Sometimes one thinks that in Italy a moratorium should be applied to all anniversaries, recurrences and commemorations for at least one year. We are literally constipated by it. Then, after a year of silence, we would probably appreciate its true meaning more, perhaps a little purified from stereotypes and overexposed second-hand readings and often affected by a squint linked, indeed crushed, flattened on current events. How to get rid of stereotypes? Reading madly and desperately, to restore three-dimensionality to the story. The theme of the march on Rome does not seem to be an exception to this rule. It will be current. But to get a real idea of ​​those years it would perhaps be better to start by reading the newspapers of the time, as Corriere della Sera well thought (Corriere della sera and the march on Rome, edited by G. Albanian, 2022). It is in fact embarrassing to discover how little the new generations know, accomplices, indeed victims of school textbooks that are increasingly resembling (for the worse) the mythical bignami and of a superficial and also stereotyped study.

However, reading can change this state of affairs, due to the ability that good books have to broaden our vision and understanding of a historical moment in every dimension, leading us from the detail of individual stories to the generality of social events or vice versa. And now that we have enunciated this concept, perhaps a little obvious but in any case sacrosanct, let’s start by contradicting ourselves immediately, therefore not with a book but by recommending the irreverent irony of a film and starting from a sentence of Tullio Kezich «It is certainly a good thing that certain themes of our recent history, until recently considered taboo, are now within the reach of those who want to make a show of them». That sentence is in fact sacrosanct, and in addition to the books see the Dino Rice de The March on Rome well worth the time invested. In that film there is another symbolic phrase, right towards the end of the film, when crossing the railway line Bobbins says to Gavazza (after the two paradoxical black shirts marching on the capital quarreled with the commander of the maniple, left him stunned and then fled) «And now we have to decide, you know, either Rome or Orte». There is nobody around them, two black shirts in the desert. Meanwhile that ‘m’ of difference says more about that moment than many learned speeches. For an ‘m’ history changes, for a point Martin lost his cape, for the thin thread of a decision never taken Italy loses its democracy. Among other things, as has been recently recalled by some newspapers, the paternity of that sentence belongs to the caustic Sienese Maccari.

And jumping from sentence to sentence why not read the Luxury of the March on Rome and its environs (1931), an autobiographical piece rightly defined as a ‘narrative jewel’ (a book recently reprinted by Einaudi in the ET writers series), of which one cannot fail to mention this passage: «It is around Rome that the fate of Italy must be decided. Mussolini takes the train in Naples, crosses Rome and ends up in Milan. Milan was on the opposite side, 600 kilometers from Rome. If he had stayed in Naples, he would have been closer. Original fighting location. Even with modern strategy, 600 kilometers away from the fighting bulk is actually a lot. But, on the other hand, Milan has the advantage of being just a few kilometers from the Swiss border».
Certainly an interesting year, from our particular point of view, 1931 when, again in France, comes out Coup technique from Curzio Malaparteinstantly pointed to the index, and burned by the will of Hitler “on the public square of Leipzig, at the hands of the executioner, according to the Nazi rite (…) ruthless dissection of the various types of coups and their constants – in fact represented the first, clamorous international success of Malaparte” as stated in the 2011 reprint for Adelphi types. The latter book with very particular ideas and passages that could be defined as prophetic and absolutely current at the same time. Democracy must be defended and nothing should ever be taken for granted. Lussu and Malaparte are two bigwigs, literally speaking.

But France and Paris then make one think by association of ideas of another no less important phrase: “A biography is not the story of a man’s whole life”. This passage is contained in a book composed of twelve writings, published and unpublished, by Italo Calvino, released after his death with the title: Hermit in Paris. Autobiographical pages (Oscar Mondadori 2019). In these stories the one entitled appears Portraits of the Duce. Here Calvino, putting himself from the point of view of a reader of the then very widespread Courier Sunday describes in its own way a historical moment and an entire era. His considerations on the style of those years are striking, when politicians presented themselves in public «in bourgeois clothing, stiff collar with the tips turned up as was then in common use for people of respect […] The jacket that the Head of Government wore was a morning coat […] which he then usually wore in official ceremonies […] The statesman’s attire accentuated his youth, because that was the real novelty that the image had to convey […] Not even in Italy had a statesman been seen clean-shaven, without a beard and moustache, and this was in itself a sign of modernity. (…) Shaving was already widespread, but the most representative politicians at the time of the Great War and after the war still all wore beards or moustaches. Almost all over the world, I would say (I’m writing without consulting books or encyclopedias), with the sole exception of American presidents. The quadrumvirs of the March on Rome also had moustaches, and two of them also had beards». Yes, the nascent fascination and power of the image and the means of information of those years, and the fruitful but also harmful intuitions that derived from it. The writers certainly did not pass unscathed by these sirens.

A Renaissance gentleman: Like this Benito Mussoliniimmediately after the seizure of power, appeared in the eyes of Joseph Ungaretti. The only one, according to the poet, really capable of opening the way to official and popular recognition for his talent. We talk about none other than de The buried port his poetic climax: it was 5 November 1922 (on 31 October Mussolini had become head of government, three days after the march on Rome) and Ungaretti with a letter requested and obtained the preface to that collection, which was to be published in ’23 ( see F. Petrocchi, Italian writers and fascism). This testifies that the march on Rome and what followed mark a dark period which overall does not do great honor to literature and intellectuals and open a substantial black hole in many aspects of not only historical but also literary narration of those years. This includes not only the march on Rome but also the blows shortly thereafter inflicted on the capital by squadrism. It hits hard in the historic districts of the city of course, but also in important hubs of the cultural and literary life of the capital. That’s when the writers, with the events of their life and their vicissitudes in that period, in a strange game of inversion become literary matter themselves: for once it is history that writes them.
In this sense Rome divided. 1919-1925. Itineraries, stories, images published by Il Saggiatore (2014) has considerable merit. His interesting journeys in a city that no longer exists take us to the threshold of a historic café, the Caffè Aragno, opened in 1886, which could boast a clientele made up of writers and artists, but also politicians and journalists. Writers such as Cardarelli, Marinetti and many others met regularly in the Terza Saletta. But the march on Rome, as the book recounts, didn’t just hit the trade union offices or neighborhoods, but also this type of place: the Saletta disappeared and slowly the literate frequenters of the place deserted it. To extinguish a democracy, the free voice of literature also had to be extinguished.

– toscanalibri – The portal of Tuscan culture