Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone
Stanislao G. Pugliese
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One of the major figures of twentieth-century European literature, Ignazio Silone (1900-78) is the subject of this award-winning new biography by the noted Italian historian Stanislao G. Pugliese. A founding member of the Italian Communist Party, Silone took up writing only after being expelled from the PCI and garnered immediate success with his first book, Fontamara, the most influential and widely translated work of antifascism in the 1930s. In World War II, the U.S. Army printed unauthorized versions of it, along with Silone's Bread and Wine, and distributed them throughout Italy during the country's Nazi occupation. During the cold war, he was an outspoken opponent of Soviet oppression and was twice considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Twenty years after his death, Silone was the object of controversy when reports arose indicating that he had been an informant for the Fascist police. Pugliese's biography, the most comprehensive work on Silone by far and the first full-length biography to be published in English, evaluates all the evidence and paints a portrait of a complex figure whose life and work bear themes with contemporary relevance and resonance. Bitter Spring, the winner of the 2008 Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History, is a memorable biography of one of the twentieth century's greatest writers against totalitarianism in all its forms, set amid one of the most troubled moments in modern history.
revisionist and conservative venues. Nor do they offer a motive for Silone’s spying. Several times they suggest that significant sums of money changed hands, yet Silone was chronically short of funds in the 1920s, sometimes dangerously so. In a January 1930 letter to Romolo in prison, Silone confessed that “financially I am in very bad shape. For the first time in my life I have had to take on debts.” Throughout his life, Silone led an economically precarious existence, later shielded from the
Scott Koch, Information and Privacy Coordinator, Central Intelligence Agency, January 26, 2006. The same day the biographical entry for Silone was cataloged (January 7, 1944), Emmy C. Rado, an OSS analyst and wife of the Hungarian psychiatrist Sandor Rado, sent a letter to Mario Einaudi in Chappaqua, New York, containing a list of Italians “of which I would like to have as much information as possible.” Rado had been, curiously enough, Wilhelm Reich’s dance partner in Vienna and was rumored to be
www.univ-brest.fr/amnis/pages_francais/archive_article_annee.php?annee=2004. 306 appeared on such a list: Franzinelli, I tentacoli dell’OVRA, p. 85. 307 “even if Silone himself”: Indro Montanelli, Corriere della Sera, February 2, 1999. 307 Bellone drafted a cover letter: Canali, Il caso Silone, p. 31. 308 The indefatigable Tamburrano: Tamburrano, Granati, and Isinelli, Processo a Silone; Tamburanno, Il “caso” Silone. 309 A document from the Ministry: Both Carucci’s letter and the
in any other political party. As he and others have pointed out, it was a “conversion,” a manner of living completely differently from the vast majority. “Those were times when to call oneself a Socialist or Communist meant risking everything, breaking with one’s relatives and friends and not being able to find work. The material consequences were therefore serious, and the difficulties in readjusting one’s thinking were no less painful.” The world embodied by Pescina, from which Silone had
doctrine of “socialfascism”; that he was not an “internationalist” but an “Italian” and, worse, a southern Italian; in fact, his “contadinismo” (advocacy of the peasants) was a grave theoretical error. “These were the charges against me,” he wrote to Tasca, “but they probably won’t be the public charges against me in the act of expulsion. Those are not difficult to imagine: traitor, deserter, etc.” The only thing that Silone and the commission could agree upon was that he had a different ideology