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Schismogenesis and national character: the D'Annunzio-Mussolini correspondence.

In 1911, Gabriele D'Annunzio, self-described "uomo d'azione," hoped to encourage the outbreak of World War I by going into "esilio volontario" in France, where he would dedicate himself to art, love, and life. Four years later, after polemicizing against Franz Joseph, he returned to Italy just as neutrality toward Austria was ending. On May 5, 1915, he delivered his speech at Quarto arguing for intervention in the war. Once Italy had entered the war on the side of the Allies, D'Annunzio visited the front, flew over Trieste and Trent, and encouraged troops in the field. In January, 1916, in a forced landing, he lost the sight of one eye, an injury he would later convert, like the speech at Quarto, into an emblem of heroism. In these same years, Benito Mussolini, a former editor of the Socialist newspaper Avanti! expelled from the party for his interventionist tendencies, was laying the groundwork for an irrational nationalist movement that would prosper in the chaos following World War I. It is in 1919, the year Mussolini founds the Fasci di Combattimento and D'Annunzio leads a band of disenchanted veterans to occupy the Istrian city of Fiume--angered over what he called the "vittoria mutilata" sanctioned by the Treaty of Versailles--that the two men exchange the first of 578 letters and telegrams. Their correspondence will last until 1938, the year of D'Annunzio's death and of the Pact of Steel with Germany. (1) The nineteen plus years of the correspondence matches the difference in age of the two men, a difference we explore here in terms of their models of comportment and their relations to the Italian national identity and character.

The concept of "national character," as employed by anthropologists beginning with Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead in the early 1940s, combines three related aspects of cultural transmission: 1) "the principle motives or predispositions which can be deduced from the behavior of the personnel of a society at a given time and place"; 2) "the means by which these motives and predispositions are elicited and maintained in the majority of the new members who are added to the society by birth"; and 3) "the ideal image of themselves in the light of which individuals assess and pass judgment on themselves and their neighbors, and on the basis of which they reward or punish their children." (2) The analysis of national character relates individual behavior to the population in terms of the systematicity of patterns of education, diffusion of the arts, language use, the customs and mores of diverse social classes and regions, values of patriotism, the willingness to defend one's country, and so forth; the presence of such ritual factors is universal among populations, but the actual combinations of the factors themselves vary widely.

Bateson defines schismogenesis as "a process of differentiation in the norms of individual behavior resulting from cumulative interaction between individuals." (3) He saw it occurring in two major forms: in complementary schismogenesis, the aggression or dominance of A is met by the submission or passivity of B; in symmetrical schismogenesis, A and B are rivals and attempt to outdo each other. Either relation leads to the escalation of conflict: the complementary ends in alienation and betrayal, the symmetrical in explosiveness and war. (4) In 1935, Bateson felt an admixture of complementary and symmetrical forms could stabilize a relation, lessening the extremes of schismogenic Intensity; but as he came to see that the context of behavior itself evolved and that "contextual structures themselves could be messages," his attention turned from the quantification of schismogenic behavior to the idea of "end-linkage." (5) As he grew to adopt a pluralistic, dynamic, and holistic vision of reality, Bateson was able to imagine cultural systems at a higher level of abstraction than previously; national character itself could rely on a manipulation of the codes of complementary and symmetrical tension, with stability beIng achieved by negative feedback factors within the behavioral systems. Such end-linkage involved shared metaphors, abductions and role playing, and even errors in communication and final paradoxes, all of which could serve to stabilize a culture and flatten out the "exponential curve" of hostilities.

As Ernst Nolte argues, the wartime experiences of D'Annunzio and Mussolini reflected contrasting "psychological-political typologies." For D'Annunzio the experience of World War I was "subjectively, the confirmation of the Inevitability of the conflict, or rather its desirability"; he had foreseen the War and hoped for it as "l'ultima speranza di salvezza per il genio latino." For Mussolini, the War is an experience of "'conversion,' a break with respect to his [socialist] comrades, even if his revolutionism was impregnated like none other by Nietzscheanism, by the 'life philosophy' for which social revolution was, above all, action, struggle, movement." (6) While D'Annunzio is committed to perpetuating his own myth ("Thus one man in Europe, over and above the disciplined and confined dying of the masses, carried on the war as the supreme adventure, the gigantic confirmation of his own powerful ego"), Mussolini manifests confusion in the early years and a "desperate mental state" such that in his writings and speeches he is apt to contradict himself about the most fundamental matters. He declares himself against the state and in favor of the individual in one moment, then declares the exact opposite in the next. Even after his conversion to violent interventionism, he wears the garb of a socialist and "never ceases to take full credit as the founder of Italian communism." (7) Though Mussolini has no combat experience and was not present at the March on Rome, he assumes the guise of a military hero. In this respect he imitates D'Annunzio, whom he seeks to accomodate and placate at every juncture in the early years. His chameleon-like nature will be important in his ascent to power, as he walks the tightrope between revolutionism and appeasement.

The study of a correspondence that deals largely with public issues in a private manner must confront the issue of duplicity and the leveraging of information for the sake of influence. While many of the letters seem to be incidental, in their totality one finds an inside view of the institutional culture of fascism and the great public support enjoyed by both men. It is this fact we mean to recall when the letters sink into banality, flirting, or delusions of grandeur. One is still dealing with the psychological functions of the Italian institutions at a time in the national life when they are in a considerable state of flux. Since societies require continuity (generation to generation) and congruence (coherence between institutions), it is critical to the fascist revolution to project concord between its two figure heads, a convergence in ideology, as it were. As the poet strived to keep alive the idea of his Fiumian glory and his mythological self-conception as "il Poverello," a pseudo-ascetic who believed firmly in the just war, he had to deal in practical terms with a leader whose vision for Italy was distinctly different.

