Posted at 11.29.2018
The interpretation of Italian fascism in history has always faced some controversy. This essay attempts to show that Silone's Fontamara is able to depict the peasant experience under the fascist program. This is achieved not through stringent historical accuracy but through imaginary representation of Silone's own experiences and reactions to the program as he observed it. Thus it's important to consider the politics ideologies with which Silone recognized with, although recent revelations about Silone's correspondence with the fascist plan may demand reinterpretation of Fontamara other than simply as an anti-fascist work. Fontamara delivers an extremely strong political meaning and is definitely considered propaganda, although the entire message might not be anti-fascism but the appeal to nationalistic sentiments. Above all the novel through literary devices provides words to the Italian masses, the peasants, after being written out of record for such a long time when the emphasis of fascism is definitely on management.
The books by Ignazio Silone are particularly rich for the historian who desires to learn more about Italy under the fascist regime. In particular, the book Fontamara is instrumental to the understanding of the experience of the Italian peasantry under fascism. If approached from a political perspective, the blatant denouncement of Fascism present in the novel issues with the recent speculation that Silone himself was a spy for the Fascists. Being truly a novel about a fictitious town in the southern elements of Italy, the novel increases some concerns regarding the historical correctness of the situations that are depicted, being specifically fallible to exaggeration and falsification. However, it should not be forgotten that Silone never meant the book to depict situations in historical correctness, but to signify the Italian fascist regime as he found it.
In substance, Fontamara is approximately a southern Italian village and its own inhabitants being stressed and brutally cured by the fascist plan. It is generally arranged that Silone composed Fontamara in 1929, which supposed that he was as eyewitness to the actions of the plan. Silone have been a prominent member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) since its inception in 1921, and since publication, his politics affiliation with the communists meant that his works were always interpreted as anti-fascist. However, publicized recently was an article in Il Corriere della Sera which revealed hand written words by Silone showing him in contact with an associate in the fascist party whilst still a member of the PCI, thus implicating him in espionage against the PCI. More importantly to this essay, the correspondence occurred during the years 1928 -1930 before his expulsion from the PCI, that was at that time that Fontamara was written. Biocca shows that Silone 'endured from a devastating moral and intellectual crisis in which he temporarily lost his mental and political personal information'. Inside the interpretation of the book, Silone's political ideologies and biases must be considered, especially due to blatant criticisms apparently levelled towards fascist routine. Given the dominant anti-fascist shade in the novel, it isn't too daring to claim that he most certainly became disillusioned with them also, if he was indeed a spy for these people. Perhaps it could be said that Silone's politics fluidity was indicative of his faithfulness to the Patria rather than to any important politics ideology.
As well, Fontamara have been widely acknowledged to be an efficient little bit of anti-fascist propaganda outside of Italy in the 1930s. Hanne asserts that 'Fontamara performed a major role in discrediting Mussolini's program in the sight of the readership'. Specifically, his portrayal of the hardships that the peasant category had to go through, the rape of the town women by fascist youths as the community men were away and the massacre of Fontamara towards the finish of the book being two examples, created an 'underdog' mentality which appealed to the audience outside Italian borders. This portrayal is further achieved with the interspersed voices of the person, his wife and their boy whose ignorance is looked at with fondness creating people that are likeable and allow the readers to sympathise because of their misfortunes. Many early reviews of Fontamara cured the written text as historically exact. A review in the New Yorker in 1934 mentioned: ' "Fontamara is just a little epic of peasant amount of resistance, based upon an actual event in recent Italian history" '. Likewise, an assessment in the London Spectator published: ' "Fontamara is the most moving bill of Fascist barbarity I've yet read" '. The very first sentence in the intro of the novel aides in the misconception: 'What I am going to set down took place at Fontamara previous summer time' and it was a persuasive idea that there have been resistance moves in Italy as this was effective for propaganda purposes if it was regarded as truth between its visitors. Thus, the original positive reception of Fontamara and its succeeding anti-fascist interpretation is particularly ideal for the historian studying the political local climate of Europe at the time and its perceptions and biases contrary to the Italian fascist program. The recognition of the novel designed that it was inevitably translated into several dialects with the German version being translated by Nessie Sutro from the original Italian and then re-translated back into Italian and other dialects. This of course has the implications that the phrases particular to a language can be misquoted and distorted completely which would have an effect on the meaning of the book.
