Gipi’s tales of teenage boys are nothing short of extraordinary. But whereas in Garage Band he took a group of boys with dreams of mainstream success from an Italian suburb, the three boys in Notes for a War Story have no future.
They live in a war-torn country, where entire towns and villages can disappear overnight. They’re rootless, with no obvious family and no way of finding support or friendship outside their own small circle. The country is nameless though the region seems based on those embroiled in the Eastern European conflicts of the 1990s.
The three boys, Stefano, Giuliano (the narrator) and Christian (who prefers to go by the name of Little Killer), inevitably fall under the spell of a mercenary called Felix, who is running a local crime syndicate and fighting on the side. They boys get well paid to do jobs for him, starting with simple package delivery and leading to extortion and heavy-handed debt collection. Little Killer becomes their de-facto leader, slowly turning into a little Felix in his own right.
The characters could easily be transported to Garage Band – there’s no difference between the two bands of friends in either book. The difference comes from their social and cultural backgrounds. Gipi isn’t being judgemental – the fate of these boys seems inevitable and well out of their hands.
It’s an immensely powerful story on the cost of war. Without showing any violence it subtly demonstrates how a war can destroy the lives of innocents, especially in the context of Gipi’s other works.