Skip to main content
Loading Events
Book covers of Iris Origo's A Chill in the Air and War in Val d'Orcia
History & Politics, Literature

Works by Iris Origo

"A Chill in the Air" and "War in Val d'Orcia"

September 25, 2018
6:30 pm

New York Review Books Classics has just released Iris Origo’s A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary, 1939-1940 for the first time in the United States, as well as her best known work War in Val d’Orcia: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944.

Ben Downing, author
Marisa Escolar, UNC Chapel Hill
Katia Lysy, journalist and translator, granddaughter of Iris Origo

Moderated by Rebecca Falkoff, NYU.

About A Chill in the Air:
In 1939 it was not a foregone conclusion that Mussolini would enter World War II on the side of Hitler. In this previously unpublished and only recently discovered diary, Iris Origo, author of the classic War in Val d’Orcia, provides a vivid account of how Mussolini decided on a course of action that would devastate his country and ultimately destroy his regime.
Though the British-born Origo lived with her Italian husband on an estate in a remote part of Tuscany, she was supremely well-connected and regularly in touch with intellectual and diplomatic circles in Rome, where her godfather, William Phillips, was the American ambassador. Her diary describes the Fascist government’s growing infatuation with Nazi Germany as Hitler’s armies marched triumphantly across Europe and the campaign of propaganda and intimidation that was mounted in support of its new aims. The book ends with the birth of Origo’s daughter and Origo’s decision to go to Rome to work with prisoners of war at the Italian Red Cross. 
Together with War in Val d’Orcia, A Chill in the Air offers an indispensable record of Italy at war as well as a thrilling story of a formidable woman’s transformation from observer to actor at a great historical turning point.

About War in Val d’Orcia:
In the Second World War, Italy was torn apart by German armies, civil war, and the Allied invasion. In a corner of Tuscany, one woman—born in England, married to an Italian—kept a record of daily life in a country at war. Iris Origo’s powerful diary, War in Val d’Orcia, is the spare and vivid account of what happened when a peaceful farming valley became a battleground.
At great personal risk, the Origos gave food and shelter to partisans, deserters, and refugees. They took in evacuees, and as the front drew closer they faced the knowledge that the lives of thirty-two small children depended on them. Origo writes with sensitivity and generosity, and a story emerges of human acts of heroism and compassion, and the devastation that war can bring.