as a microcosm of the world in which soldiers and citizens together wrestle with the complexities of life. Each of the portraits encourages the American reader to see their shortcomings and to view those from different linguistic and cultural heritages with dignity. The criticisms of American life in the 1940s are excessively and brutally repeated in each promenade and portrait. This repetition of criticism can be difficult to stomach at times. However, the violence to the ego created by this repetition may be necessary to wake the American "automaton" from his pragmatic slumber so that he may develop a deeper appreciation for art, culture, relationships, and God. After reading this novel, it is difficult not to see otherness with new eyes-to search for dignity in the foreign and to find the beauty in the impractical. Despite these calls to dignity and beauty, The Gallery also serves as a constant reminder that dignity and beauty are situated in a brutal world in which death and destruction are constant companions and the beautiful things are frequently trampled upon in the filthy streets. The novel concludes with this description of the Gallaria Umberto. "The Americans came there to get drunk or to pick up something or to wrestle with the riddle. Everyone was aware of this riddle. It was the riddle of war, of human dignity, of love, of life itself. Some came closer than others to solving it. But all the people in the Galleria were human beings in the middle of a war. They struck attitudes. Some loved. Some tried to love." The Gallery invites the reader to wrestle with this same riddle. There seems to be an admission that the riddle is ultimately unsolvable, but the pursuit of solution and resolution is nonetheless the most important quest of our shared humanity.

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    A very impressive novel by a now-unknown author. This was one of the first US novels after WWII and depicts, in vignettes separated by "Promenades", nine persons who end up in Naples in August 1944. Two things are especially fascinating: the very bleak portrayal of the "Greatest Generation," and the (to a modern reader) blatant gay themes throughout. The NYRB edition contains two introductions which provides helpful background, and notes the fact that no reviewer when the book came out (1947) co A very impressive novel by a now-unknown author. This was one of the first US novels after WWII and depicts, in vignettes separated by "Promenades", nine persons who end up in Naples in August 1944. Two things are especially fascinating: the very bleak portrayal of the "Greatest Generation," and the (to a modern reader) blatant gay themes throughout. The NYRB edition contains two introductions which provides helpful background, and notes the fact that no reviewer when the book came out (1947) commented that one chapter takes place in what obviously is a gay bar. This book is also one of the only WWII novels I have read that deals almost exclusively behind the front lines. One notable section is "Queen Penicillin" which deals with a stay in a VD ward that I have never seen described. I was seriously considering a 5 star review--the vignettes are that good, but I felt the "Promenades" which connected the stories were variable. I found myself rushing through these sections to get to the vignettes. I would highly recommend this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joyce Zhu

    it is obvious after reading this book that burns was a man who saw and loved the beauty in other men; some of his descriptions of male beauty i would ascribe to his being male.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve Anderson

    The Gallery was a successful first novel when it came out in 1947 and went unknown until recently when it was re-released. Author John Horne Burns, by most accounts troubled and alcoholic, hit his peak with this work and died relatively young. It's been touted as a WWII novel, but this is not a novel. The narrative doesn't have an overriding plot, and there's only one brief combat scene, which transpires more like a murder. The book is rather a series of character vignettes, of various soldiers The Gallery was a successful first novel when it came out in 1947 and went unknown until recently when it was re-released. Author John Horne Burns, by most accounts troubled and alcoholic, hit his peak with this work and died relatively young. It's been touted as a WWII novel, but this is not a novel. The narrative doesn't have an overriding plot, and there's only one brief combat scene, which transpires more like a murder. The book is rather a series of character vignettes, of various soldiers and locals behind the lines in North Africa and near Naples, Italy. The author served there and knew his story. The book gives great insight into the true mindset of the WWII era. You'll find no Greatest Generation-style acounts here. It's surprisingly dark. Most had little idea what they were fighting or suffering for. It delves deep in ways a combat novel could never do, except possibly in homefront scenes. The mindsets of the relatively coddled rear-line officer, the desperate and nearly starving local civilians, and the battle-scarred and doomed Joes on leave from the front line are vastly different if not in direct conflict. They're all there, men and women, officers and noncoms and grunts, the locals down and out or suddenly in clover, straight or gay, drunk and depressed, each trying to wrap their minds around the sick repercussions of World War and apply morals that have run dry. The author put all he had into this work. It's got great language and writing, and captures a sad and tragic time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    James Henderson

