Natalia Ginsburg: All Our Yesterdays

The following is an excerpt from Natalia Ginsburg's All Our Yesterdays.

Natalia Ginsburg (14 July 1916 - 7 October 1991)
Signora Maria related what she had heard in the shops and from the music master she still met sometimes on the road by the river. The Germans were sprinkling a kind of powder that made people stupid. The Allies were breathing in this powder and were fighting half asleep. And the French generals were accepting gold coins from the Germans to make wrong moves. And the Germans were dressing up as French peasants and fishermen and were cutting the telegraph wires and poisoning the rivers.And the roads of France were full of refugees, women running away with their children, and the children got lost and the Germans caught them and sent them off to their laboratories, where they used them for scientific  experiments like frogs or rabbits. Emanuele put his hands over his ears and besought them for goodness' sake to make her stop talking, his nerves were all to pieces and he couldn't control himself, one day perhaps he would strangle Signora Maria. Emanuele disliked the Belgians, the French, the English, the Russians who had allied themselves with the Germans, he limped up and down the room and kicked at the furniture. He disliked Signora Maria who was spreading panic. In his own home he also had Franz spreading panic. He wandered about like a ghost and said that the Germans by advancing in France would overflow into Italy. Emanuele told him he was behaving as though the Germans were already in Italy; but perhaps Mussolini was not sticking by the Germans. Franz said he was not afraid of Mussolini, he was only afraid of the Germans, if he found himself face to face with German soldiers he would go mad. At night he came to Emanuele's room and sat on his bed, and made him repeat that the Maginot Line was impenetrable. But the Germans went on penetrating it. One night he woke Emanuele to tell him that not only was his mother Jewish but his father too, he was completely Jewish and it was well known what the Germans were doing to the Jews, if the Germans came down into Italy the only thing for him to do would be to put a bullet through his head. So many times he had been on the point of going to America but he liked Italy too much, in Italy he felt he was safe even though for some time now there had been laws against the Jews, all you did was to pay a little and the police left you alone. But now he felt the Germans altogether too near, there they were in France behind the mountains and all they had to do was cross the mountains to get to where he was.
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