Milan: Antonio Scurati, the contemporary writer, storyteller, and professor at the Institute of Modern Languages at the University of Milan, launched his career in 2002 with his novel 'The Muffled Sound of the Battle'. His next book 'The Survivor', issued in 2005, won the 43rd edition of the prestigious Premio Campiello awards.
These achievements were followed by several other awards and many of his novels were translated into various languages, including 'The Child who Dreamed of the End of the World' (2009), 'The Unfaithful Father' (2013), and 'The Best Time of Our Life'.
Today, almost 25 years after the great Italian historian Renzo De Felice published (over the course of 30 years) his famous eight-volume biography of Benito Mussolini, Scurati has chosen to make this controversial figure the centre of his recent works.
As Scurati writes, there is renewed interest in fascism and the rise of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party in the past few years, which culminated in the party, led by current Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, winning the elections on 25 September 2022.
Perhaps Italy has discovered, along with the rest of the world, that Mussolini still holds power in the present, and this growing power has found its way to the center of political and social discussions.
In 2019, Scurati’s 'M: Son of the Century' won the Strega Prize and was followed by 'M: The Man of Providence' — the publication of which coincided with the centenary of Mussolini’s March on Rome. The third book in this series, 'M: The Last Days of Europe', focused on fascism and its leader Benito Mussolini from 1938 until 1940.
Similar to the previous two books, the third publication was hugely successful and remains at the top of the bestseller list.
The story begins on 3 May 1938. On this date of great significance, Mussolini, along with Victor Emmanuel III (King of Italy 1900-1946, Emperor of Ethiopia 1936-1943, First Marshall of the Empire, and King of Albania 1939-1943) and his Foreign Minister Gian Galeazzo Ciano, waited for Adolf Hitler and his generals to arrive in Italy by train for a tour of Rome, Napoli, and Florence.
A few weeks earlier, Hitler had announced the Anschluss of Austria while Mussolini had left the League of Nations and was preparing to issue a series of racial laws to create a new society inspired by the military, political, and social characteristics of the Roman Empire. Above all, he wanted to ‘cleanse’ the Italian language from loanwords.
From 1922 to 1943, Mussolini replaced the country’s democratic system with a dictatorship, or rather with fascism. Fascist Italy outlawed the use of loanwords in shops, advertisements, or street and hotel names.
One of the most commonly used words at the time was Duce, a Latin term used by ancient Romans to mean leader or commander. Mussolini demanded that he be called Il Duce.
Additionally, more draconian measures were imposed, as dialects were banned, and minorities who spoke other languages were persecuted.