    This is truly a neglected classic from the years just after World War II. More a series of character sketches than a novel it is nonetheless a brilliant evocation of soldiers in Italy, and Naples in particular, during the war. The section called "Momma" has rightly been noted as an outstanding depiction of gay men in war, but the rest of the novel does not fall far from the standard set in this section. Burns uses a realistic style to expose the foibles of men at war. For example, he shows the b This is truly a neglected classic from the years just after World War II. More a series of character sketches than a novel it is nonetheless a brilliant evocation of soldiers in Italy, and Naples in particular, during the war. The section called "Momma" has rightly been noted as an outstanding depiction of gay men in war, but the rest of the novel does not fall far from the standard set in this section. Burns uses a realistic style to expose the foibles of men at war. For example, he shows the buffoonery and foolishness, if not outright criminal behavior, of many officers. This is almost a decade before the more famous shot taken by Joseph Heller in his Catch-22. Given the inventive structure and vivifying prose I consider this novel deserves a place of honor among the best of post-war American literature.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Liz Goodwin

    The Gallery turned out to be a masterpiece of WWII literature I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know I needed. Burns alternates brief recollections of his travels in the military bureaucracy trailing the American forces, with longer stories about a generation certainly no greater than any other. Set against the morally murky backdrops of Allied-occupied Casablanca, Algiers and finally Naples - in the mess halls, censorship mills, a gay bar and a VD clinic - these are portraits of Americans (and a fe The Gallery turned out to be a masterpiece of WWII literature I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know I needed. Burns alternates brief recollections of his travels in the military bureaucracy trailing the American forces, with longer stories about a generation certainly no greater than any other. Set against the morally murky backdrops of Allied-occupied Casablanca, Algiers and finally Naples - in the mess halls, censorship mills, a gay bar and a VD clinic - these are portraits of Americans (and a few Italians), some better, some worse, but all whose selves are boiled down to their essence by war, except when they evaporate completely. Burns’ unsparing vision pierces hypocrisies, but he never misses moments of harmony. And with the sequencing of his unconnected vignettes, he artfully traces an arc bending toward, if not Justice, at least the possibility of Justice.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    This powerful, long-neglected novel of American soldiers in Naples during World War II may finally get some well-deserved attention with the recent publication of David Margolick's biography of its author ("Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns"). The novel was published in 1947 to critical acclaim but largely forgotten when Burns died, probably of alcoholism, a few years later. I read it too many years ago to remember the details but it made a lasting impression not least b This powerful, long-neglected novel of American soldiers in Naples during World War II may finally get some well-deserved attention with the recent publication of David Margolick's biography of its author ("Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns"). The novel was published in 1947 to critical acclaim but largely forgotten when Burns died, probably of alcoholism, a few years later. I read it too many years ago to remember the details but it made a lasting impression not least because the depiction of homosexuality in the military was so startling at the time. It's on my "to reread" list, assuming my 1960 Bantam mass market paperback doesn't fall apart when I open it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    What a truly marvelous book, complex and different and challenging and delightful. A collection of portraits of people and places in 1944, mostly in Naples, Italy. "Momma", about a gay bar (which may or may not have ever existed) is an amazing story for its time, and "Queen Penicillen", about a soldiers 8 day stay in a VD clinic is incredible. But having read Dreadful, a biography of John Horne Burns, it makes me so sad to see the lost potential for this author. But if you're reading this review What a truly marvelous book, complex and different and challenging and delightful. A collection of portraits of people and places in 1944, mostly in Naples, Italy. "Momma", about a gay bar (which may or may not have ever existed) is an amazing story for its time, and "Queen Penicillen", about a soldiers 8 day stay in a VD clinic is incredible. But having read Dreadful, a biography of John Horne Burns, it makes me so sad to see the lost potential for this author. But if you're reading this review, you should read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    "Dear Mother, you'll be surprised to know that I'm writing to you from the syphilis ward..." so many zingers in this book that make me laugh, gasp, and reel. The reason it got 5 stars from me is the excellent writing. The subject matter is hard to take because it shows people suffering. One of the best books about world war two, it is short on heroism and adoring liberated crowds and long on gritty realism. "Dear Mother, you'll be surprised to know that I'm writing to you from the syphilis ward..." so many zingers in this book that make me laugh, gasp, and reel. The reason it got 5 stars from me is the excellent writing. The subject matter is hard to take because it shows people suffering. One of the best books about world war two, it is short on heroism and adoring liberated crowds and long on gritty realism.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    The gallery of the title is the Galleria Umberto in Naples during the Allied occupation. The title also refers to the gallery of “portraits,” of habitues of the galleria, that makes up the novel. Each portrait is as complete and incisive as a novella. The portraits alternate with “promenades” wherein a narrator, apparently the author, recounts his memories of Casablanca and Naples during the war. Collectively it all works, memorably.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The most moving "war book" I've ever read, something it achieves by just about never showing any actual combat. The structure of the whole collection is compelling and the writing is brilliant on a sentence level, too. Burns is amazing for the way he shows how everyone is devastatingly affected by war--civilians, women, children--everyone. The most moving "war book" I've ever read, something it achieves by just about never showing any actual combat. The structure of the whole collection is compelling and the writing is brilliant on a sentence level, too. Burns is amazing for the way he shows how everyone is devastatingly affected by war--civilians, women, children--everyone.

