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A Bell for Adano: 09/12/08
A Bell for Adano by John Hersey won the 1945 Pulitzer Price. In it, an American army major, Victor Joppolo is put in place as a temporary administrator during the occupation of Italy near the end of the war. To help the town recover from Fascist rule, Joppolo sets out to find a replacement for the bell that was stolen and melted down.
A Bell for Adano has similar humor to Catch-22 but I found it more accessible than Joseph Heller's novel. Joppolo has to bend the rules to make the Adano run and he has to learn who he can ask for favors to get things done. Besides the military chain of command, Joppolo has to gain the trust of villagers who are suspicious of all authority figures after years of Fascist rule.
On the surface, A Bell for Adano is a simply a glorification of democracy over the evils of fascism. If it were that simple, Joppolo wouldn't have to risk his post disobeying orders that place Adano's citizens at risk. The novel is about the ways that war muddles everything and basic humanity can easily be forgotten.
I read A Bell for Adano for the Classics Challenge being hosted at Classics 2008. As I was reading it, I quickly realized I was actually rereading it. It was an enjoyable reread, like a visit with an old friend.