My thesis is that one finds in the Carteggio the evidence of a schismogenic relationship that oscillates between the symmetrical and complementary, culminating in a non-schismogenic reciprocal mode. The intense rivalry that exists between the men initially is enacted and defused by the correspondence itself, which serves as a kind of temporizing or distancing device. Though a private correspondence, the public impact of positions taken (including D'Annunzio's occasional threats to "go public" in his disagreements on certain issues) should not be underestimated.

In their lives both men had oscillated from the historic Left to the Right to a mythic nationalism; both were caught off guard by the sudden end of World War I. The leader of the new black-shirted movement had been a journalist and political organizer, and was an expert at bureaucratic, directive language and jargon; ever sensitive to the nuances that effect public opinion, he had little interest in the bourgeois extravagance and decadentism of D'Annunzio; but like him he had read Nietszche and cultivated the idea of the superuomo as a means of breaking with the perceived mediocrity of the national past. His persona was that of the actor. As Pirandello noted, Mussolini was "essentially an actor pretending to be the person Italians wanted him to be"; Mack Smith adds,
 As Mussolini himself confessed, he set little store by coherence of
 ideas or opinions, though of course this did not stop the
 propaganda machine stressing that he was invariably consistent. He
 had learnt the effectiveness of alternation menace and
 conciliation, of being--in his own words--"reactionary or
 revolutionary according to the circumstances." ... When he appeared
 relaxed and charming, that too was a mask; it was rarely adopted
 with Italians, except with D'Annunzio who was the one Italian apart
 from the king to be treated as almost an equal. (8)

Famous as a poet and aviator, D'Annunzio saw himself as a seer and a singer of Mysteries. It was his literary fame that underlay his presumptive role as national leader. His image-making has been described as falling into four stages, each qualified by an image of woman. In the first "pubescent" stage, "sensuality is aimless"; in the second stage the poet's sensuality is still "chained to the strenuousness of the pubescent, yet aspires to something which subsequently is defined in the dramatic." (9) In the third stage, which begins with the move to Naples in 1893, the poet reaches his highest point of expression "freed of the corporeal nature of all things": this is a period of grace and detachment from the former brand of near-pornographic sensuality, and includes Alcyone. (10) The final stage--the period we are concerned with--is marked by a continuous lament over the loss of love. The "falce delle reni" of the "Venere callipige" still haunts him, suggesting the truth of Vecchioni's assertion that D'Annunzio never knew love with a woman in a profound sense, but only found in women a way to extol his image-making function. D'Annunzio had set the standard, as it were, for the hero who defends the divine mission of the race as against the bourgeois corruption of the "barbari." As Robert Dombroski writes:
 The discontinuity and monadic isolation that defined individuality
 in the age of capitalist expansion is defeated by D'Annunzio not
 through any process of social exchange but rather through fusion
 into mythical categories--the same kind of principles underlying
 the fascist concept of the State, seen as a spiritual and moral
 fact in itself, and supported by the mythical notions of nation,
 people, empire, Rome, youth, and race. (11)

When the letters begin in 1919, D'Annunzio is on the verge of beginning his 18-month occupation of Fiume. Though he has never mentioned Mussolini before, he contacts him for support, invoking love of country and casting himself as a martyr:
 Parto ora. Domattina prendero Fiume con le armi.
 Il Dio d'Italia ci assista.
 Mi levo da letto febricitante. Ma non e possibile differire.
 Anche una volta lo spirito domera la came miserabile. (C 9,
 November 11, 1919)

Five days after the action D'Annunzio writes,
 Se almeno mezza Italia somigliasse ai Fiumani, avremmo il
 dominio del mondo....
 E le vostre promesse? Bucate almeno la pancia che vi opprime, e
 sgonfiatela. Altrimente verro io quando avro consolidato qui il mio
 potere. Ma non vi guardero in faccia. Su! Scotetevi, (pigri
 nell'eterna siesta). Io non dormo da sei notti; e la febbre mi
 divora. Ma sto in piedi. E domandate come, a chi mi ha visto.
 (C 10, November 16, 1919) (12)

By declaring a new crusade to save the poor and humble of the earth, he throws down the gauntlet. Mussolini responds to what is in fact a very poetic threat--to withhold one's gaze--with a series of conciliatory letters by which he seeks to forestall any action such as a march by the legionaries into Italy, until after the elections of November 16, 1919. And though his visit to Fiume leaves the impression of a cordial chat, Mussolini speaks to his aides of the poet "come d'un pazzo pericoloso." (13) The fifty-four deaths of the "Christmas of Blood," the government's action to retake Fiume, based on the Treaty of Rapallo of December 17, 1920, are divided evenly between the Fiumians and the government. Mussolini remains uninvolved, causing D'Annunzio, who is planning a political recovery, to berate him as a traitor. D'Annunzio now returns to the artistic life, writing the Notturno, though he hopes to be summoned by the Italians as their dictator.