  25. 4 out of 5

    G.

    WWII has been so mythologized as the "Greatest Generation." This gallery of fictional portraits written just after the war is a great antidote from that. It shows people and places in all their stinking and glorious humanity. It also seems to war ran on booze and cigarettes generally. Also has interesting early portrait of gay life being just part of the continuum of humanity. WWII has been so mythologized as the "Greatest Generation." This gallery of fictional portraits written just after the war is a great antidote from that. It shows people and places in all their stinking and glorious humanity. It also seems to war ran on booze and cigarettes generally. Also has interesting early portrait of gay life being just part of the continuum of humanity.

  26. 5 out of 5

    eryk

    Norman Mailer considers this one of the best war novels. Gore Vidal also praises the book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Frederick

    I read this on a Kindle. I am convinced I pay attention better when I'm reading a bound book, but this is neither here nor there. I will only say I'd have rather had a book in my hand, with pages I could have turned. You don't get a sense of when a book will end when you're reading it on an e-reader. Even if the page number is at the bottom of the screen, that is not a good approximation of seeing your progress as you read a book made of paper. In any case, THE GALLERY, John Horne Burns's 1947 b I read this on a Kindle. I am convinced I pay attention better when I'm reading a bound book, but this is neither here nor there. I will only say I'd have rather had a book in my hand, with pages I could have turned. You don't get a sense of when a book will end when you're reading it on an e-reader. Even if the page number is at the bottom of the screen, that is not a good approximation of seeing your progress as you read a book made of paper. In any case, THE GALLERY, John Horne Burns's 1947 bestseller about American soldiers in a city they'd liberated three years before, is powerful. Paper or Kindle, it is worth reading. It is not really a novel, but I have to say it is something more than a themed volume of stories. Its chapters about individuals are connected by general thoughts expressed by an anonymous American soldier. Most of the chapters about individuals are from the point of view of any given American soldier, but this is not always the case. One chapter is from the point of view of a middle-aged woman from Naples who survives by running a gay bar. Another is from the point of view of a young woman who winds up working behind a counter at a US army dance club. These stories are very straightforward while, at the same time, surprising. Taking place mostly in August, 1944, in the ruined yet surviving social center of Naples, Italy, the overarching tone is ironic sorrow. This was the turning point of the war in Europe. Paris was liberated at the same time as the action in THE GALLERY, and parts of Italy had thrown off the German yoke - a serious Italian Resistance had weakened the Nazis in Naples at the end of September, 1943, and the Allied occupation began on October 1st. But THE GALLERY does not go into this history. There is no need. It is clear that Naples is officially occupied by the Allies when the book takes place and the town is a ruin after the bombings it has suffered under the opposing forces. THE GALLERY describes US soldiers at what passes for leisure. They are stationed in a ravaged city. But of great importance is the fact that war itself has not yet ended in August, 1944. The soldiers await other battles. Italy is not out of the war yet. Naples is under the Allies, but regions to the North are not. The stories in THE GALLERY need to be read in order. The meditative, connecting passages are designed to guide the reader toward the book's conclusion. Phrases from earlier stories are repeated to emotional effect in later stories. The one phrase which occurs throughout, and quite often is "in August, 1944." Highly realistic novels about World War Two came out shortly after the war. Norman Mailer's THE NAKED AND THE DEAD came out in 1948; James