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Making the Italians

Poetics and Politics of Italian Children’s Fantasy

Lindsay Myers

Italian children’s literature has a diverse and unusual tradition of fantasy. With the exception of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, however, it has remained almost entirely unknown outside of Italy. Why is it that Italian children’s fantasy has remained such a well-kept secret? How ‘international’ is the term ‘fantasy’, and to what extent has its development been influenced by local as well as global factors? Cross-cultural and cross-linguistic research into this neglected area is essential if we are to enrich our understanding of this important literary genre.
This book charts the history and evolution of Italian children’s fantasy, from its first appearance in the 1870s to the present day. It traces the structural and thematic progression of the genre in Italy and situates this development against the changing backdrop of Italian culture, society and politics. The author argues that ever since the foundation of Italy as a nation-state the Italian people have been actively involved in an ongoing process of identity formation and that the development of children’s fantasy texts has been inextricably intertwined with sociopolitical and cultural imperatives.

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Chapter 6The Surreal Fantasy: 1919–1929 113

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Chapter 6 The Surreal Fantasy: 1919–1929 When the Great War came to an end on 11 November 1918 Italy had suf fered significant human and economic losses. She had also been humiliated by not obtaining all of the lands that she had been promised under the Treaty of London. The challenges that faced the liberal government were thus considerable. Not only did it have to placate the nationalists, now look- ing to avenge what many were calling a ‘mutilated victory’, it also had to find a way to address the major social and economic crisis that the war had produced. Unemployment levels were high, and there were so many strikes and protests in the years between 1919 and 1920 that the period is often to referred to as the bienio rosso [red biennium]. Support for the PSI (Italian Socialist Party) increased significantly as a result of the deteriorating social conditions and in the elections of 1919 the party gained nearly one-third of the seats in parliament. It was, however, the right-wing fascists who proved to be the greatest threat to the security of the State. In 1919 Benito Mussolini and a group of ardent nationalists came together to form the fasci italiani di combattimento [Italian League of Combat], a radical new organisation dedicated to the renovation of the state through revolution, and while initially this movement had little appeal, by April 1921 it had become the largest political organisation in Italy. For the industrialists, disillusioned with the liberal government’s...

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