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Investigating Fascism

Crime, Mystery, and the Fascist Ventennio in the Historical Novel


Angelo Castagnino

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 sociohistorical 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.

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Chapter 4. A History of Violence: Antonio Pennacchi’s Historical Novels



A History of Violence

Antonio Pennacchi’s Historical Novels

The present inquiry has thus far dealt with several of the functions that authors give to crime and violence in the historical novel, and with the intersection between this genre and such topics as mimesis, individual and collective identity, laughter, and justice. In this chapter, the analysis of violence in three of Antonio Pennacchi’s historical novels—Palude (1995, and then revised in 2000 and 2011), Canale Mussolini (2010), and Canale Mussolini parte seconda (2015)—incorporates the abovementioned elements and adds a distinguishing feature: the topic of crime not just as an important presence in society, but as one of its founding components. Most of Pennacchi’s narrative production revolves around the creation of the town of Littoria (today’s city of Latina), and this chapter studies the representation of violence as one of the elements that originated that community. The considerations emerging from this regional perspective on the Agro Pontino, the swamps that the fascist regime acquired and drained during the 1930s, will eventually lead to reflections that are not limited to this specific geographical area, but are representative of the perceptions that Italians developed about violence under Mussolini’s rule. From a technical point of view, Pennacchi’s books are particularly relevant for their original creation of a fictional autobiography that, with the mediation of sarcastic elements, intertwines with a discussion of nonfiction novels and←83 | 84→ the difficult distinction between historical accuracy and imaginary additions. The intersection...

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