Crime, Mystery, and the Fascist Ventennio in the Historical Novel
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Chapter 1. The Realistic, the Romantic, and the Fantastic in Maurizio De Giovanni’s Series of Commissario Ricciardi
- Chapter 2. Justice, Mystery, Loneliness: Leonardo Sciascia’s Porte aperte and La scomparsa di Majorana
- Chapter 3. A Sicilian Carnival: Laughter and Subversion in Andrea Camilleri’s Historical Novels
- Chapter 4. A History of Violence: Antonio Pennacchi’s Historical Novels
- Chapter 5. Not All Are Equal Before the Law: Fascist Impunity in Women’s Narratives
- Chapter 6. Fascism from Afar: Historical Novels Set Abroad
- Chapter 7. The Detective at a Crossroads: Individual Identity at the End of the Regime
- Appendix: Biographical Information about the Authors
Crime, Mystery, and the
Fascist Ventennio in the
New York • Bern • Frankfurt • Berlin
Brussels • Vienna • Oxford • Warsaw
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Castagnino, Angelo, author.
Title: Investigating fascism: crime, mystery, and the
fascist ventennio in the historical novel / Angelo Castagnino.
Other titles: Crime, mystery, and the fascist ventennio in the historical novel
Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2017.
Series: Currents in comparative romance languages and literatures; vol. 246
Includes bibliographical references.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016031294 | ISBN 978-1-4331-3425-8 (hardcover: alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-4539-1885-2 (ebook pdf) | ISBN 978-1-4331-4185-0 (epub)
ISBN 978-1-4331-4186-7 (mobi)
Subjects: LCSH: Fascism in literature. | Historical fiction, Italian—History and criticism.
Detective and mystery stories, Italian—History and criticism.
Italian fiction—20th century—History and criticism.
Italian fiction—21st century—History and criticism.
Classification: LCC PQ4181.H55 C379 2017 | DDC 853/.08109—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016031294
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available
on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de/.
© 2017 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York
29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006
All rights reserved.
Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm,
xerography, microfiche, microcard, and offset strictly prohibited.
ANGELO CASTAGNINO is Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Denver. His previous publications include the book The Intellectual as a Detective: From Leonardo Sciascia to Roberto Saviano (Peter Lang, 2014).
About the book
Investigating Fascism offers an original approach to the historical novel and its connection to crime fiction. The study of contemporary novels set during Mussolini’s rule, with specific attention to the topics of violence, justice, mystery, and personal identity, leads to a discussion about, among others, Leonardo Sciascia, Maurizio De Giovanni, Carlo Lucarelli, and Andrea Camilleri. This text is based on two intertwining approaches: (1) an analysis of the ‘machine’ of the novel, focused on such aspects as characterization, the construction of the setting, and the narrative use of fantastic and subversive elements and (2) an analysis of the socio-historical Fascist context. This book is a valuable reference for those who study Fascism, the social function of crime novels, and the connection between historical events and fiction.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
table of contents
Chapter 1. The Realistic, the Romantic, and the Fantastic in Maurizio De Giovanni’s Series of Commissario Ricciardi
Chapter 2. Justice, Mystery, Loneliness: Leonardo Sciascia’s Porte aperte and La scomparsa di Majorana
Chapter 3. A Sicilian Carnival: Laughter and Subversion in Andrea Camilleri’s Historical Novels
Chapter 4. A History of Violence: Antonio Pennacchi’s Historical Novels
Chapter 5. Not All Are Equal Before the Law: Fascist Impunity in Women’s Narratives
Chapter 6. Fascism from Afar: Historical Novels Set Abroad
Chapter 7. The Detective at a Crossroads: Individual Identity at the End of the Regime
Appendix: Biographical Information about the Authors
Bibliography←v | vi→ ←vi | vii→
When Alessandro Manzoni collected his reflections on the historical novel, he expressed a notoriously pessimistic attitude about the genre that granted him a remarkable position within the canon of Italian novelists. According to Manzoni, the very nature of the genre he popularized presents an irresolvable opposition between historical accuracy and fictional additions, and finding the right balance between them is nearly impossible. As he supported the idea that “un gran poeta e un gran storico possono trovarsi, senza far confusione, nell’uomo medesimo, ma non nel medesimo componimento” (Del romanzo storico 35) / “A great poet and a great historian may be found in the same man without creating confusion, but not in the same work” (On the Historical Novel 126), Manzoni doubted that the popularity of historical novels would long endure. The present study shows the contemporary historical novel enjoying an opposite trajectory to that which Manzoni predicted: in Italy’s current literary landscape, this genre is alive and well, and enjoys both critical attention and commercial success. At the center of this inquiry is the intersection between historical fiction and more recent tendencies in Italian literature, particularly those that have created a surging interest in violence, crime, justice, mystery, and secrecy. In today’s market, the historical novel faces a process of diversification that requires a compromise with other genres. For example,←vii | viii→ it meets the needs of the ever-growing popularity of crime narratives, which has fostered the production of gialli storici set during the Roman Empire, the Risorgimento, Fascism, and the Years of Lead. Curiously, two genres—the detective novel and the historical novel—traditionally ostracized by literary critics, have been increasingly perceived as tools through which to interpret today’s Italy and the challenges it faces. This book studies a specific portion of the aforementioned literary production: the historical novel set during Italian Fascism. While some of the novels discussed here fall under the umbrella of crime fiction, the perspective is not limited to the giallo, but rather embraces historical novels that, although not structured as mystery novels, nonetheless deal with questions of crime, justice, and violence during the fascist ventennio. Following György Lukács’ theory expressed in The Historical Novel (1937), this study privileges texts in which the individual crisis and struggle of a protagonist are strongly rooted in the historical transformations of the era addressed. For this reason, many of the chapters deal with questions regarding the relationship between the individual and Mussolini’s regime, while at the same time reflecting on a more collective identity related to the shared experience of Fascism, its rise and fall, and its legacy for the decades that followed and for today’s Italy. The resulting approach will allow for a two-pronged discussion pertaining both to novels describing the role of injustice, violence, and crime as founding elements of fascist Italy, as well as to texts that follow more strictly the structure of the detective novel, containing the solution of a mystery and the identification of a culprit.
