The twentieth century by Prezzolini, an intellectual without schemes in the essay by Gennaro Sangiuliano-

The twentieth century by Prezzolini, an intellectual without schemes in the essay by Gennaro Sangiuliano-

2023-06-05 11:32:50


The new edition of the volume that the Minister of Culture has dedicated to the multifaceted figure of the founder of the Voce is out on Tuesday 6 June for Mondadori

La Voce was the hothouse of fascism and anti-fascism. This definition by Curzio Malaparte would be enough to arouse curiosity around the life and works of Giuseppe Prezzolini, the father of the magazine who at the beginning of the twentieth century led the attack on positivism and the moral revolt against the endemic evils of Italy: bureaucratism, clientelism , academicism, bad justice… The fact that Prezzolini was not only the Voice but much more: in his centenary path (1882-1982) he became one of the most significant figures of the short century, even if he represented a minority category, that of the liberal conservatives, with a marked tendency to always do his own thing and not ask for prebends for himself. Benito Mussolini himself recognized him in the 1930s, who as a penniless young socialist in 1909 had turned to his already established intellectual for a collaboration.

The complex and fascinating itinerary of Prezzolini retraced with scholarly precision and brilliant attitude in the biography dedicated to him by Gennaro Sangiuliano, Giuseppe Prezzolini. The Conservative Anarchist, a work already published in 2008 by Mursia and now re-proposed in the Oscar Mondadori with a preface by Francesco Perfetti, a hilarious afterword by Vittorio Feltri and a dedication to Giorgia Meloni. Second son of the Tuscan Luigi Prezzolini, who was prefect of Perugia in 1982, little Giuseppe lost his mother Emilia at the age of three and under the guidance of a wet nurse and his father, great friend of Giosu Carducci, he got used to changing city and house every two or three years, finding comfort in his father’s library more than in the company of his brother Torello. Refractory to regular studies, at the age of 18, when his parent passed away, he had not taken the high school diploma, nor did he ever take it, even if he was eager for the most disparate readings.

He found his personal university on the Florentine hills, when on a walk with friends made the acquaintance of another cultured and original young man, Giovanni Papini, who had the qualifications to become a teacher but dreamed of a career as a writer. The bespectacled Papini guided him to follow systematic readings in a sort of crash course on universal knowledge. From the partnership the Leonardo magazine was born in 1903, which had a knight with three lances as its logo and the fight against positivism as its objective. Cesare Lombroso was described there as a charlatan. Prezzolini, on the strength of an income that his father had left him, in Paris drew on the spiritualism of Henri Bergson and the new literature of Charles Pguy. But the true tutelary deity of Prezzolini and Papini’s youth was Benedetto Croce, who viewed the Florentine group with sympathy.

1908 was the year of the Voce, a magazine in which Giovanni Amendola and Gaetano Salvemini, Benedetto Croce and Giovanni Gentile, Giuseppe Lombardo Radice and the old Alfredo Oriani collaborated. Anti-academism and anti-Giolittism went hand in hand with a nationalism which linked the Risorgimento to late Italian colonialism and a certain realism in politics. Prezzolini, future author of a remarkable monograph on Niccol Machiavelli, appreciated the modern supporters of political science, Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto.

The Libyan war of 1911 was one of the elements of division, Salvemini who coined the definition of sandbox, abandoned the group and founded L’Unit. But the front of these militant intellectuals was cultural rather than political. So if Ardengo Soffici organized the first Italian exhibition of the Impressionists in Florence, he judged the Futurist exhibition in Milan to be brazen. An offense that ended in punches. Umberto Boccioni, who came down to Florence with the Futurist group, slapped Soffici, who answered with his staff. He followed the counter-expedition of the vociani against the futurists leaving at the Florence station.

The Great War reunited and divided again and Prezzolini to demonstrate coherence he enlisted at 33 while his wife Dolores was expecting their second child. Then he became an instructor, returned to the front. After the war he was the first to understand that the five million mobilized would be the protagonists of a revolution whose leaders were to be d’Annunzio and Mussolini. He wrote three memorable books on the experience in the trenches, attacking cowardly generals. Then he witnessed the march on Rome without participating in it. He judged Mussolini a great man but never asked him anything. He wrote an article on the apothes, those who don’t buy it, for Piero Gobetti’s Liberal Revolution. Then she moved to Paris, where she looked after the young Piero, in poor condition and dying from the beatings suffered by the fascists. After the Parisian experience, in an institute of the Society of Nations, in 1929 he accepted an invitation to teach Italian literature at Columbia in New York. He remained in the United States for over thirty years, ten as director of the Casa degli Italiani. Professor without a degree and without a diploma, he was loved by the students but without a family because Dolores did not want to follow him. He hooked up with his assistant, Jackie, Gioconda Savini, whom he would marry after Dolores died.

Author of original books, such as the one on the pioneering journeys of the Americans in Italy (Jefferson in Piedmont who buys a type of rice to use in his crops), Prezzolini who in 1940 he had become a US citizen he lived the second war as a tragedy (like a son whose parents separate).

From 1945, at the age of retirement, he experienced a second youth with the position of correspondent for Renato Angiolillo’s Tempo, then for Resto del Carlino and della Nazione. In 1962 he finally returned to Italy with his Jackie and settled in Vietri sul Mare. The idyll lasted six years, until a dispute for tax reasons in which he was right. He spent the last few years in Lugano. Sandro Pertini, in handing him a prize, asked him: why doesn’t he go back to Italy? And he is ironic: Don’t worry, president, I go back every Thursday. To buy vegetables.

The author and the book

The book by Gennaro Sangiuliano, Giuseppe Prezzolini. The Conservative Anarchist, foreword by Francesco Perfetti, afterword by Vittorio Feltri, to be released on Tuesday 6 June by Mondadori (356 pages, €18). The first edition of the essay had appeared from Mursia. Gennaro Sangiuliano has been Minister of Culture since October 2022. He has taught History of Economics at the Luiss-Guido Carli University in Rome and directed the School of Journalism at the University of Salerno. Journalist, Sangiuliano was deputy director of Libero and Tg1 and directed Tg2. Among his most recent essays: Trump (2017), The new Mao (2019), Reagan (2021), and, with Vittorio Feltri, A republic without a country (2013) e Il Quarto Reich (2014), all Mondadori

June 5, 2023 (change June 5, 2023 | 11:30 am)

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