From the author of the acclaimed international best-seller Silk, here is an unforgettable tale of the cruelty of war, a little girl's shattered world, and her lifelong quest for revenge and healing.
When--in an unnamed place and time--Manuel Roca's enemies hunt him down, they fail to discover Nina, his youngest child, hidden in a hole beneath his farmhouse floor. And so, doing just as her father instructed, she neither speaks nor stirs as he is viciously slain above her hiding place. Only after this carnage will one of the murderers discover Nina's trapdoor. But Tito, a mere boy himself, is so enthralled by the sight of Nina's perfect innocence that he says nothing to his accomplices.
By the time she has grown up, Nina's innocence will have bloomed into something else altogether, and one by one the wartime hunters will become the peacetime hunted. But not until a striking old woman calls upon an old man selling newspapers in town--the old man Tito has become--can we know what Nina will ultimately make of her brutal legacy. With the indelible truth of a fable, Without Blood reminds us that all wars are the same--the same mistake infinitely repeated in the hearts and deeds of wronged men and women--and that no life can remain untouched by loss or by hope.
In Alessandro Baricco's brief, penetrating morality tale, Without Blood (trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein), Nina, a little girl, witnesses the murder of her doctor father by men who accuse him of hideous war crimes. As an old woman, Nina hunts down the killers, asking a curious favor of the last of them, an elderly lottery card vendor. Ending his story with a poignant twist, Baricco (author of the international bestseller Silk) reflects movingly on the nature of war and brutality. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 10, 2008
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Excerpt from Without Blood by Alessandro Baricco
The old farmhouse of Mato Rujo stood blankly in the countryside, carved in black against the evening light, the only stain in the empty outline of the plain.
The four men arrived in an old Mercedes. The road was pitted and dry--a mean road of the countryside. From the farmhouse, Manuel Roca saw them.
He went to the window. First he saw the column of dust rising against the corn. Then he heard the sound of the engine. No one had a car anymore, around here. Manuel Roca knew it. He saw the Mercedes emerge in the distance and disappear behind a line of oaks. Then he stopped looking.
He returned to the table and placed a hand on his daughter's head. Get up, he told her. He took a key from his pocket, put it on the table, and nodded at his son. Yes, the son said. They were children, just two children.
At the crossroads where the stream ran the old Mercedes did not turn off to the farmhouse but continued toward Alvarez instead. The four men traveled in silence. The one driving had on a sort of uniform. The other sitting in front wore a cream-colored suit. Pressed. He was smoking a French cigarette. Slow down, he said.
Manuel Roca heard the sound fade into the distance toward Alvarez. Who do they think they're fooling? he thought. He saw his son come back into the room with a gun in his hand and another under his arm. Put them there, he said. Then he turned to his daughter. Come, Nina. Don't be afraid. Come here.
The well-dressed man put out his cigarette on the dashboard of the Mercedes, then told the one who was driving to stop. This is good, here, he said. And shut off that infernal engine. He heard the slide of the hand brake, like a chain falling into a well. Then nothing. It was as if the countryside had been swallowed up in an unalterable silence.
It would have been better to go straight there, said one of the two sitting in back. Now he'll have time to run, he said. He had a gun in his hand. He was only a boy. They called him Tito.
He won't run, said the well-dressed man. He's had it with running. Let's go.
Manuel Roca moved aside some baskets of fruit, bent over, raised a hidden trapdoor, and looked inside. It was little more than a big hole dug into the earth, like the den of an animal.
"Listen to me, Nina. Now, some people are coming, and I don't want them to see you. You have to hide in here, the best thing is for you to hide in here and wait until they go away. Do you understand?"
"You just have to stay here and be quiet."
"Whatever happens, you mustn't come out, you mustn't move, just stay here, be quiet, and wait."
"Everything will be all right."
"Listen to me. It's possible I may have to go away with these men. Don't come out until your brother comes to get you, do you understand? Or until you can tell that no one is there and it's all over."
"I want you to wait until there's no one there."
"Don't be afraid, Nina, nothing's going to happen to you. All right?"
"Give me a kiss."
The girl pressed her lips against her father's forehead. He caressed her hair.
"Everything will be all right, Nina."
He remained standing there, as if there were still something he had to say, or do.
"This isn't what I intended," he said. "Remember, always, that this is not what I intended."
The child searched instinctively in her father's eyes for something that might help her understand. She saw nothing. Her father leaned over and kissed her lips.
"Now go, Nina. Go on, down you go."
The child let herself fall into the hole. The earth was hard and dry. She lay down.
"Wait, take this."
The father handed her a blanket. She spread it over the dirt and lay down again.
She heard her father say something to her, then she saw the trapdoor lowered. She closed her eyes and opened them. Blades of light filtered through the floorboards. She heard the voice of her father as he went on speaking to her. She heard the sound of the baskets dragged across the floor. It grew darker under there. Her father asked her something. She answered. She was lying on one side. She had bent her legs, and there she was, curled up, as if in her bed, with nothing to do but go to sleep, and dream. She heard her father say something else, gently, leaning down toward the floor. Then she heard a shot, and the sound of a window breaking into a thousand pieces.