In the summer of , American intellectual Irving Howe, co-founder of Dissent , traveled from New York to Rome to visit his favorite political novelist, Ignazio Silone. Silone began to laugh appreciatively. Though Silone, born at the turn of the century in a rural region of Catholic Italy, and Howe, a secular Jew raised in the s Bronx, had grown up worlds apart, they had a common bond. In the s, Howe and Silone also shared a desire to reclaim the moral core of socialism in the wake of Communist corruption. Howe had developed his commitment to left politics growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in the East Bronx and then at City College, as a follower of the Trotskyist Max Schachtman.
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The book is a moving, funny, and sometimes unbelievable look into provincial life in Italy under Mussolini. If you want to live at all well you have to sell your soul. Should I now mention the lessons that it seems to me I have learned?
The first is that a writer with a strong sense of social responsibility is more exposed than anyone else to the temptation of overemphasis, of the theatrical and the romantic, and of a purely external description of things and facts, while in every work of literature the only thing that matters is obviously the development of the interior life of the characters.
Even the landscape and other things by which they are surrounded are worthy of mention only to the extent that they are involved in the life of the spirit.
And, since pathos cannot be eliminated from human life, I feel that a touch of irony is required to make it acceptable. Another thing that has grown in me in the course of years is an aversion to all forms of propaganda. Of all the talk about the so-called commitment of artists, what remains?
The only commitment that deserves respect is that of a personal vocation. Besides, everyone knows that the artist cannot sacrifice art to efficacy without also sacrificing efficacy. As for style, it seems to me that the supreme wisdom in telling a story is to try to be simple. While I object ferociously to the sentiment expressed in the first paragraph, I nod in agreement with the second.
Morality can live and flourish only in practical life. We are responsible also for others. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email.
By Ignazio Silone. See comments at end for addition from internet readers. In that novel he explored in detail the lives of peasants in the early s rise of Fascism in Italy. The novel centers around the character of Pietro Spina, a young revolutionary in his early thirties who is being intensely hunted by the police so he takes on the disguise of an older priest and carries off this masquerade for the whole of the tale, as Don Paolo Spada. However, he is pushed to sign documents saying he is fully in support of some political issues inside Russia. This causes Spina to become disenchanted with the doctrinaire position and he has a terrible argument with a party boss in Rome who threatens to have him kicked out of the party. Are you mad?
Ignazio Silone’s Bread and Wine
At first blush Bread and Wine seems to be a thoughtfully approving portrait of a young revolutionary, Pietro Spina, in Mussolini's Italy. Spina's life is much like that of the author: staunchly anti-fascist, forced to live in exile, flirtation with communism, eventual embrace of a non-communistic revolutionary socialism. So of course the author would view his principal character with affection. And he does. He draws a stark contrast between the pure resolve of Spina and the "go along to get a.