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Piero Gobetti’s Turin

Modernity, Myth and Memory

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Niamh Cullen

In his brief public career, Piero Gobetti was one of the most outspoken and original voices of early Italian antifascism. Before his sudden death in 1926, he founded and edited three periodicals, including the fiercely antifascist La Rivoluzione Liberale and the literary journal Il Baretti. While much has been written about his antifascism and his theories of ‘liberal revolution’, this book considers him primarily as an ‘organiser of culture’ and situates him both in the context of his lived experience in Turin after the First World War and in a wider European panorama. Although politically marginal by 1918, Turin was one of Italy’s most modern cities, with its futuristic Fiat factories, vocal working class and militant socialist intellectuals such as Antonio Gramsci. The book explores Gobetti’s encounters with Turin – both its history and the modern, urban landscape of Gobetti’s own day – as central to his thinking. Historically and geographically, Turin was also the Italian city closest to France and northern Europe. If Gobetti’s immediate surroundings inspired much of his thinking, his sensibilities were – in true Piedmontese style – more European than Italian, and his ultimate impact far from only local. Finally, Gobetti’s bitter disillusionment with liberal and fascist Italy, as well as his refusal to fit any of the conventional political labels, means that his memory has remained contentious right up to the present day. This groundbreaking new study explores the roots of Gobetti’s thinking, his impact on Italian culture and his controversial legacy.

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Introduction 1

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1 to other Italians can be dated back centuries before his time. Particular attention will be given to the print media in the city, and especially to the two main Turin newspapers, La Stampa and La Gazzetta del Popolo and their self styled missions of national pedagogy. While their politics may have dif fered considerably, I argue a certain stylistic continuity between these previous Piedmontese editors and Gobetti, in the shared sense of a mission to reform the Italian character. The chapter concludes by situating the young Gobetti in Turin, describing his early life and personal experi- ence of the city up to 1918 when his public life began. Tracing the origins of Turin’s avant-garde culture in the turbulent atmosphere of post-war Italy, Chapter 2 begins with a discussion of Gobetti’s first journal Energie Nove which he began to publish in November 1918 at the age of just seventeen, before moving on to a detailed examination of Gramsci, early communism and the Ordine Nuovo periodical, and Gobetti’s celebrated oppositional journal La Rivoluzione Liberale. Although the young intellectuals are almost wholly absorbed in abstractions when they begin to write and edit – from the philosophical idealism of Croce and Gentile to socialist theory – they gradually become more and more inter- ested in the city around them, and Turin again emerges as a central char- acter in this chapter. It is the shared interest in the industrial and militant working-class character of Italy’s most modern city that forms the common thread between Gramsci...

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