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Il Duce's Other Woman Hardcover – February, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A person of exceptional erudition and culture, Margherita Sarfatti (1880-1961) was the Italian dictator's lover, political adviser and intellectual mentor, the authors show in their enlightening study. They reveal how, in the period following the Great War, the two combined their socialist ideals and fierce nationalism to forge a revolutionary movement--Fascism--and how Mussolini in the end "could not tolerate public knowledge that a woman and a Jew had done as much as she had to build the Fascist regime." Her forced departure from Italy in 1938 (the year Il Duce declared his anti-Semitic policies) proved to be Sarfatti's salvation. In their excellent biography of this difficult, dynamic, memorable woman, Cannistraro and Sullivan present aspects of her lover's career not previously explored in detail: Mussolini's experiences as a solider in WW I, his editorship of the socialist paper Avanti! and his active interest in creating a favorable international image of Fascist Italy. Cannistraro is head of the history and politics department at Drexel University in Pennsylvania; Sullivan is a senior fellow at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The wealthy Jewish Margherita Sarfatti was one of Mussolini's numerous paramours. Unlike his other mistresses, she was also a brilliant woman, influential as an art critic, patron, and collector. She met Mussolini in 1911 and played a significant role in the rise of fascism, only to be discarded as her lover turned to anti-Semitism. After World War II she continued to be an influential force in Italian art. Behind this book's flippant title is a carefully researched, highly detailed, and interesting, though overly long, history of fascist Italy. Its authors, both with academic affiliations, have avoided the pitfalls of academese to produce an account that will be enjoyable to the general reader. Given Mussolini's importance in world history, there is relatively little about him in English. Libraries serving readers interested in world history, or those that hold Denis Mack Smith's classic Mussolini (Knopf, 1982), should purchase. Photos and index not seen.
- Barbara Walden, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 685 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Co; First Edition edition (February 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688062997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688062996
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,183,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 24 people found the following review helpful By P. V. Rocca on February 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Two words aptly describe this work - "boring" and "slanted." The authors have chosen to write a biography of a relatively obscure person from history, Margherita Sarfatti who was a prominent art critic in Italy during the 20's and 30's and who also happened to be one of Benito Mussolini's many mistresses. All other biographies of Italy's Il Duce barely devote a sentence or two to Sarfatti but this one paints her as the mastermind behind Mussolini's creation of fascism and his rise to power. Unfortunately, the documentation provided to support this thesis is virtually nonexistant. Mussolini is portrayed as a pure brute with no mind of his own, hell-bent on the aquistion of power and the elimination of civil liberties. No mention is made of the score of public works that Italian fascism enacted and that resulted in the substantial increase of pre-war Italian standard of living. Instead, an inordinate and excessive amount of pages are devoted to Sarfatti's relationship to the futurist painters of early 20th century Italy. What is not apparent is the reason for selecting Sarfatti as the protagonist of this book. Perhaps the authors find irony in her Jewish ancestry and Mussolini's later anti-semitic laws once the Axis with Germany was formed. I wound recommend this book only for those interested in the history of 20th century Italian artists. Those interested in an accurate and objective account of the socio-political factors leading up to and involving Fascist Italy are advised to look elsewhere.
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