The background of Italian fascism is highly contested first of all due to writing style implemented by the intellectuals, as endorsed by Mussolini. Italian realism flourished under fascism where in fact the intellectuals were motivated to produce politics, however, not openly propagandistic works. The fascists pit themselves against the materialism of the communists by advocating individualism and naturalness in their books which style is reproduced in Fontamara. This fluidity and ambiguity enabled reinterpretations of the text messages as anti-fascist and since apologists for the fascist regime. What many Italian intellectuals attempt to convey is that the they do not respect fascism as only a armed service dictatorship, nor was it, relating to Silone, a reactionary consolidation of the conventional liberal point out, but that the fascists and their ideology became ingrained into the existing social textile. Fascism, as a term, is too broad which donate to the huge interpretations of any pro-fascist or anti-fascist word. The storage of Italian fascism invokes accounts of unresolved firm and accountability with Italy still yet to handle up to its fascist recent.
Fontamara was written with every intention of being printed so this may have influenced Silone to exaggerate the level of peasant sufferings and sensationalised others. Overall, although Fontamara can't be said to present a historically correct portrayal of the experience of the Italian peasants under Mussolini's fascist routine, it nevertheless is reliable in assisting in the analysis of general behaviour towards fascism.
At enough time of the fascists, Italy was split into three distinct parts: the industrialised north, the mezzadro in central Italy and the semi-feudal south. It's important to notice that Fontamara was a southern Italian community because whilst the north experienced the salariati, the south was where the absent landlord discrete land to the peasants at extortionate rates. It is important to note that whenever one considers the various socio-economic conditions, the book is absent of any universal Italian peasant experience. The general disinterest of the southern peasants in politics shows that Fascism comes from its northern stronghold and imposed on the south when the provincial authorities sought to influence the fascist politics movement. The existence of the braccianti, who had been landless day labourers hired by the mezzadri, added to the dissent as they were unemployed for about half the year. They were restless and bitter and eagerly became a member of the fascist 'blackshirts'. In Fontamara, this is shown when Peppino expresses: 'It was a fresh kind of politics: twenty lire a day pay and the to beat and not be beaten'
The electricity of the provincial specialists can be mentioned in the taxes burden placed on the peasants where up to two thirds of the local revenue came from food taxation. In Fontamara this is expressed as: 'There's a residence tax, and a vineyard duty, and a donkey duty, and a puppy duty, and a pasture duty, and a pig tax, and a wagon tax, and a wine beverages tax. . . '. A Tuscan landlord in 1907 known that this duty system was 'a genuine regime of oppression'. Furthermore, the overpopulation of the region exacerbated the situation, and put the peasants in fierce competition with the other person worsening their conditions. In Fontamara there is mention of 'the prohibition of emigration. . . (and therefore) the young experienced no choice but to stay at Fontamara where work was becoming scarcer for everybody'. As well, the changing overall economy designed that traditional forms of income could no longer be viable for the peasants, which is known in Fontamara: 'Many things contributed to the killing of the trade- the disappearance of local flocks of sheep, the release of town-made woollen goods and the ever-increasing poverty of the peasants'. It is clear that the conditions of the peasants were deteriorating and outside their sphere of impact, adding to the build of helplessness.
Similarly, Fontamara is highly critical of the behaviour of the professional category and the hypocrisy of the Chapel. The caricature of the legal professional Don Circostanza, who accepts wage reductions on behalf of the peasants of Fontamara, encapsulates the debonair attitude of that course towards the poor, which in turn shows Silone's socialist background. At the same time, the Chapel is criticised for its problem: 'The Pope is frightened too. He accepted two thousand million lire from the new government' which is highlighted in the personification of the priest Don Abbacchio who won't preach Mass at Fontamara without a further ten lire in payment. Within their repertoire are unfilled rhetoric devices that have been used by the fascists to legitimise the exploitation of the indegent.
Thus it could be seen that although Fontamara is a fictional novel, the personas and occurrences depicted are representations of activities of Silone himself and really should therefore be interested not only in the wider framework of Italian fascism but also within Silone's personal context. The book is a cultural commentary with a politics message that has been interpreted as anti-fascist in its depiction of peasant life under Italian fascism. Fontamara is representative of the exploitation of the poor by the abundant as seen by Silone by presenting a 'history from below' and providing a speech to the peasants who have been otherwise excluded from history.