The book comes as a gift from G long while ago and I must admit that the book is not an easy reading. It is not easy for me to read Oriana Fallaci as the book is written in Italian and it carries its own complication which I am going to explain further in the next paragraphs. One of many highlights should be noted: the books itself is said as a real life based novel by Fallaci narrating the experiences of some fictional soldiers during their peace keeping mission in Beirut back in 1983.
Fallaci’s Inciallah keeps switching from one character to another. This is my first obstacle. I sometimes would have to go back and fourth to keep in line because I need to follow the stories about those Italian soldiers in Beirut, the flashbacks of their lives before coming to the city, the Lebanese Christian and Shi’ite militants, a group of French nuns, and their Lebanese darlings.
My protagonist of the story will be Angelo, a confused Italian soldier who abandons his studies in mathematics because he wants to see the war firsthand; therefore, he enrolls himself to the Italian army. I have google a little bit of Fallaci’s background before reading this book and this ideas about mathematician-sweetheart may be inspired from his Greek lover, Alexandros Panagoulis, who attempted to prove mathematical theorems in his own blood whilst in jail. Therefore, Fallaci writes in one part through her character:
“Quanto gli mancava la matematica, quanto la rimpiangeva! Massaggia le meningi come un allenatore massaggia i muscoli di un atleta, la matematica. Le irrora di pensiero puro, le lava dei sentimenti che corrompono l’intelligenza, le porta in serre dove crescono fiori stupendi. I fiori di un’astrazione composta di concretezza, d’una fantasia composta di realtà”
Angelo later finds out that the war is not as he expected. It leaves him with the great shock particularly when it is related to the barbarity, cruelty and irrationality of the civil war engulfing Beirut.
“La guerra non serve a nulla, diceva, non risolve nulla. Appena una guerra è finita ti accorgi che i motivi per cui era scoppiata non sono scomparsi, o che se ne sono aggiunti di nuovi in seguito ai quali ne scoppierà un’altra dove gli ex nemici saranno gli amici e gli ex amici i nemici”
His path later crossed with a path of a beautiful Christian Lebane woman named Ninette. They cannot communicate to each other as Ninette pretends not to speak French and Angelo does not know the reasons why. However, the sparks of attraction start flaming between them. The cupid shoots his arrows on them and they begin their relationship. Little that Angelo knows, he is later tormented by the fact that their relationship is primarily physical as he starts growing reliance on Ninette.
One day, our darling Angelo is expecting a visit from his Ninette while the Hizbollah bombs the American marine barracks as well as the French paratroopers barracks. Angelo is ordered to photograph the rescue efforts to the Italian soldiers but he is too horrified to fulfil the task. On the way back, he purchases an anchor shaped cross with the Virgin Marry inscribed on it to apologise for missing their encounter and sweet rendez-vous.
Fallaci’s subplots are developed between a group of Italian soldiers in a Catholic monastery and the French nuns. The negotiations between Italian officers and Shi’ite militia leaders follow the plot later.
I am also amazed with the character of Angelo’s friend Gino, a gentle poet. He is so sweet. He also writes this poem;
” E così vivo in me, per me, giorno per giorno
ogni giorno aspettando un altro giorno : scontento disperato sempre solo
ritto sul baratro aperto da un giardino
che amavo e nel quale camminavo
per bere a una fontana sigillata.
Vorrei cascarci dentro con la sete.
Ma quando penso a quello che non ho,
che potrei avere, che mi manca tanto,
sfido quel baratro e torno a camminare
per scrivere lo stesso la mia fiaba
senza futuro, forse, e tuttavia
colma di sogni e di fontane come
se avessi un bellissimo domani.”