Jones's FROM HERE TO ETERNITY in 1951. Mailer is famous for gritty detail. Jones is especially good at acute observation. But John Horne Burns, largely forgotten now, was briefly lionized before either Mailer or Jones. Not a combat soldier himself (unlike the other two authors, who had the whole hand-to-hand combat experience) he nevertheless managed to convey the abject horror of war. His soldiers see the conditions the citizens of Naples live in. The soldiers are not free of misery either. A chapter about a syphilis ward is only lightened by the fact that these are among the first people on earth to be treated with penicillin. It is significant that a crucial chapter takes place OUTSIDE of Naples. The outer world impinges. One amazing thing about THE GALLERY is its frankness about gay soldiers. While there is a chapter set in a gay bar, there are gay characters throughout the book. Burns is more realistic about this than almost any writer of his time. The fact that he was gay himself does not explain his realistic attitude, though. Many gay writers of his generation wrote negatively about gay life. This is not to say that Burns was trying to cause the reader to be compassionate toward gay people. He ASSUMES the reader is compassionate toward everybody. This makes him different from almost any writer I've ever read. There was one chapter I did not understand. It is about a petty tyrant in charge of censoring letters. I wasn't certain what Burns wanted me to make of him. Parts of this chapter were brilliant, but I didn't get it. I am not of the opinion that Burns was deep. But THE GALLERY is honest. That is a virtue.

  28. 4 out of 5

    William Kirkland

    It is very rare to find a war story, especially one written by a participant, soldier, sailor, flyer, nurse, doctor, which sees the refugees, the prisoners of war, the civilians “employed” by the occupying armies. John Horne Burns in his 1947 The Gallery, is not only interested in these civilians, he, and some of his characters, genuinely like them. There is a dignity and love in the “enemy” they find missing from Americans, whether back home or in the occupying forces. “Sometimes, said Michael P It is very rare to find a war story, especially one written by a participant, soldier, sailor, flyer, nurse, doctor, which sees the refugees, the prisoners of war, the civilians “employed” by the occupying armies. John Horne Burns in his 1947 The Gallery, is not only interested in these civilians, he, and some of his characters, genuinely like them. There is a dignity and love in the “enemy” they find missing from Americans, whether back home or in the occupying forces. “Sometimes, said Michael Patrick, wiping his mouth with an olive drab handkerchief, I like you Eyeties better than I do my own. There’s something … good … and gentle in most of you.” One wee problem is that although The Gallery is fiction, created from Burns’ own life at war to be sure, as both a private and later as a second lieutenant, it is not really a novel. It is, like the title and the location of the novel, a gallery. The Galleria Umberto in Naples Italy, August, 1944, which is, he tells us “… a cross between a railroad station and a church.” Although half the book takes place in North Africa –Oran and Algeria– the Galleria stands as an apt metaphor. In the several locations chapters alternate between nine Portraits and eight Promenades connected by time, location and narrator, but otherwise unlinked by plot or person. The Portraits are third person omniscient short fiction: three of women, two of whom are Italian, and six of US military men, two enlisted, three junior officers and one of two mid-rank chaplains, Protestant and Catholic. The Promenades, five in North Africa and three in Naples are shorter than the Portraits, 8-10 pages long, and are told by a first person, I, John, narrator. Each Promenade begins with “I remember.” ~I remember the smell of the air in Casablanca … the look of the old Aryab vendor … what my mother had taught me … that my heart broke in Naples.~ For Full Review see http://www.allinoneboat.org/the-galle...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Henry Sturcke

