‘Fontamara’ by Ignazio Silone – A Powerful Anti-Fascist Italian Novel

 

‘Fontamara’ by Ignazio Silone   (1934) – 240 pages            Translated from the Italian by Harvey Ferguson II

 

‘Fontamara’ holds important lessons for today since fascism is more of a threat today than at any time since World War II. ‘Fontamara’ brings to light the rise of fascism in Italy during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The fame of Ignazio Silone rests mainly on his two early novels ‘Fontamara’ and ‘Bread and Wine’. These two novels were among the first anti-Fascist novels and were hugely popular, influential, and well-lauded. His later works never achieved the acclaim of these earlier works. However, based mainly on these two novels, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize ten times although he never won the prize.

In ‘Fontamara’, the wealthy landlords are in league with the politicians and the banks and the lawyers to make the lives of the poor farmers a living Hell.

The new government is in the hands of a gang of bandits. They call themselves bankers and patriots, but they’re bandits without any respect for the old-time small landowner.”

In the area in southern Italy known as Fontamara, there is a stream that provides the water for irrigation which sustains all the poor farm families who have worked this land for centuries. The current government of the area then passes a law to divert this stream to the estate of a local rich landowner Don Carlo Magna.

At least one thing was clear: new laws were coming out every day in favor of the rich landowners. But only the old laws that were in favor of the peasants were being abolished. The ones that were unfavorable remained.”

The poor farmers knew from experience they could get no help or advice from the Church which would deliver them from the wickedness of the rich and imperious.

The local government always takes the side of the rich landowners against the poor farmers. The land in the Fucino basin which the poor farmers have worked for centuries is redistributed to the rich landowners who have the necessary capital to develop it.

Every word and gesture from these gentlemen reeked of trickery.”

However there were also poor people who backed this criminal autocratic government of the rich.

Men in black shirts…They were poor people too. But they formed a special class of poor people…Too weak and cowardly to stand up to the rich and the authorities, they preferred to serve them so they could rob and oppress the others – the peasants, tenants, and small landowners. They have always been in service of whoever gives the orders, and they always will be…They were the so-called Fascists.”

Once again we are faced with too many nations where their governments have been taken over by criminals who are working on behalf of the rich. The last rise of fascism resulted in World War II. Who knows what will happen this time?

 

Grade:    A

 

5 responses to this post.

  1. This sounds like a must-read.
    The present situation is quite worrying…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. A great novel indeed. However, it is a depressing thought that Silone worked for many years as an informant for the Fascist Secret Police.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • HI mytwostolinki,
      Yes, his personal history is more complicated than one would expect from reading ‘Fontamara’. I found the following in Wikipedia:

      “In the 1990s, Italian historians Dario Biocca and Mauro Canali found documents which implicated that Silone acted as an informant for the Fascist police from 1919 until 1930. It is believed that the reason he broke from the Fascist police is because of the torture the police inflicted upon his brother.”

      ‘Fontamara’ was written in 1933. After World War II, he received secret funds from the CIA.
      I still believe ‘Fontamara’ is a great novel.

      Like

      Reply

      • Yes, I completely agree regarding the literary value of Fontamara. Silone as a person is a tragic case, since he obviously did his dirty work only as a result of blackmail to save his brother. We can be lucky to have never been in his shoes and to make a decision that would either destroy his brother’s life or potentially the lives of your friends and colleagues and their families.

        Liked by 1 person

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