It is only during this early period that Mussolini's letters are the more numerous. At first he communicates only by telegram; when his letters begin his style remains telegraphic. His flattery of D'Annunzio is of a piece with his attempts to force his departure from politics. The Fascist Party will never love or trust D'Annunzio, though he was regarded by many as the John the Baptist of the movement. In the aftermath of Fiume, D'Annunzio breaks his silence, stating his intention to press to the end for the nationalist cause: "Ma per riunire efficacemente tutte le forze nazionali bisognera abolire ogni equivoco. La risoluzione della crisi attuale e miserevole e deplorevole. Non bisogna dar tregua" (C 25, July 5, 1921). Here, typically, it is the force of D'Annunzio's language that suggests the weakness of his position. He will remain silent for sixteen months, after which he begins to write in earnest, initiating the second and most prolific period of the Carteggio. (14) He will reprimand the young editor of Il popolo d'Italia for having heralded the taking of Fiume, then supporting its defeat. Though under house arrest in the villa he has rented on Lake Garda, D'Annunzio takes the offensive regarding labor issues; in a letter written on the same day as the March on Rome, he voices his support for the unionist Giulietti in the proposed Marine Pact under negotiation. Seeing Italy's greatness as something predestined, he evokes "masculine patience":
 E necessario radunare tutte le forze sincere e avviarle alle
 grandi mete che all'Italia sono prefisse dai suoi fati eterni.
 Dalla pazienza maschia, e non dalla impazienza irrequieta, a noi
 verra la salute. (C 28, October 28, 1922)

Mussolini, now precariously in power, responds to D'Annunzio's stridency by being submissive, never strongly opposing the "Comandante," who perseveres with his plan--"prima di ritirarmi, vorrei offrire alla Patria l'unione vasta e divota di tutti i Lavoratori" (C 30-31, December 1, 1922)--only to capitulate two weeks later, effectively ceding to Mussolini's power: "Io ho risoluto--oggi, 16 dicembre--di ritirarmi nel mio silenzio e di ridarmi intero alla mia arte, che forse mi consolera" (C 32, December 16, 1922). On January 3,1923, he writes, "Perche dunque non mi fai restituire dal popolo i miei privilegi di fibero cittadino?" (C 36), to which Mussolini responds by denying responsibility, blaming the troubles on his misguided followers and on apparently misguided reports that D'Annunzio was the Duce's "adversary":
 Quanto ai tuoi privilegi di libero cittadino che posso fare per
 restituirteli quando sono i tuoi amici o sedicenti tali che
 ripartiti in diverse categorie ti si serrano addosso e ti
 impediscono di ritornare a vedere in tutta tranquillita l'Aventino
 e la Trinita dei Monti? ... Poiche tutti i giornali francesi che
 non amano l'Italia rinnovata hanno inscenato una campagna tendente
 a dimostrare che tu saresti una specie di awersario del mio governo
 non sarebbe opportuno che tu dicessi una parola secca e precisa che
 sventasse una volta per sempre queste manovre? (C 36-37, January 6,

The invitation to deny the reports elicits a symmetrical response by the poet in defense of "Dannunzian spirituality," and against police-action; in so doing he coopts the fascist phenomenon for himself (with the usual pun on his name, as the announcer):
 Ma, nel movimento detto "fascista," il meglio non e generato dal
 mio spirito? La riscossa nazionale di oggi non fu annunziata da me
 or e--ahime!--quarant'anni, e non fu promossa dal condottiero di
 Ronchi? (C 38, January 9, 1923)

Even though Giovanni Gentile, intellectual spokesman for the fascist movement, would piece together a fusion of art, religion and idealism that called on the citizen to identify with the State and overturn materialism and democracy for the higher spiritual values of National conquest, it is obvious that "the unity of Fascist doctrine, even in its mature phase, was precarious." (15) At the basis of the confusion is the dichotomy between thought and action. If the state is to be continuously at war--a fascist tenet--one must praise action above and prior to thought. In doing so, one is arguing for the citizen's opportunity to make sacrifices for the higher good. The question that follows is: to what extent is fascism a religion, and what sort of religion? The mixing of the codes is but one arch-example of the tendency--pervasive in the Carteggio as in the institutional culture--to confuse logical types for the sake of rhetorical effect, to allow the methods of oratory to prevail over those of intellective reasoning. (16) Dissimulation, euphemism, and hyperbole are common means by which the correspondents assert their individual or shared sense of power. When D'Annunzio writes, "Ascolta un profeta di professione" (C 83, January 28, 1924), he conflates the oracular with the routine. And when he describes his works as austere--"letteratura dannunziana spoglia d'imagini ma vivace di buoni argomenti" (C 51, April 28, 1923)--he is wildly inaccurate. The Duce is now laconic and shrewd in fielding requests from his interlocutor; but he too equivocates and exaggerates with great frequency.

Hailing himself as the primary exemplar of "fascist" action, D'Annunzio advises Mussolini to read his "ascetic book" (Libro segreto) so as to come to know "qualche parte profonda della mia anima, che vale piu del mio cervello.... Ti auguro il vigore e l'acume necessarii a governare la barra 'verso sinistra,' se giova adoperare questo vecchio modo mai divenuto ignobile" (C 39, January 9, 1923). Despite D'Annunzio's leftist contention, under scrutiny one sees his advocacy of the senatorial candicacy of Bianchi, a supporter of benefits for families of dead and disabled laborers, as a clientelistic maneuver. In another mock-aggressive use of sexual imagery, D'Annunzio reproaches the Minister of War for wishing to hide "il muscolo fecondatore" on a war medal under the representation of a fig leaf (April 28, 1923). The Duce agrees on both counts, blaming the prudishness on government bureaucracy:
 E strano che uomini d'arme abbiano certi pudori di zitellone
 inacidite ma trattasi forse di qualche burocrate inefficiente.
 Credo che medaglio Romanelli passera. Invidio molto la tua clausura
 e il tuo Garda. (C 53, May 3, 1923)

