(The following article is part of a much longer chapter from a forthcoming book on “The Political Novel,” to be published by Horizon Press in 1956. It does not propose a full analysis of Silone’s writings, but tries to present him in a certain intellectual-literary tradition.)
In Ignazio Silone’s first novel, Fontamara, the image of the unity of worker and peasant, which had achieved a symbolic elevation in Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, appears in a state of decomposition, its two parts split into figures of hostility. One of the few modern novels that has the genuine quality of a folk tale, or perhaps better, a comic fable, Fontamara tells the story of a peasant village in the Abruzzi resisting in its pathetic way the onthrusts of the Mussolini regime. To the peasants, the political problem first presents itself as one of city against country, town against village—and they are not entirely wrong, for they, the peasants, are at the .very bottom, suffering the whole weight of Italian society. Simple but not simpleminded, unable to generalize very well from their suffering yet aware that they must learn to, they show a ...
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