From Publishers Weekly
In this astute analysis of contemporary Italian political culture under Berlusconi, Stille intricately yet seamlessly traces the prime minister's rise from Milan real estate developer to international political phenomenon. "A troubling avant-garde figure, a kind of Citizen Kane on steroids," Berlusconi has and will continue to have an impact that far outreaches his political career, Stille argues. A calculating master of the Italian proverb, "Se non è vero, è ben trovato
" ("If it's not true, it's well said"), Berlusconi is a global archetype rather than a particularly Italian anomaly. Stille (Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic
; Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism
) has exquisitely analyzed not only contemporary Italian political culture but the ominous rise of an international political culture in which figures such as Berlusconi can flourish (though the recent election leaves his political future in doubt). Stille writes with such wit and verve that this book will easily appeal both to close followers of contemporary Italian politics and to those simply interested in a prescient, fascinating portrait of a politician and the international cultural shifts surrounding his ascent. The last chapter in particular solidifies this book as an absorbing tour-de-force. (June)
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Arriving after the recent ouster of Silvio Berlusconi as Italy's prime minister, this fluent account of the tycoon's media and political careers frames his ascent as both uniquely Italian and disconcertingly universal. Berlusconi used an acute sales instinct to forge political alliances and to appeal to a vast middle class of Italians. Along the way, he developed alleged ties to the Mafia, dodged charges of bribery and cronyism, and exploited his position to preserve his media dominance. Some of Stille's most colorful anecdotes are pressed into service more than once, but his exposition of the various abuses and scandals is clear and damning. Pointing to the rise of super-rich politicians in America, the trend toward a depoliticized electorate, and the increasing consolidation of media under a few corporate powerhouses, Stille also makes an impassioned, if occasionally unpersuasive, argument that Berlusconi "is a reflection of ourselves in a fun-house mirror, our features distorted and exaggerated but distinctly recognizable."
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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