The Mussolini Canal

Written by Antonio Pennachi Judith Landry (trans.)
Review by Alan Fisk

Many dictators from Nero to Napoleon had set out to drain the Italy’s malarial Pontine Marshes, but it was Mussolini who finally succeeded. The Peruzzi family, sharecroppers from northern Italy who had lost their livelihood, become part of the 30,000 migrants who settled in the marshes to build the Mussolini Canal, which carried away excess river water that would resurrect the marsh if given a chance.

There is no hero in this novel, but instead a whole crowd of heroes and heroines in the vast, tough Peruzzi family, who take whatever the 20th century can throw at them and throw as much as they can back at it. Their lives are moved by Socialism and then Fascism, including their very personal relationship with Mussolini himself.

No hero, and no plot, but instead an absorbing and lively story of the Peruzzi family and their lives of poverty and struggle, love and hate. This is a long novel, but I was sorry to see it end, and I can’t remember when I last said that about a book.