Such a sweet poem. Anyhow, Gino is severely wounded by Khalid Passepartout, a vicious child soldier in the service of the Shi’ite militia “the Sons of God.” Gino later loses his fingers and he can no longer write poetry. Angelo then pledge and vows revenge; therefore, during his rendez-vous with Ninette, he leaves early to visit Gino in the hospital and tells her that he cannot spend Christmas with her due to Gino’s condition. I love when Angelo admits to Ninette that his friendship with Gino is more important than the love to him. His words hurt Ninette and she expresses her disappointment and she pours the pain in her heart in a letter written in perfect French that she can no longer see him. Angleo later also realises how much he loves Ninette and goes searching for her throughout the city. Ah Ninette…Ninette…it is not so easy to deal with a man, huh? I completely understand your feeling. Some men can be so idiot.
“Cara, per raccontare gli uomini, questi bizzarri animali che fanno ridere e piangere insieme, bastano due sentimenti che in fondo sono due ragionamenti: la pietà e l’ironia. In parole diverse, basta avere il sorriso sulle labbra e le lacrime agli occhi.”
The story later goes on the French paratroopers vacating a tower in the centre of Beirut. This causes fighting to break out between Amal, a Shi’ite militia and the Christian government forces. In the turmoil, Khalid sees Ninette in the street after she goes to the Italian post to see if Angelo is right and gives her his Kalashnikov because he wants to run away. Some incidents later happen following this, and our Ninette is buried in a mass grave. Up to this scene, as a reader, I will have to take my book down, wipe the tears that is about going out as I roll my eyeballs out and sighing. I cannot understand why such sweet and great love stories will likely have to end with death. I am just thinking whether in order to have a great love story, I have to die first or he will have to have his plane crashed?
Anyhow, Angelo later is shattered after his officer finds out and tells him the news. Angelo again pledge and vows a revenge, and whilst on guard duty he encounters Khalid Passepartout who is wearing Gino’s marksmen helmet. Angelo later forgives him for killing his friend as he is only a child. However, rather than running away, Khalid later tries to sell Angelo an anchor shaped cross with the Virgin Mary which Angelo later recognises as the gift he once gives to his beloved Ninette. In his fit of rage, Angelo realises that Khalid kills his friend and his lover and end up killing him.
Rashid, a paedophile finds out that an Italian killed his lover, Khaled and wants a vengeance. He plans a suicide bombing against the Italian’s boats as they plan to leave. Meanwhile, the Italian commanders struggle to strike a deal with the militia to avoid catastrophe. In this part, Angelo later discovers by a chance in a magazine that his Ninette is basically an elegant Lebanese woman named Natalia Narakat whom happened to marry an assassinated political leader. This politician resembles Angelo which attracts her to him at the first hand. In the interview as stated in that magazine, she states that the meaning of life is contained in the word “Inciallah” or “In sha Allah” — which means “as God wills” — there is no power nor logic and not even a way to predict the future. It is just a series of events that are all interlocking but completely incomprehensible when everything is viewed beyong human eyes. Angelo is deeply moved and abandons his quest to formulate life in mathematical terms. Up to this point, Fallaci again expresses her admiration to her Greek lover through the character of Angelo.
What is sad from the story is the part when the French nuns who quartered the Italian troops being murdered and raped by the militiamen while they desecrate their church. Fallaci’s novel then ends with the Italians departing after striking a deal with a Shi’ite cleric for their safety in exchange for supplies. Those Shi’ite also promise to give the alcohol and pork to Christian Lebanese, but instead they destroy it. In the final part, our darling Angelo looks across the boats and sees Rashid’s motorboat speeding towards the Italian convoy.
My impression on this book is really mixed. Apart of its level of difficulty with the switching characters, the thickness of the book, and the language in which Fallaci writes, I found that this book is interesting and exhilarating. This book portrays a real aspect of human life and exploit also their emotion. In some parts, the emotion portrayed through its characters seems real and moving. As aforementioned in the previous paragraph, the tragical love story between Ninette and Angelo; the friendship between Gino and Angelo; and the portrayal of Beirut during that particular time are the examples. My main concern is the intros to the climax which seems like never ending story. Some readers may just put the books down as they start losing some interest on it. I read a little bit of this book also in English version but the English version misses some points and some emotions I cannot explain which is so unlike the Italian version I am reading. Anyhow, as a conclusion mark, I just want to say that this book is worth reading during one’s leisure time.