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PostMussolini as Novelist: "Claudia Particella, The Cardinal's Mistress" (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 04/13/19 4:48 am)
Our esteemed moderator (April 10th) asked me to elaborate on the books Mussolini wrote in his youth.
It is not an easy task for many reasons, starting with the fact that I seldom read novels but only history books.
Mussolini's books were political, but if we look at the great Italian writers of the past, almost all their works were politically motivated. See Guicciardini, but also Dante, Manzoni, etc. All had the underlying mission of improving people's conditions, the unity and independence of Italy and the weakening or even elimination of the temporal power of the Papacy.
Mussolini's first book L'Uomo e la Divinità is mostly pro-atheism, while the later books still have anticlerical messages but not a real animosity against the Catholic faith.
When he achieved power, Mussolini was eager to reach an agreement with the Papacy, and to some degree he boycotted his own literary production, which he considered to be of minor importance.
However, an English edition of Claudia Particella had considerable success.
The new Italian culture--lay, democratic and antifascist--has always been and still is dominated by the Communist party and their heirs in any aspect of literature, film, painting, music and even Facebook. So Mussolini's books are anathema.
Allow me a few comments on Claudia Particella, l'amante del Cardinale. It was published as a series (57 installments) in the newspaper Il popolo di Trento directed by Cesare Battisti, the future martyr for Italian Unity hanged by the Austrians. It had a great success, the newspaper increased its daily circulation considerably, and Mussolini received a raise from 15 to 25 lire for each chapter.
The story is about the love affair between the Cardinal Emanuele Madruzzo (1599-1658) and Claudia Particella against the background of the ecclesiastic decadence of the early 1600s.
It is also necessary to consider the local conditions of the Trentino, at the time of the writing. The Italian irredentist sentiments were united in requesting better social conditions, but they were not supported by the high Catholic spheres loyal to the Emperor of Austria, including the usual lackey De Gasperi. See also his later lackey attitudes towards relations towards the Empire. However he worked energetically against the Communist Party in 1948.
The book features a perfidious character named Benizio (a clear reference to Benito), while a nice woman is named Rachele, as was Mussolini's fiancee and later marvelous wife. The book can be considered proto-feminist for its strong presentation and support for women. It's prophetic in some ways, too.
Don Benizio tells Claudia: "The blinded people will drag your body through the streets, through the mud and shame." And Claudia answers: "It doesn't matter. Outrage can be a triumph. All naive people are blind. They love and hate without discernment. They make victims and later love them when the moment of their bestial fanaticism has ended."
Clearly both the figures of the wife and of the lover of Mussolini are previewed. Probably in a freer society the books of Mussolini would have much more attention and appreciation.
The book, in Italian, can be bought reprinted by Edizioni Lupo, at the price of 18 euros. The English version
The Cardinal's Mistress can be bought on Amazon UK at 13 euros or £10 or through Kindle at the price of £1.49.
JE comments: Claudia Particella could now be read in a completely new context: that of the current scandals in the Catholic church. If the novel had anyone's name but Mussolini's in the by-line, it would probably have been made into a TV series by now.