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Italian's Malaparte book wins Goncourt biography prize

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Italian diplomat and writer Maurizio Serra has won 2011’s Goncourt prize for biography with his book Malaparte, vies et légendes (Malaparte, lives and legends), written to better acquaint the French public with the famous 20th-century Italian author.

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Serra, who is Italy’s ambassador to the Paris-based UN cultural body Unesco, was born in London in 1955.

He has written a number of essays, including one on French authors, Drieu La Rochelle, Louis Aragon and André Malraux.

His work on Malaparte uses several previously unpublished sources.

Malaparte, who was born Curzio Suckert to a German father and an Italian mother, was known both for his literary output and for his chameleon-like political positions.

Among his best-known works are Kaputt, The Skin and Technique of a coup d’état.

He fought in World War I and reported on World War II, took part in the fascist coup d’état in Italy in 1922, only to be arrested five times by the Mussolini regime, joined the Communist Party in the 1940s, later becoming interested in Maoism.
 

In 1947 he moved to Paris, where he wrote plays based on the lives of Marcel Proust and Karl Marx.

 

In the 1930s he built a modernist house, Casa Malaparte, on the island of Capri. It featured in Jean-Luc Godard's film Le Mépris.

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