From Caesar to the Mafia: Persons, Places, and Problems in Italian Life

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Transaction Publishers, 1971 - Political Science - 356 pages
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Described by Melvin Lasky as "one of the great journalists of our time," Luigi Barzini was also one of the great cultural historians of modern Italy. From Caesar to the Mafia brings together his finest essays, roughly half of them never before published in the English language. Whether discussing the deep Italian roots of Julius Caesar, Casanova's contribution to the art of living big, or Camillo Cavour's contribution to a democratic as well as integrated nation, Barzini makes Italian culture come alive. Whether he is dealing with heroes or villains, he never loses sight of how Italy became a distinct nation.

From Caesar to the Mafia is not only about people, but also focuses on places and problems. When Barzini discusses the Sicilians, the Isle of Capri, or his birthplace of Milan, he has the distinct capacity to capture what is universal as well as what is intimate in each place. An innate sense of psychological profiling enriches these intimate sketches. Because Barzini had such a keen appreciation of Anglo-American culture he emphasizes people and places known to travelers to Italy, as well as readers of Italian literature. What makes the volume so special is Barzini's careful maneuvering between sentimentality on one side and brutality on the other.

Italy is not only a state of mind for Barzini, but also a political culture. By discussing the exaggerated mannerism of Mussolini or the unusual capacity of Gramsci to grasp the principles of revolution making in an underdeveloped country, he helps us better understand the operations of fascism and communism as system and ideology. The final essays give voice to Barzini's ability as a political analyst. His examination of the Italian Communist Party's multiple personality disorders, the Christian Democrats as working compromise, the Mafia as a system of power designed not so much to kill as to intimidate and to rule in the absence of popular resistance, tells the reader about modern, postwar Italy. This is a volume not just to be read, but to be savored.

Luigi Barzini (1908-1984) was the author of an incomparable set of books on the United States, Europe, and Italy, including Americans are Alone in the World, and The Italians. He served as a foreign correspondent for Corriere della Sera, and later as a liberal deputy in the Italian Parliament. He was described by the late Cyril Connolly as "a philosopher and master of the English language."

Michael Ledeen is a distinguished senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and himself a learned scholar in Italian politics and letters. He has written widely on Machiavelli, D'Annunzio, and Italian fascism.

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Julius Caesar3
Cavour or the Foreigner as National Hero38
Curzio Malaparte48
The Sicilians61
The Aristocrats81
Gramsci a Founding Father115
A Glimpse of Mussolini139
The Quest for Lampedusa201
A Personal Affair222
A Fine Italian Hand239
Grand Hotel Montecitorio252
Its Different in the South259
The Communists and the Locomotive of History273
The Anatomy of Expertise297

The Italian Mistress144
PLACES AND HAPPENINGS 10 On the Isle of Capri157
The Death of a Bandit172
A Kings Last Night177
Milan a Natives Return188
The Mafia322
A House on the Via Cassia336
Aristocratic Birth and Revolutionary Death Feltrinelli

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