“One evening in May 1948, my mother went to a party in New York with her first husband and left it with her second, my father.” So begins the passionate and stormy union of Mikhail Kamenetzki, aka Ugo Stille, one of Italy’s most celebrated journalists, and Elizabeth Bogert, a beautiful and charming young woman from the Midwest.
The Force of Things follows two families across the twentieth century—one starting in czarist Russia, the other starting in the American Midwest—and takes them across revolution, war, fascism, and racial persecution, until they collide at mid-century. Their immediate attraction and tumultuous marriage is part of a much larger story: the mass migration of Jews from fascist-dominated Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. It is a micro-story of that moment of cross-pollination that reshaped much of American culture and society. Theirs was an uneasy marriage between Europe and America, between Jew and WASP; their differences were a key to their bond yet a source of constant strife.
“Itheir son brings to their story… the narrative verve of a novelist combined with the unflinching eye of a seasoned journalist,” writes Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times. “In his capable hands, their distressing tale of marital woe becomes a fascinating psychological study of two people with complicated family pasts, trying to forge identities of their own — two people with utterly different views and experiences of history.”
Reading from the Force of Things at NYU’s Casa Italiana
The Sack of Rome
Award-winning author Alexander Stille has been called “One of the best English-language writers on Italy” by the New York Times Book Review, and in The Sack of Rome he sets out to answer the question: What happens when vast wealth, a virtual media monopoly, and acute shamelessness combine in one man? Many are the crimes of Silvio Berlusconi, Stille argues, and, with deft analysis, he weaves them into a single mesmerizing chronicle? An epic saga of rank criminality, cronyism, and self-dealing at the highest levels of power.
– Release Date: July 31, 2007
The Future of the Past
A fascinating tour of the past as it exists today, and of the dangers that threaten it, through incisive portraits of our attempts to maintain it: the high-tech struggles to save the Great Sphinx and the Ganges; the efforts to preserve Latin within the Vatican; the digital glut inside the National Archives, which may have caused more information to be lost than ever before; and an oral culture threatened by a “new” technology: writing itself. Stille explores not simply the past, but our ideas about the past—and how they will have to change if our past is to have a future.
“It’s become a familiar lament: Globalization is wreaking enormous cultural loss. Alexander Stille’s illuminating and engrossing new book, The Future of the Past , manages to drain the phrase cultural loss of its easy melancholy and explore instead what it actually means . In chapters set in an array of locales India, Egypt, Madagascar, Somalia, to name a few Mr. Stille makes his domain the cultural crawl spaces where tradition jostles with the latest trends and technologies. His investigations provide a fresh, lively and ultimately wrenching display of a world transforming itself irrevocably,” Jennifer Egan, The New York Observer, April 22, 2002.
“Riveting…a well-paced and highly informative account stocked with well-drawn characters.”–Philadelphia Inquirer
“Masterful…[Stille] delivers a stiletto-sharp portrait of the bloodthirsty Sicilian mafia.”–Business Week
In 1992 Italy was convulsed by two brazen Mafia assassinations of high-ranking officials. The latest “excellent cadavers” were Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, the Sicilian magistrates who had been the Cosa Nostra’s most implacable enemies. Yet in the aftermath of the murders, hundreds of “men of honor” were arrested and the government that had protected them for nearly half a century was at last driven from office. This is the story that Stille tells with such insight and immediacy in Excellent Cadavers. Combining a profound understanding of his doomed heroes with and unprecedented look into the Mafia’s stringent codes and murderous rivalries, he gives us a book that has the power of a great work of history and the suspense of a true thriller.
Release Date: August 6, 1996
Benevolence and Betrayal
“An achievement that deserves to stand next to the most insightful fiction about life and death under fascism.” —The New York Times
“Alexander Stille’s stunning achievement in Benevolence and Betrayal—the result of meticulous research and comprehensive understanding—is to give faces and personalities to people who might otherwise have been consigned to anonymity.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A beautifully written and moving book which I am sure will in time come to rank with the works of Primo Levi.” —Times Literary Supplement (UK)
“Benevolence and Betrayal, like all first-rate journalism, reshapes dusty history in the form of life—messy, tentative, poignant, and unforgettable.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“These stories are filled with courage and tragedy, spies and counterspies, escape and destruction. They are true, spellbinding, and sometimes almost unbelievable.” —Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
A profoundly moving history of Italy’s Jews under the shadow of the Holocaust, told through the lives of five Jewish Italian families: the Ovazzas of Turin, who prospered under Mussolini and whose patriarch became a prominent fascist; the Foas of Turin, whose children included both an antifascist activist and a Fascist Party member; the Di Verolis of Rome, who struggled for survival in the ghetto; the Teglios of Genoa, one of whom worked with the Catholic church to save hundreds of Jews; and the Schonheits of Ferrara, who were sent to Buchenwald and Ravensbruck. An extraordinary montage that resurrects a forgotten and tragic era.