July 22, 2009

PSSSST...SERPICO IS HEROIC:

REVIEW: of Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone By STANISLAO PUGLIESE (George Scialabba, Barnes & Noble)

Though the Cold War ended less than 20 years ago, Communism now seems a distant memory. So thoroughly did the Soviet and Chinese Communists betray the ideals in whose name they seized power, and so ruthlessly did they silence nearly everyone who protested that betrayal, that the ideals themselves are in danger of being forgotten. But many of the wisest and bravest men and women of the 20th century began by embracing Communism, and some of the century's best political writing was occasioned by their efforts later in life to understand what, if anything, of that youthful commitment remained valid. [...]

Idealism without illusions, an unsentimental passion for justice -- this is Silone's legacy. He called himself "a Socialist without a Party, a Christian without a Church." What he meant by both Socialism and Christianity, he explained, was "an extension of the moral values of private life" -- generosity, solidarity, candor -- "to all of social life." It is a simple vision but still a very long way from realization. Few people in his time did more than Silone to keep it alive.

A few last, anticlimactic words must be added. In recent years, two Italian historians have accused Silone -- one of the best-known and most hated opponents of Fascism -- of having been a Fascist informer. Stanislao Pugliese reviews their case and the subsequent controversy with scrupulous fairness. The evidence is slender, but it seems clear that Silone had a correspondence with a Fascist police official.


Whether or not they were the wisest and the bravest, all of the best writing was actually either done by those who informed (Orwell, Silone, Chambers, Kazan, etc.) or, as was the case with Dashiell Hammet, justified informing.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at July 22, 2009 6:56 AM
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