D'Annunzio's response continues the phallic imagery, conflating it with the Duce's stated envy of his Hermitage, his "cloister":
 Dispongo che ti sia portata la fiduzione fotografica dove vedrai
 che l'oggetto incriminato ha l'apparenza d'un modesto microbo.
 Perche invidii la mia penosa clausura, io ti raccomando questo mia
 Garda e anche il piccolo campo d'aviazione promesso. (C 53-54, May
 4, 1923)

Similarly, when his own phrase "spiritualismo dannunziano" is used by the Federation of Fiumian Legionaries, he repudiates it:
 Oggi e di moda non so che spiritualismo dannunziano! Bisogna
 diffidarne. Io non voglio piu essere aggettivato. Il nome
 "dannunziano" m'era gia odioso nella letteratura. Odiosissimo m'e
 nella politica. (C 55, May 15, 1923)

And when, in pursuit of a just contract for the longshoremen, he advocates a kind of homosexual rape of the shipbuilders (Armatori), he is committing an error of logical types, as if to acknowledge his own powerlessness in the matter:
 Telegrafami dunque finalmente il giorno da te stabilito per la
 firma. E non mi telegrafare ancora "Spero rimuovere gli ultimi
 ostacoli." ...
 Io ho sempre ucciso la Speranza ai piedi della Volonta....
 Forza l'attimo; e ridi della verginita degli Armatori, che
 veramente non chiede se non di esser forzata da un maschio. (C
 60-61, July 18, 1923) (17)

Stating the ultimately duplicitous conditions for the Marine Pact, D'Annunzio again threatens to end the correspondence:
 E triste, per un cuore leale e ardimentoso come il mio, questa
 esitazione nel dare l'antico nome di compagno a colui che un tempo
 sembro accettarlo e pregiarlo. Non so piu qual nome darti in cosi
 dubbioso e penoso travaglio.... Avevo deliberato di non scriverti
 piu. (C 79, January 24, 1924)

When the Marine Pact is signed into law on February 13, 1924, D'Annunzio's requests have barely been heeded. Having yielded to the shipbuilders, Mussolini now confides in D'Annunzio over his disgust for the coming elections: "Te beato che non ti occupi di elezioni. In questi giorni tutto il marciume del fondo viene a galla e mi fa--scusa!--vomitare, letteralmente" (C 86, February 14, 1924). D'Annunzio responds with the same imagery, blaming a telephone censor and the insincerity of the shipbuilders for the perfidious pact: "Cerchiamo insieme un antiemetico potente perche e triste per entrambi passar la vita con la voglia continua di vomitare" (C 87, February 16, 1924). The Duce now asks the "loyal heart" about Giulietti, D'Annunzio's former friend and colleague, saying that he had only advanced by using D'Annunzio's support and "good name." D'Annunzio responds that he would happily shoot Giulietti for his recent dealings. After the death of Eleonora Duse in April, 1924, he again retreats into his work, at once boasting and submitting:
 Caro compagno, ho ripreso la mia opera di artista, con un
 "collaudo" eccellente di 18 ore consecutive.... Tutto il resto
 cade. Ogni mio sforzo--nel senso nazionale--e vano.... Scrivo in
 fretta. Ho lavorato dalle nove di stamani alle ventitre e 40' di
 stasera! (C 133, May 16, 1924)

On June 10, 1924, the socialist deputy Giacomo Matteotti is assassinated by a fascist gang and Mussolini's government is thrown into crisis; he implores D'Annunzio not to politicize himself, "L'importante e che tu lavori e che l'Italia dell'intelletto attende i tuoi libri" (C 115, June 10, 1924). Though D'Annunzio does not respond until September, his hostile comments in the press ("Sono molto triste di questa fetida ruina') provoke Mussolini, whose subsequent three telegrams are sent to D'Annunzio's "state companion," Rizzo: "Incidente dovuto equivoco non ha malgrado presenza alcuni fascisti alcun carattere politico o di gravita" (C 116, August 30, 1924). In a later letter, Mussolini exonerates himself completely, though in the speech of January 3, 1925, which marks the break between constitutional government and dictatorship, he assumes the "political, moral and historical responsibility for all that has happened." (18) D'Annunzio writes on the same day, blending political requests, remembrances of Fiume and wordplay, offering himself reciprocally as a counterweight to the "storm" of Rome in tumult, transmitting his empathy and excitement, "Ti abbraccio, di la dalla 'bufera'" (C 125). Meanwhile the Duce has defused the resistance to his regime, which was three-fold: (1) the old guard: "... mi trovero di fronte il triumvirato Giolitti-Orlando-Salandra cioe quasi tre secoli della vecchia Italia" (C 128, January 16,1925); (2) a possible mutiny of Fascist deputies; and (3) opposition within the Cabinet. (19) He deals with the threats but does not mention them to D'Annunzio, to whom he gives a speedboat and for whom he reverses an insurance ruling against the Fiume legionaries. His responses grow brief and formulaic: "Sono lieto annunciarti che odierno Consiglio Ministri ha approvato convenzione per affitto novennale Villa Falconieri al prezzo annuo di lire una--dico lire una" (C 128, January 23,1925). Despite the offer to live in the historic Villa at Frascati, D'Annunzio does not take up the Duce on his offer.

