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Piero Gobetti’s Turin

Modernity, Myth and Memory


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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Chapter 1 - The Nation’s Guide and Conscience? Turin and Italy, from Enlightenment to Fascism 17


Chapter 1 The Nation’s Guide and Conscience? Turin and Italy, from Enlightenment to Fascism By the time that Gobetti was growing up in the early twentieth century, Turin was no longer the sleepy town it had seemed in the last decades of the previous century. By then the city was crowded with a new working-class population and its outskirts bustling with the noise and steam of factory work. However, being home to the Fiat factories was only Turin’s most recent claim to fame, and the city’s more complex past was easily betrayed by its splendid baroque architecture, royal palaces and wide, elegant boul- evards, all fitting for a capital city. The Gobetti family home, as well as the grocery shop that was their livelihood, was located on Via XX Settembre; a wide, elegant street and one of the main arteries of central Turin. It was just a couple of minutes walk from the vast public space of Piazza Castello, the paved central square that opened onto the former palace of the Savoy monarchy. Although it had sunk brief ly into provincial torpor in the late nine- teenth century, Turin had been a capital city for almost four centuries, and had played a leading role in the unification of Italy in the 1850s and 1860s. Capital of the small alpine duchy (and later kingdom) of Piedmont since the sixteenth century, it was not so much a provincial Italian city, as the urban centre of a small state hemmed in between France...

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