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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 7. The Detective at a Crossroads: Individual Identity at the End of the Regime



The Detective at a Crossroads

Individual Identity at the End of the Regime

The final years of World War II (WWII) were, in Italy, distinguished by extreme political confusion and instability: after the fall, incarceration, and liberation of Mussolini in 1943, the Italian territory was under the simultaneous influence of the Allies, Germany, and the Republic of Salò. As the historian Marco Innocenti has defined the year that marked the final destiny of fascist Italy, “Il 1943 degli italiani è la piccola storia di piccoli uomini presi in mezzo alla grande storia. È fatto di fame, paura, bombe, tedeschi, americani, fascisti, partigiani: tanti nomi per una tragedia / 1943 is, for Italians, the little history of little men caught in the events of great History. It is made of hunger, fear, bombs, Germans, Americans, fascists, and partisans: many names for one tragedy” (L’Italia del 1943 5). The historical detective novel set in those years inevitably mirrors such complexity, and characters are often affected by a moral dilemma regarding which institutions they should display loyalty to. Because they embody the enforcement of fascist law, the detectives suffer a crisis of individual identity more than other characters, especially because of their doubts about whether they should still support the values of a fading ideology. This struggle is the main feature in the characterization of sleuths at the center of novels set from 1943 to the dopoguerra. In the attempt to study the narrative implications of such a...

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