From Publishers Weekly
There was a time when Ignazio Silone was the most famous Italian author in the world. His earliest novels, such as Fontamara and Bread & Wine, were praised for their depictions of peasant life in his native Abruzzo. As Pugliese reveals in this solid and engaging biography, Silone's literary reputation in his own country was complicated by his political legacy; having joined the Italian Communists to advocate social justice and fight fascism, the author was dismayed by the party's authoritarian tendencies and was eventually expelled. Pugliese (whose previous book was on Carlo Rosselli, Silone's contemporary in the Italian socialist movement) builds his biographical case in careful blocs of information, describing the drama while maintaining the narrative. This holds true even during a review of the controversial discovery, 20 years after Silone's death, of documents that suggest he might have given information to the Fascist police while still a Party member. In graceful prose, Pugliese offers a few intriguing theories (was Silone shielding someone? was he hiding a homosexual affair?), but reluctantly concedes that we may never know the full truth. Whatever did happen, Pugliese concludes, led Silone to create œsome of the most poignant and powerful fiction of the 20th century. (June)
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*Starred Review* Often compared to luminaries such as George Orwell and Graham Greene, Ignazio Silone has somehow eluded the attention of English-speaking biographers. Until now. With this assiduously researched work, Pugliese finally gives readers a mature account of a life that produced some of the twentieth century’s most powerful and widely translated literary art and political commentary. A compellingly detailed narrative reveals how a difficult childhood in rural Italy inspired religious faith that never fit within ecclesiastical orthodoxy and kindled political passion that defied ideological conformity. Readers see how the young writer risked imprisonment and death to help found Italy’s Communist Party but then repeatedly defied party leaders, denouncing Stalinist atrocities so fearlessly that his comrades expelled him from their movement. Yet Pugliese recognizes that this expulsion emancipated the novelist’s creative energies, liberating him to write fiction that would forever enrich European literature as it exposed the dehumanizing brutality of fascism in Fontamara and illuminated the risks of partisan commitment in Bread and Wine. In the autobiographical elements of Silone’s novels, some critics have adduced evidence that the young writer treacherously collaborated with Fascist authorities. Pugliese insists on a more ambiguous reading of the literary art—and of the life that produced it. A much-needed work of literary and political scholarship. --Bryce Christensen