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Coccioli, Carlo (1920-2003)  
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In Florence Coccioli joined up with the Allies and spent the rest of the war working for General Eisenhower's top-secret Psychological Warfare Branch in North Africa. After the war he was decorated by Italy with the Silver Medal for Military Valor. When he received the medal, he said, he savored the irony that no one in the audience suspected the kind of love that had inspired his bravery.

In 1946 his first novel was published, Il Migliore e l'Ultimo (the title a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "One fight more, / the best and the last"), based on his experiences in the Resistance. For whatever reason, the novel met with hostility from the Italian literary establishment, which Coccioli compared to a "mafia," and in particular from its Don, the writer Alberto Moravia. In Coccioli's view, Moravia demanded that all aspiring writers pay him court, and those who did not, like Coccioli, paid the price of being dismissed from the pages of the best literary journals. This was the beginning of Coccioli's disaffection with the Italian literary scene and his gradual drift away from Italy and the Italian language.

His next works took as their theme his struggle with his Catholic faith and attracted more attention from both the public and critics. Two novels were published with moderate success in Italy, La Difficile Speranza (1947) and La Piccola Valle di Dio (1948, translated into English as The Little Valley of God).

By 1950 he was living in France and began first to translate his own novels into French and then occasionally to write them in that language and translate them into Italian.

His biggest success, Il Cielo e la Terra (1950; published in English as Heaven and Earth), earned him critical respect and, at last, financial rewards. Coccioli was courted by publishers (Prentice-Hall plied him with caviar and champagne), and the novel was translated into several languages.

Fabrizio Lupo

In 1952 he published, if not his best-known novel, then certainly his most notorious: Fabrizio Lupo (published in England in 1960 as The Eye and the Heart and in the U.S. in 1966 as Fabrizio's Book).

After the big success of Il Cielo e la Terra, this novel was treated very differently by publishers. His French publisher Plon decided to take the cautious step of bringing it out under one of its more obscure imprints, La Table Ronde. Italian publishers refused to touch the book. It was not published in Italy until 1978.

The problem was that the subject of the novel was the love affair of two young men: Fabrizio Lupo, an Italian painter, and Laurent Rigault, a French sculptor. Both are successful artists, both have more or less come to terms with their homosexuality; neither is sexually inexperienced, but both have been waiting for a special relationship.

The outer events of the novel are utterly simple: the young men fall in love in Paris, then first Fabrizio and later Laurent travel to Italy where they take a long vacation together on an island. Laurent then returns to Paris, and later Fabrizio follows.

All the drama of the novel lies is the depiction of the inner life of Fabrizio, who reveals their story to a writer named Carlo Coccioli, author of a book titled Il Cielo e la Terra (a literary device that was not as well-worn 50 years ago as it is now). Part of the story Fabrizio tells during visits to the fictional Coccioli's home, part is revealed through copies of his letters to Laurent that he gives Coccioli, and part is told through a lengthy novel that Fabrizio wrote during the affair and that in fact takes up 250 of the 400 pages of the book.

Fabrizio exposes the two men's struggles to find happiness, and the forces that are relentlessly arrayed against them, the doubts, jealousies, religious and social pressures, and what today we would call internalized .

Coccioli saw the two men's fate as essentially a religious problem. They dared to pose what he termed the "terrible question": "Can God have created us as we are, only to condemn us later because we are what we are?" The fictional Coccioli affirms that God could not have done such a thing. It is only human beings and their flawed institutions, such as the Church, that are at fault.

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