Il Caso Silone

Leftist intellectual, communist apostate and fascist spy? Shoddy scholarship has obscured the legacy of Ignazio Silone, the political lightning rod of 20th-century Italian literati.

Issue: Fall 2001

NEMO PROPHETA acceptus est in patria sua. The novels of Ignazio Silone are full of biblical symbols and citations, the latter often appearing in the lapidary cadences of the Vulgare. Reading through the Pleiade-like, two-volume set of Silone's opera omnia, which Mondadori released as the centenary of the writer's birth approached last year, one is struck by the extent to which Silone's creative vision sprang from and remained rooted in Scripture.

Of his near contemporaries, perhaps only Andre Gide matches Silone in the obsessive way he conscripts biblical sayings and stories to serve his fictional needs. But whereas the Bible was a psychological sounding board to Gide, a means to plumb the paradoxes and perversities of human nature, to Silone it was less a means to promote greater individual self-awareness than a hallowed reminder of the perennial want of human solidarity.

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