    This book is said to be a novel, but could with nearly as much justification be considered a collection of short stories. Unity of location and time argue for treating it as one work, however. The conceit at the heart of the book is the dual meaning of the word “gallery.” Much of the plot unrolls in the Galleria Umberto, an arcade where one can find, legally or illegally, nearly everything in this otherwise destitute city. But Burns uses the alternate meaning of the term to explore what is on dis This book is said to be a novel, but could with nearly as much justification be considered a collection of short stories. Unity of location and time argue for treating it as one work, however. The conceit at the heart of the book is the dual meaning of the word “gallery.” Much of the plot unrolls in the Galleria Umberto, an arcade where one can find, legally or illegally, nearly everything in this otherwise destitute city. But Burns uses the alternate meaning of the term to explore what is on display here. He alternates nine portraits, tales complete in themselves with no overlapping characters, and eight promenades. Unlike the portraits, which all take place in Naples in August 1944, the promenades, which could with equal accuracy have been called landscapes, follow the progression of the Allies from Casablanca to Naples. Unlike the portraits, there is a recurring character, the “I” of the narrator. Each begins “I remember.” There are also some recurring secondary characters, a mess sergeant, a corporal, and a pfc. Their dialogue reflects varying attitudes of the occupiers, from vulturous to well-meaning but ineffectual. There is a third unity in the book, the relentless theme that war defiles. Is this an effect that war has on otherwise decent people, or does it rip off a thin veneer of civilization to reveal the ugly, underlying truth? The book doesn’t land clearly on either side of the question. The evidence of some stories would seem to point the book in the latter direction, but some others, such as the final portrait, Moe, portray how the war experience deepened the humanity of some. Another theme emerges in the last few chapters: admiration for the Neapolitans, many of whom seemed, compared to the invaders, better able to maintain a semblance of dignity amidst the general rubble and corruption. Each of the portraits is memorable. The book’s tone falters in the last two promenades, when the narrator arrives in Naples. Description and incident recede, editorial judgment intrudes. Overall, though, I found the book compelling.

  30. 5 out of 5

    ALEARDO ZANGHELLINI

    I decided to read this after finishing Christopher Castellani's Leading Men, a fictionalised account of the relationship between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo: J H Burns features in Castellani's book's cast of characters. I am very glad I did. To say that the book is an ode to Naples and Neapolitans against the backdrop of WWII is oversimplifying, if only because the war is less than a backdrop than the force that shapes both the Naples of which the author writes, and the narrator's love fo I decided to read this after finishing Christopher Castellani's Leading Men, a fictionalised account of the relationship between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo: J H Burns features in Castellani's book's cast of characters. I am very glad I did. To say that the book is an ode to Naples and Neapolitans against the backdrop of WWII is oversimplifying, if only because the war is less than a backdrop than the force that shapes both the Naples of which the author writes, and the narrator's love for the city and its inhabitants. Besides, the book is also other things: an indictment of (as the author saw them) American smugness, philistinism, and rapacity; and, of course, of the folly of war itself. The structure is made up of 'portraits' of characters that we encounter only once: their lives do not intersect, despite the fact that they are all based in Naples in 1944, so each portrait-chapter could be a self-standing short story. These 'portraits' alternate with 'promenades' in which the narrator reports his wartime memories of North Africa and Naples. It's a daring concept for a novel, but the unity of the book does not suffer for it -- in fact, one thing I particularly admired is how well and effortlessly it all hangs together. The book is not perfect: occasionally the tone is a little didactic or melodramatic, or the characterisation verges on caricature. But it is also a profound, lyrical, moving, and brutally honest work, with plenty of overt or oblique references to same-sex desire. The anecdote at pp 322-24 (Hogart Press edition, 1988) is particularly gorgeous.

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