Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy

Written by Christopher Duggan

The book’s title contains the clue to its unique approach. Duggan has drawn on the reams of correspondence received by the Duce’s private secretariat, as well as on private diaries in Italy’s recently founded Archivio Diaristico Nazionale to gain access to the voices of dozens of “ordinary” Italians who lived through the years of the Fascist regime. This rich material gives this re-telling of Mussolini’s rise to power, from the early 1900s to the final act of Salò, a new and profoundly moving insight. From the dejected young military cadet, Carlo Ciseri, who heard Mussolini give a speech in 1920 and became an ardent and probably lifelong supporter to the young socialist student, whose excitement at the Allied landings in July 1943 quickly gave way to dismay about the actions of the Badoglio government as Italy was effectively divided in two: the Allied South and the German-controlled North. Skilfully woven into the historical narrative, the diary entries are intimate: initially assertions of pride or defiance, then latterly statements of disbelief or confusion. The backgrounds of the writers cover a full social spectrum from elderly housewives to distinguished journalists, schoolboys and government officials. The range of emotion is equally vast: from the nonchalance of half-hearted conformism in the early years to the appalling reprisals of fascist squadrismo, especially in Ethiopia. In all, this is a compelling account which reveals a far more multifaceted picture of Fascist Italy than any that has emerged to date.