Books: Bitter Ashes

THE SKY IS RED (397 pp.)—Giuseppe Berto—New Directions ($3.50).

At the end of the battle of El Alamein, an Italian army officer named Giuseppe Berto was captured. He spent three years in a Texas prison camp. When he returned to Italy at the war's end, he found a publisher willing to take a chance on the rough first novel he had written behind the wire. Unexpectedly it became a bestseller in a country where few can afford to buy books.

It is not hard to see why. The Sky Is Red is a perfect reflection of the numbness beyond despair felt by a...

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