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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 5. Not All Are Equal Before the Law: Fascist Impunity in Women’s Narratives



Not All Are Equal Before the Law

Fascist Impunity in Women’s Narratives

The novels introduced thus far prioritize, among other aspects, the recollection of masculinity in characters who reassess their involvement with Fascism, a regime that imposed a hyperbolic interpretation of virility. Many of the characters studied in this book experience the crisis typical of individuals who have actively participated, sometimes from important positions, in the dynamics of the regime. Historical novels often portray men who transition to a new phase in their life after having enforced fascist law, served in positions of high responsibility, or represented the connection between the dictatorship and common citizens. Because of the peculiar social function of Italian women during the ventennio, the portrayal of female characters follows a different approach, one more concerned with depicting them as victims of violence and crimes that go unpunished. This recurring narrative pattern establishes a connection between the fictional aspect of characterization and the historical circumstances that limited women’s personal, intellectual, and professional ambitions during Fascism: representing women as “expendable” characters mirrors their condition under Mussolini’s rule.

The fascist attempt to delay women’s emancipation by relegating them to the private sphere should be contextualized within the historical background of Italy in the first half of the twentieth century. The rise of Mussolini←105 | 106→ reinforced and used, for political goals, a preexisting condition of inequality between genders. At the turn of the twentieth century, Italy took timid steps toward...

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