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Censorship and Literature in Fascist Italy

Censorship and Literature in Fascist Italy

  • Book Info
    Censorship and Literature in Fascist Italy
    Book Description:

    Examining the breadth and scope of censorship in Fascist Italy, from Mussolini's role as 'prime censor' to the specific experiences of female writers, this is a fascinating look at the vulnerability of culture under a dictatorship.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8415-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Any study of censorship in a dictatorial state runs the risk of being swayed by a moral urge or, better, a fully understandable ethical desire to give voice and space to the victims of oppression. Such a desire is particularly relevant in the case of Italian Fascism. After the fall of Mussolini’s regime, a fundamental underpinning of the newly formed Italian Republic was thelotta partigiana– that is, the contribution of the anti-Fascist movement to the restoration of democracy. Stories of resistance and defiance against Fascist totalitarianism were necessary for the reconstruction of a dignified sense of national identity. These...


    • 1 Towards a New System
      (pp. 13-26)

      Control over production and distribution of books does not seem to have been a problematic issue for the first governments of unified Italy. Most of the legislative and executive measures were aimed at the press (stampa periodica), whereas the publication of books (as part ofstampa non periodica) was dealt with mainly as a secondary aspect of press-related topics.

      The principles of press freedom were established on 26 March 1848 by a royal decree. TheEditto sulla stampaproclaimed by King Carlo Alberto on the eve of Italy’s First War of Independence was later extended from the Kingdom of Sardinia...

    • 2 Carrots, Sticks, and Charismatic Ruling
      (pp. 27-57)

      This first section of this chapter concentrates on the fate of three publishers that on the eve of Mussolini’s seizure of power were clearly identified as anti-Fascist. Each of them was giving voice to different political camps: from Turin, Gobetti represented the most daring and acute voice of liberal anti-Fascism. The Milanese publishers Monanni and Corbaccio were devoted, respectively, to the work of anarchist philosophers and of socialist intellectuals. Their different destinies are emblematic of the range of strategies with which the regime muffled its enemies in the publishing industry.¹

      The case of Piero Gobetti as a publisher is inextricably...

    • 3 The Censor and the Censored
      (pp. 58-92)

      The previous two chapters have described several examples of Mussolini’s involvement in episodes of book censorship. For Il Duce, it was clearly not just a matter of setting policies and putting systems in place. He had a passion for detail that contemporary management consultants might define as a serious lack of delegating ability. This is a distinct feature of hismodus laborandithat those involved in his daily working routine have mentioned time and time again. One of these commentators is Carmine Senise, who was deputy head of the Italian police from 1932 to 1940 and, following the death of...


    • 4 From Press Office to Ministry of Popular Culture
      (pp. 95-128)

      As we have seen in previous chapters, Mussolini’s decision making, at least potentially and often practically, played a crucial role in the censoring of literature. The range of channels through which he was alerted to a certain situation or asked for his opinion and, equally, the number of solutions tailored to each case were such that the system was truly unpredictable. So it should not come as a surprise that the single most important act of censorship during the Fascist regime, an act that promoted a dramatic acceleration of the organization and centralization of censorship, was the result of Mussolini’s...

    • 5 Shaping Italian Literature
      (pp. 129-168)

      Valentino Bompiani began his career in publishing under the wing of Arnoldo Mondadori. Hired in 1922, when the firm was still based in Verona, young Bompiani quickly moved from trusted personal secretary to innovative editor, particularly in the field of foreign fiction. By 1928 his ambition drove him first to become director of the Milanese publisher Unitas and a year later to create his own publishing enterprise. Among his early publications of some importance wasIl volto del bolscevismoby Fülop Miller, published in 1930 with a preface by Curzio Malaparte. It is, however, in the field of fiction that...

    • 6 Anti-Semitism and ‘Cultural Reclamation’
      (pp. 169-188)

      Italy’s publishing industry was gravely affected by the Fascists’ anti-Semitic campaign of 1938. The complex development of these policies has been traced in ample detail by Giorgio Fabre inL’elenco, and this chapter is greatly indebted to his archival findings. Until the second half of the 1930s, Italian publishers, similarly to the regime and the Italian public in general, had not adopted a programmatic stance with regard to the Jewish question. The catalogues of major publishers contained works by exiled German-Jewish authors such as Stefan Zweig and Schalom Asch as much as anti-Semitic works such as theProtocolli dei savi...

  9. PART THREE. A NATION AT WAR, 1940–1943

    • 7 A Turn of the Screw
      (pp. 191-220)

      When the war began to spread throughout Europe, Mussolini must have thought the time had come for a more ‘hands-on’ minister of popular culture. Alessandro Pavolini was appointed to the post on 31 October 1939, in time to lead the MCP’s white-collar army in the war of propaganda. A faithful follower of Mussolini, Pavolini had built his career from his beginnings as a young leader of the Florentine Fascists in the wake of the anti-Socialist pogrom of October 1925.¹ His father was a respected university scholar – Paolo Emilio, professor of Sanskrit – and Alessandro’s cultural interests had always been prominent. After...

    • 8 Foreign Fiction and Weak Autarky
      (pp. 221-236)

      Given the national and autarkic leaning of Fascism, it is easy to imagine that questions related to foreign literature would surface from time to time. As we have already seen in previous chapters, its popularity and profit-making potential was such that publishers made full use of their influence in an attempt to dissuade the regime from taking draconian measures to ban works by foreign authors. The war brought these issues to a head, particularly as Italy found itself at war with some of the most popular exporters of narrative literature – Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States (France’s swift...

    • 9 Unfinished Business
      (pp. 237-260)

      As we have seen in chapter 7, the anti-Semitic legislation and thebonifica librariaaffected the literary career of Alberto Moravia in a peculiar way. As a journalist, he was allowed to publish without using a pseudonym, but at the same time his name had been removed from the roster of the Albo dei giornalisti (the official register of Italian journalists). Two of his works of fiction –L’imbroglioandLe ambizioni sbagliate– had been banned, but not his most famous novel,Gli indifferenti. According to Italian law, Moravia was ‘Aryan’ because he had been Christened and educated as a Catholic...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 261-266)

    As the nine chapters of this book have illustrated, literary censorship concerns much more than scissor-wielding censors. This was even more the case in Fascist Italy because of the ambiguous patronage and hypocritical displays of tolerance that characterized the system. Once it had established its grip over the cultural industry, the Fascist regime attempted to promote the creation of a culture it could call its own. But here one must immediately pause and clarify. ‘Fascist regime’ is a vast container within which dozens of different visions cohabited, allowing clear potential for conflict. Mussolini’s idea of Fascist culture – if he had...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 267-372)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 373-392)
  13. Index
    (pp. 393-405)