Tuesday, January 17, 2023
The Mussolini canal (Canale Mussolini) - Antonio Pennacchi
Besides being an excellent read, this is also a very good summary of twentieth century Italian history: the rural society at the turn of the century, the First World War, the socialist uprising, the birth of fascism, Mussolini’s takeover, the Second World War, the post war reconstruction and the ensuing economic growth. These events are all part of a story which revolves around a family - the Peruzzi - from the Veneto (that’s actually where I come from). They are sharecroppers, people who - for generations - have worked the land and farmed animals, gone to war, brought up dozens of children, eaten meager meals and made up for that by drinking barrels of wine, coped with natural disasters and famines, economic crises, pandemics, political instability and social abuse, who have fallen in and out of love, made friends and enemies, fought family vendettas and formed strong social bonds.
By the end of the second decade of the last century the Peruzzi are finally well off, not rich but not poor either. Then the economic situation changes - the infamous “quota 90” - and they end up losing everything. The Peruzzi have connections in the fascist government though, and they manage to be included in the migratory wave that will bring them from the “Nordest” to the “Agro Pontino”, not far from Rome, a previously swampy area infested with mosquitoes, plagued by malaria and teeming with bandits, that neither the Romans nor the Pope nor Napoleon have managed to reclaim. Yet, the stubbornness of the fascist government, willing to leave its mark on history, has finally succeeded to turn the region into a modern farming jewel, awaiting expert farmers to work it. The Peruzzi, along with thousands other families from the Veneto, the Friuli and the Ferrarese, start afresh and join the mission. A new world is set on motion, with all its dramas, romances, tragedies, parodies, heroes and antiheroes.
This is the book the author claims he was born to write. It is a novel you will surely enjoy.