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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Note on Ignazaio Silone and Toni Morrisson (in current New Yorker)

Drawing near the close of Ignazio Silone's 1937 Bread and Wine, there's a terrific sequence as Pietro Spina, now once again in disguise as a priest, Don Paolo, returns to the small southern Italian city (town?) Fossa, where there's a huge rally in place in support of the dictator's (Mussolini's, never mentioned by name in this novel) declaration of war against Abyssinia (Ethiopia), scenes filled with demonstrations, patriotic bluster, all a cloak meant to hide the oppression of the people, the repression of any dissent, and the powers of capitalism - all too much for the radical Don Paolo, who by night grabs some charcoal and writes anti-fascist anti-war slogans on the church steps and elsewhere. Now, everyone's looking for the "outsider" who wrote these slogans, and once again Don Paolo, now very ill with what appears to be TB, goes on the run. Some terrific writing about the power of propaganda, and more excellent writing about the suffering of the poor - without being melodramatic, sentimental, or romantic: the impoverished masses are not uniform in behavior, but full of heroes, thugs, cheats, thinkers, the devout, the skeptical, in other words many real people trying to lives their lives in the shadows of fascism - and a few emerging from the shadows to fight.

A brief note on current New Yorker containing a very short Toni Morrisson piece, Sweetness, which is evidently the opening segment of her forthcoming novel: I guess if the Nobelist's publicist, agent, or publisher submits a piece to your magazine you gratefully publish it, no questions asked.

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