It is apparent that both men want a partnership, but at a distance. Between the restoration of the authority of the State--resistance to the post-Matteotti "storm"--and a near-constant evocation of the irrationalist activism that had inspired Fascism, they find security in the aura of authoritarianism. D'Annunzio's repeated "annunciations" to the Duce (the pun on his name is frequent) persist in the same sort of performative language found in Mussolini's telegraphic style, with its suspension of syntax and frequent elimination of articles and prepositions. As one notes the growing discrepancies between what is said and how it is said, one senses the reciprocal control of the relationship by means of error, camouflage and hyperbole. (20) As Giachery argues, the lexical fact prevails over the syntactic in all of D'Annunzio's prose:
 Paratassi prevalente interesse per il fatto lessicale, tendenza
 sempre piu decisa col passar degli anni verso la frase nominale,
 la quale puo quasi apparire una specie di rivincita e di
 sopraffazione del lessico sulla sintassi, del particolare sul tutto
 (quasi il particolare visto come un tutto, come autosufficiente
 unita): son tutti momenfi concomitanti di una stessa duttflita alle
 cose, sentite come molteplici e accolte in questa irriducibile
 molteplicita, sottraendosi spesso alia responsabilita di istituire
 tra esse rapporti e nessi causali, di operare scelte di valori. Il
 prevalere del fatto lessicale su quello sintatfico e netto indizio
 del prevalere della sensazione e della sensualita sul pensiero: si
 pensi, per contro, a quanto siano "sintattici" scrittori ai quali e
 fondamento il pensiero, come Machiavelli o Galilei. (21)

The linguistic observations relate directly to psychological factors; D'Annunzio's favoring of lexis over syntax tends to temporize or mitigate the communicative function in favor of expression, so that boasting of his pseudo-mystical prowess as a worker, while egoistic and thus symmetrical in appearance, contains sexual innuendo that is classically complementary in its vocabulary of exposing and yielding:
 E gia ti scrissi che io sono un gran Dottore mistico e pratico.
 Indocile, mi assicuri che gia ricominci a bruciare il cero da' due
 capi! Ebbene io ti esporro il mio "Trattato della candela che
 alluma e se stessa non consuma." Ma ti dico chela salute del corpo
 e dell'anima e tutta affidata all'attenzione costante. (C 140,
 April 2, 1925)

D'Annunzio has now renamed Villa Gardone--the residence he acquired after the state confiscated it from Henrich Thode--as "Il Vittoriale." He asks Mussolini to visit, hoping the government will finance a glorification of the estate in his name. In this spirit he extends to his gift to Mussolini of a "magical plume" plucked from his own "wing": "Il Generale ti dira come valga la pena di visitare--e di ricevere in consegna--il Vittoriale. Eccoti una penna magica. Non pare, ma me la strappo dall'Ala" (5 maggio--X anniversario) (C 146, May 5, 1925). The Duce's only visit to the Vittoriale, from May 25 to 27, 1925, represents the longest of their six actual encounters. Upon leaving, Mussolini writes, "torno a Roma guarito" (C 151, June 1, 1925), to which D'Annunzio replies in a patently feminine and complementary way: "Sono fiero di saper date confermata la mia virtu di dottor mistico. Ma partendo tu lasciasti la mia clausura aperta a tutti gli assalti" (C 151), to which Mussolini responds, "adesso sono io che pur non avendo alcuna delle rue magiche medicine ti ordino di guarire" (C 152, June 10, 1925). The "mystical doctor," who considers his fever to be "providential," says his mood is blacker than his ink, a metaphor Mussolini takes up, "mandami un po' del tuo fluido miracoloso che mi tenga in piedi sotto la grave soma" (C 158, August 1, 1925). D'Annunzio responds on the same day, "Il fluido a distanza vanisce. Bisogna che tu venga a prenderlo o che tu mi lasci discendere nel Tevere alla Magliana col mio S 16. Ti aspetto. Ti abbraccio" (C 158).

Of what importance if any is this overtly libidinous language, of intrusion, incorporation, retention, exclusion, reception? The answer is that even in its spontaneous and frivolous details, the Carteggio functions on behalf of the interlocutors' vision of the new Italy and their privileged place within it; as the definers of the new political reality, it is they who can play with the superfluous as they presume to integrate the past with the new. As Giulio Bollati writes,
 nulla e nel fascismo quod prius non fuerit nella societa, nella
 cultttra, nella politica italiana, tranne il fascismo stesso. Col
 che ancora una volta si conferma quel rapporto di distinzione
 storica, e al tempo stesso di complice solidarieta, fra tradizione
 e innovazione che e la costante della moderna storia italiana. (22)

The Carteggio affords both men the chance to confirm their mythic viewpoints and to disconfirm, if necessary; the events of the world: from the Matteotti murder and progressive depradation of individual freedoms under Mussolini to the fact of D'Annunzio's penury, his scorn for the parasitical nature of his attachment to the Duce, and eventually his physical demise. (23)

Both men dissimulate their sense of isolation. D'Annunzio claims to be an ascetic, while he glories in cars, boats and planes, and is frustrated in his attempted seduction of a German painter who is to do his portrait: she is afraid of contracting his son Gabriellino's disease, an eye infection. D'Annunzio attributes the disease to a woman who has victimized his son:
 Gabriellino e intossicato da una perfida e impudentissima
 femminetta. E vittima di un lento assassinio. La pit bassa delle
 orgie si compie ogni giorno, presso di lui, al suo capezzale,
 davanti al suo sinistro stupore. La penna mi brucia le dita. (C
 215, December 18, 1926)

Based on his letter, the woman is arrested and confined. Two weeks later on New Years Day, the mystical year he had predicted to the Duce four years before has arrived: "1927 Annus Mirabilis. Vivas valeas vincas. Gabriel Nuntius" (C 216, December 31, 1926). In the coming month his Opera omnia will go into publication at Mondadori (the only favor he will ever recognize from the Duce).

