Originally published in Italian in 1979 based on the author's life story, Deviation follows teenage fascist Lucia in the early 1940s as she runs away from home in Italy to Germany, where she hopes to disprove the "slander" circulating about Nazi atrocities. After voluntarily joining a labor camp, and being sent to Dachau, she sees the horrific truth with her own eyes and must fight to escape.
Luce D’Eramo’s extraordinary novel Deviation...is, as its title may imply, a rejection of the idea that literary form can be neatly separated from psychic and political life. Autobiographical without ever being simply or transparently so, the story is so eventful that it initially threatens to make the style of its telling invisible—the content upstaging the form—when in fact the drama and difficulty of that telling will become central to the book. It’s no mean feat even to summarize the novel’s plot, which emerges in uneven, nonchronological, tonally disparate sections, written at different times and dated as such, their edges left jagged, the elisions and distortions of earlier parts revisited and highlighted in later ones ... A novel is the classic form through which to convey a drastic shift in individual consciousness. By dramatizing its own struggle to be written, this one displays the process of changing your mind and trying to take responsibility for yourself and your place in the world ... She keeps shedding her bourgeois skin but it always regrows, protecting her from what others must suffer, trapping her by turns in self-serving and self-punishing delusions ... She is aware of the way her memory continually alters the past and especially the self that occupied it. The book’s vividly drawn early sections are presented as memories long repressed ... Yet they are also revealed as highly artificial reconstructions that must be painfully torn down and reassembled to find what has been left out.
Finally, 39 years after its debut, comes its first-ever English edition, vividly translated by Anne Milano Appel ... This devastating chain of experience cannot be told in linear fashion. The story must 'deviate,' as the memory and weight and brutality of D'Eramo's past unfolds in bursts ... If we appreciate Karl Ove Knausgaard for his introspective tenacity, then we must genuflect before Luce D'Eramo ... It is not simply D'Eramo's personal story, but also her ruthless quest for self-knowledge, that render Deviation a literary tour de force.
D’Eramo’s stand-in narrator evocatively describes the abject sights and smells of her experiences in a factory, and later in the Dachau concentration camp ... Perhaps most like D. M. Thomas’ controversial The White Hotel (1981), or the unflinchingly brutal realism of Pier Pasolini’s Salò, D’Eramo’s tale is built from disparate memories as they returned to her later in life, and she consciously tries to avoid giving shape or structure to this fictionalization of her experiences. The result is a difficult, disturbing, and yet brilliantly ambiguous exploration of humanity’s darkest time.