“The Gorge,” by Umberto Eco

My translation of Eco’s story from the Feb. 27, 2005 issue of the New Yorker


“The Gorge” is a gripping narrative of a clash in Fascist-era Italy between some small-town partisans, including a “courageous coward” named Gragnola, and the occupying Nazis. The narrator, a bookish boy named Yambo, is a stand-in of sorts for Eco himself.


Life changed when I was eleven years old, with my evacuation, in 1943, to Solara. In the city, I had been a melancholy boy who played with his schoolmates for a few hours a day. The rest of the time, I was curled up with a book. In Solara, where I could walk to the town school by myself and romp through the fields and vineyards, I was free, and uncharted territory opened up before me. And I had many friends to roam with.

When the Allies were bombing the city, we could see the distant flashes from our windows in Solara, hear the rumbling of something like thunder. The war had made us fatalists, a bombing was like a storm. We kids kept playing calmly through Tuesday evening, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. But were we really calm? Were we not beginning to be marked by anxiety, by the stunned and relieved melancholy that grips anyone who passes alive through a field strewn with corpses?

Read the whole story here