At the end of 1927 the shuttling of letters suggests a possible visit to the Vittoriale, which does not occur. Mussolini is caught up in the deviousness of the "peacemakers," and his lust for another war is apparent: "UEuropa non fu mai cosi inquieta, come in questi mesi, nei quali le diplomazie degli arrivati inseguono i fantasmi della pace perpetua!!!" (C 234, end of December, 1927 [?]). His loyalty to D'Annunzio has been proven by his overruling of the Church protest over his literary works. The two meet in Milan in April, 1928, Mussolini granting in toto a list of personal and public requests, including the preservation of the poet's birthplace as national historical monument and the establishment of a national institute of cinematography in Rome: "Come vedi sto coUa mia oramai ben nota diligenza impiegatizia dando corso a tutte le pratiche di oai al nostro verbalizzatissimo incontro" (C 247, April 27, 1928). In his reply D'Annunzio alludes to himself with the Machiavellian epithet "extraordinary": "non potevi con maggior grazia osservare le condizioni dello straordinario verbale" (C 247, April 28, 1928). Like Mussolini, D'Annunzio wishes his legacy to include his abilities as a fervent worker: "Annunzio a te, lavoratore mirabile, che ho conquistato un record stando al tavolino senza interruzione ventisei ore" (C 248, May 18, 1928). Fearing Mussolini's distrust he writes, "I can only be a rival to myself." To this end apparently, he invents a double named Rito Selvaggi:
 Questo preludio a quattro corde ti annunzia la visita di Rito
 Selvaggi, musico sapientissimo, mio rivale neno studio del
 contrappunto, mio legionario "orfico," quegli appunto (rima ricca)
 che compose Il Canto del Pane, Il poema dell'Estasi in Santo
 Francesco, l'Inno a San Marco: inno navale. (C 258-59, September
 27, 1928)

Here in the Christian allusions it is easy to see a variant of what Giovanni Pozzi, in reviewing the poetry, has described as "la perversa profanazione dannunziana [del Cantico] (all'apice l'uggiosa Sera fiesolana)." (24) Certainly the imagery of the Church is part of the myth of "Italianita" that pervaded the national consciousness throughout the first half of the century. D'Annunzio appropriates religious imagery while opposing the Church, which had banned his books. In fact, when Mussolini signs the Lateran Pacts in 1929, a highly successful strategic move to gain the Church as an ally, D'Annunzio opposes it, considering the "pretaglia" to be mercenary, vindictive and untrustworthy.

To be Italian is to share in a common imaginary, and a healthy stock of images came by way of the literary patrimony About D'Annunzio's contribution, Margherita Sarfatti would write, "When D'Annunzio appeared, he in no way renounced the Italianness of his literary and artistic identity. But his native thought was rich and universal. It was nourished by a universal culture and directed toward universal problems. It was Italian, and precisely because Italian, non provincial." (25) Having said this, the Vate only serves to pave the way for "the exemplary prose of the writer Benito Mussolini":
 Adjectives are scarce, epithets are austere, verbs are sober. His
 sentences are dry, crisp, and resolute, mostly composed of verbs and
 nouns. Synonyms are banished. Description takes the form of great
 and clearly delineated, shadowless masses of color laid down as in a
 fresco painting. Verbs are naked and direct yet not schematic. (26)

Another decisive aspect of the national character during fascism is expressed in the opposition of two movements, Strapaese and Stracitta, in which Italianness is the collective effort to regain rural roots and traditions, on the one hand, and to move aggressively forward into the Super-technological cities of the future, on the other.

In the view of Emilio Mariano, 1930 marks the nadir of the correspondence: "Il distacco da Mussolini, dalla realta dell'Italia ufficiale, e al colmo" (C xcix). And yet the tone of the letters remains very engaging. A pressing subject is the Vittoriale, viewed by D'Annunzio as a concrete sign of his legacy to Italy. The rapprochement acted out between the men from this point forward relies on the idea of a national character in which each man sees himself as incarnating the ideal image of the Italian, but is willing to indulge the other's sense of that as well. To negotiate this fictional truth as it is played out on the political stage, they engage in what Bateson called metacomplementarity"--the situation of one person "letting or forcing" the other to be in charge--and "pseudosymmetry"--where one lets or forces the other to be symmetrical. In practice that means that the party in control--by now that is always Mussolini--behaves as if he is "one-down" when he is really "one-up." Such is the peace that is struck between the two men in the 1930s, as if their unconscious complicity and striving for concord far exceeded their conscious rivalry and skepticism. In either case one loses the sense of manipulation of the other for purely selfish reasons.

Mussolini continues to enjoy the support of the vast majority of the Italian people, but the economic crisis is worsening and questions of European alliances and North African colonialism emerge as critical and potentially divisive issues, about which D'Annunzio will need to express himself publicly in favor of whatever steps the Duce takes. The poet is growing feeble but still indulges in prostitutes and drugs. His major concern is to preserve his legacy, to consolidate his literary-heroic heritage and the fascist state. He is dependent on the generosity of the state, though he speaks of it as if he were the generous donor of his spirit; and he is encouraged to do so by Mussolini's pseudosymmetrical gestures. Thus the most appropriate thing for D'Annunzio to do when Italy invades Ethiopia in 1935 is to blow off the ship cannons of the Puglia, the dry-docked ship from the Fiume conflict that sits on the Vittoriale grounds: he is the exhibitionist and the nation is his fictive spectator.