The theoretical study of the historical novel stands on solid ground. In addition to the abovementioned essay by György Lukács, Lion Feuchtwanger’s The House of Desdemona (1963) analyzed the interaction between history and fiction in the Western tradition, pointing out both strengths and weaknesses of the historical novel as a genre. According to Feuchtwanger, valuable examples of historical novels require the presence of a common destiny that the main characters share with their era and their people, an achievement that the mere introduction of a historical setting does not guarantee. More importantly, the historical background—wars, revolutions, and social transformations—cannot be limited to a reconstruction of events that ignores their effects on common people and on the individual character as representative of a social group. For these reasons, the protagonists of the novels discussed in this volume rarely are the more recognizable figures of the ventennio; rather, they embody the effects of historical transformations on Italian citizens. Indeed, all the authors included in this book create characters whose←viii | ix→ individual struggles mirror the controversial relationship between Fascism and its citizens, which took several forms: some Italians used the regime to their advantage, some accepted it passively, and others heroically embarked upon acts of rebellion for which they paid high prices.
The intersection between historical fiction, crime, violence, and mystery in Italy is a relatively recent trend that has thus far received limited scholarly attention. Nevertheless, authoritative figures such as Luca Somigli and Barbara Pezzotti have remarked upon the recurring tendency of authors to intertwine a criminal approach with a historical one in novels set during Mussolini’s rule. Somigli’s (2007) article, “Fighting Crime in Times of War,” establishes a connection between the gialli of Carlo Lucarelli and Corrado Augias and the attempt, prominent in the years of berlusconismo, to impose a distorted recollection of the end of Fascism and the Italian Civil War. Pezzotti’s interdisciplinary volume, Investigating Italy’s Past through Historical Crime Fiction, Films, and TV Series (2016), contains one chapter on the topic of Fascism, revisionism, and the political use of the novel as a narrative form. Both Somigli and Pezzotti have studied novels set during Fascism involving cases of murder. The present book proposes a different perspective on crime, violence, and mystery in the contemporary historical novel and, for this reason, embraces a broader set of texts, including both detective novels and others not necessarily categorized as such. Each chapter starts with the aesthetic, technical, and/or narratological analysis of novels, addressing aspects such as characterization, the use of the fantastic mode, the construction of the setting, the point of view, and the role of the narrator. An examination of historical considerations follows, focused on how the representation of Fascism can help illuminate today’s Italy and the social transformations that have occurred since the fall of Mussolini’s regime. This volume’s approach is more literary than historical, and one of its goals is to recognize the artistic and technical value of authors whose works are often discussed solely for their plot considerations.
Chapter 1 analyzes the simultaneous presence of fantastic and realistic elements in Maurizio De Giovanni’s series of novels featuring commissario Ricciardi. Set in the 1930s, as Fascism was consolidating its consensus among the population, these novels allow for a study that applies Sigmund Freud’s and Tzvetan Todorov’s theories on the fictional representation of the uncanny as a literary device occupying the liminal space between the supernatural and the rational. Ricciardi’s ability to hear the final words of murder victims aids his investigative process, but it also suggests an interesting parallel between the perception of what is real and what Fascism wants to impose as true. De Gio←ix | x→vanni’s historical novels also offer a reconstruction of life in Naples during the 1930s, addressing particularly the separation between social classes and the intrusion of the State into the private space of the individual, an aspect exemplified by the increasing presence of the political police in the novels. The relationship between the bourgeoisie and the fascist hierarchs often motivates attempts to mislead the investigations and turn them against scapegoats who lack the important political connections that keep the real culprits safe. The purpose of the interaction between the fantastic and the realistic within these novels is to deliver justice for that part of Naples’ population that is excluded from the fancy parties and the operas that entertain wealthy citizens in the theater district. This series also allows for a study of the connection between romantic and historical aspects, an approach that stems from Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism (1957). The romantic as a narrative mode explains De Giovanni’s portrayal of the detective’s private life and desires and, once again, the personal struggle of the character exemplifies the limitations on personal freedom that common people experienced during the ventennio.
- XIV, 202
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- Publication date
- 2017 (September)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XIV, 202 pp.