On August 9, 1930, Mussolini asks the Vate (through lawyer Alfredo Felici) what he wishes done with the Vittoriale; two weeks later D'Annunzio writes, "Il mio caro Alfredo Felici mi fa sapere come con grande animo tu abbia considerato la questione del Vittoriale che mi cruccia e mi accora" (C 288, August 22, 1930). Three days later he compares the explication of Mussolini's political doctrine by Felici to the "sicurezza concisa del Segretario fiorentino" (C 289, August 25, 1930), another flattering reference to Machiavelli. But D'Annunzio himself is anything but sure about the Vittoriale, which he now "donates" to the Italian State:
 A proposito del Vittoriale, ti avverto che v'e gia qualche tentativo
 goffo di falsare il significato della convenzione. La mia e una
 donazione e non e possibile trasmutarla ambiguamente in cessione
 senza che io rompa l'accordo e getti la mia gloria vera per quella
 falsa di Erostrato efesio incendiando le mie case e devastando le
 mie terre. (C 292, September 23, 1930)

In his "Atto di donazione" of the house and grounds to the Italian state--the same state that had donated it to him and was funding its expansion--we find a manipulation of codes as outlined above, a willing confusion of the imagery and language of conflict. (27) We see the artistic imagery of transformation and transfiguration of one who has suffered more than any other and who yields in a conversion process to what is greater than himself: images that remind us of the stigmata of St. Francis ("Non qui risanguinano le reliquie della nostra guerra?"). There is bold and ostentatious symmetrical imagery: "Tutto qui e dunque una forma della mia mente, un aspetto della mia anima, una prova del mio fervore." (28) For D'Annunzio the processes of conflict-creation (or evocation) and conflict-evasion (or demonstration of suffering) are confused in a sort of competition. (29) Feeling increasingly isolated, D'Annunzio feels that history has passed him by. Mariano's thesis is that he is ambivalent between living a life of "artistic autonomy" and the drive to write military and celebratory messages. De Felice takes the position that D'Annunzio supported Mussolini but not fascism, that he considered Mussolini to be a parvenu until the very late discovery of his greatness. Our view is that there is far more complicity in the process of an evolving fascism, to which D'Annunzio is only superficially hostile. The farce of fascism with its self-obsession and procrastination, deception and duplicity, exaggeration and exhibitionism, features D'Annunzio as a major player, usually "off stage." In the cited donation document, D'Annunzio reveals the impotence of his grandeur; and, in the cited letter of September 23, 1930, by insisting that he is not yielding, one can see that he is yielding, to poverty, rigidity and death.

By year's end, writes Mussolini, three years have passed since the last meeting; much of the men's words in the interim have concerned the phatic of maintaining contact, of reminding each other of their mutual loyalty. Throughout 1931 D'Annunzio complains of his health; on February 22, he writes that thirteen years have passed since he last wrote poetry; on December 22, a day after the death of Mussolini's brother, D'Annunzio recalls to the Duce of Arnaldo's having once recited to him from Alcyone, a book the poet considers "quasi 'pietra di paragone' per conoscere la nobilta mentale di un Italiano schietto" (C 304). The issue of national character now rests on the identification of common enemies (whether the English, the Germans or the Church), a means by which the two men find a way to realize a kind of schizophrenic stability.

The final stage of the Carteggio, from April 3, 1932, until February 3, 1938, reveals a more idealized and distant relationship. The Duce's responsibilities are broader, systematically regulated by a corps of bureaucrats. D'Annunzio asks for no more favors, but praises the Duce's every expansionist maneuver, such as the challenge to the League of Nations or the war in Africa. Though Mussolini assumes a "student" status in relation to his rhetorical "Master," in later years D'Annunzio too will begin his letters, "Mio Capo e Maestro." The myth of perfection characteristic of the poet's regression in the final years, seizes on the Duce's "Latinate" perfection: "Io dichiaro che i due piu grandi scrittori francesi--parlo nel senso dell'arte, del mestiere, del vocabolario, dello stile--sono Brunetto Latini e Gabriele D'Annunzio" (C 318, October 9, 1933). D'Annunzio's thinking grows more capricious. The naming of Brunetto suggests a banal, perhaps homosexual, Dantism, also in evidence on December 18,1934, when he instructs "Benito" (whose name he parses) in the pronunciation of "Italia" with Dantesque dieresis. While Mario Praz redeemed the poet's philological zeal in his early work (in "L'amor sensuale della parola"), such literary virtue has long since lapsed into wordplay and self-imitation:
 Mio caro Ben (gia ti dissi a Schifamondo che fra le molte arti della
 divinazione io esercito anche l'onomanzia traendo presagi dai nomi,
 e che Ben e un dio dei marli, una specie di Nettuno boreale, e che
 in Ito leggo, il verbo imperatorio nostro latino Itur "si va, si va,
 si va") da piu giorni differisco questa lettera perche ho molto
 sofferto di quel mio malanno. (C 332, December 18, 1934)

D'Annunzio's Latinity depends on the rejection of other races, including the Japanese--"la piccola gente ha rimpicciolito quel ch'era grande e degno di me" (C 127, January 15,1925)--and an absolute rejection of Hitler--"il marrano Adolf Hitler dall'ignobile faccia offuscata sotto gli indelebili schizzi della tinta di calce e di colla" (C 319, October 9, 1933). D'Annunzio's tendency to belittle extends to the Ethiopians and the English, and even to rival poet Giovanni Pascoli. In commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the Italian defeat at Adua, the author of Teneo te, Africa, a work praising the seizure of Abyssinia, writes to his Duce:
 Benito Mussolini, o mio fratello minore e maggiore--come direbbe
 Giovanni Pascoli grandissimo poeta del meschino arzigogolo e perfin
 del bisticcio peregrino--io ti mando oggi il piu recente saggio
 delle mie industrie vittoriali: una esatta scatola di palissandro
 ornata con l'argento de' piu eleganti motivi d'una decorazione

 Non serve per le sigarette, e neppure per le penne d'accaio ma
 per i modelli delle cartucce pin nuovi. Ve n'e gia uno, presso la
 medaglia militare del Teneo....

 Ogni cartuccia italiana valga oggi un uomo ucciso.

 Tutta quanta l'irta Etiopia deve inesorabilmente diventare un
 altipiano della coltura latina.

 Sii lodato tu che riesci a infondere nella nostra gente per
 troppo tempo inerte la volonta di questo compimento. Sii lodato tu
 che tanti secoli senza gloria guerriera compisci con la composta
 bellezza di questo assalto e questo acquisto....

 Sii lodato, o Capo improvviso dell'Italia acefala, tu che
 restituisci Roma alla predestinata Italia. (C 360, March 1, 1936)

Once again we see the perverse echoing of the litany of St. Francis's Cantico creaturarum. The Vate's aestheticizing of reality seems contaminated by racism and a neglect for human life as the letters grow increasingly mythic and unreal, lacking any meaningful extension in the world.
 Sono felice chela mia profezia si avveri e che il mito della tua
 compiuta potenza da me celebrato in tempi gia lontani sia superato
 dalla tua volonta che ogni giorno va oltre. Riprendo fra le mani la
 mia vecchia canzone di Garibaldi dove alcun verso e misurato alla
 tua statura e vorrei che la mia voce non fosse per ispegnersi. (C
 373, October 26, 1937) (30)

In his final letter D'Annunzio repeats his early dictum, "Fa di te stesso un'isola," adding "Penso a te e al tuo travaglio doloroso ma vittorioso. Io sono molto infelice" (C 379, February 3, 1938). Much of the final letters contain this pathetic tone by an ego which, in falsely proclaiming loyalty as the summum bonum, has neglected that one valuable enterprise, the attempt to improve the situation of the arts in the new "empire."

Near the end of the Libro segreto, D'Annunzio claims "supero nel mio stile di scrittore tutti gli uomini che scrissero in tutti i secoli." Having reached this plateau he is content to suspend all writing:
 Fui grande oratore? seppi con la parola trarre gli uomini e dominare
 gli eventi? ora per lunghi giorni resto in silenzio. Non considero
 la parola come un mezzo di scambio, mi sembra di non poter piu
 adoperare quel che Ugo Foscolo chiama "linguaggio itinerario." (31)

As he loses his physical strength and mobility, D'Annunzio's "sensual" distortion of language grows less reflective and more frenetic. When he announces the assassination of "Hope" by "Will," D'Annunzio seems to have named his own contrappasso. Just so, his use of Christian motifs represents a depradation of truly felt religious practice, logically coterminous with his symbolism, his musicality and his supposed pantheism. (32) When the semantic values of words are altered, when the syntax is abridged without respect for conventional hierarchies, the messenger tends to usurp the messenger. D'Annunzio's fixation on wellness in the latter years indicates a pathology, in his person but also in the national character. His letters of praise for the Duce's policies are now immediately published in the Corriere della sera, to the immense gratification of the Duce.

As D'Annunzio's literary creativity wanes, so does his grasp of philosophical or theological culture, leaving one with a pseudo-Napoleonic cult of opulence, celebrity and grandeur. Giulio Bollati has located his discussion of D'Annunzio in a chapter entitled "Il modo di vedere italiano" in which he notes that critics have misgauged his political impact and belittled him because of his "literary" obsession and fixation with seeing words as the embodiment of things. Bollati understands the courtly and medieval "Fiction" of the Vate for what it was: reactionary, deliberate and effective. (33)

In the final years the men are engaged in a sterile duel. In the spirit of Nationalist self-sacrifice, D'Annunzio supports the totalitarian state; Mussolini supports D'Annunzio financially and in terms of his publishing endeavours, his fame and his legacy. Disguising their ambitions, the men coax and flatter one other, continuing their own particular cults of masculinity and Italianness. (34) This propagandistic endeavour reflects what Adrian Lyttleton calls the Italian family's reaction (during Fascism) against the morality or "softness" that supposedly resulted when a child's upbringing was left exclusively to the mother: "It makes sense that the reaction should have been especially fierce in Italy, where the cult of the mother was so powerful. Anti-feminism was a conspicuous form of the Fascist mentality." (35)

By isolating portions of the correspondence, illustrating the content of its form in terms of textual coherence and political and personal exigencies, we have identified the reciprocal principles which protect the schismogenic relation from breakdown. (36) Given the questionable sincerity of the interlocutors, we would conclude that the Carteggio is, in effect, a public document in which the continuous mixing of logical types, the deliberate confusion between literal and symbolic planes of discourse, reflects a widespread epistemological and ontological crisis, expressed in static forms of discourse and political structures.

I hope in my remarks to have demonstrated how the ostensible goal of "freedom" (as enunciated in D'Annunzio's 1918 "Carta della liberta del Carnaro') was abused by both correspondents, and how the possibility of genuine societal renovatio was contradicted and negated by the ethos of authoritarianism that expressed itself interpersonally in a shared diffidence, in an agreement to deprive the word of its cogency and moral power. Gregory Bateson wrote in 1935:
 At the present moment, the nations of Europe are far advanced in
 symmetrical schismogenesis and are ready to fly at each other's
 throats; while within each nation are to be observed growing
 hostilities between the various social strata, symptoms of
 complementary schismogenesis. Equally in the countries ruled by new
 dictatorships we may observe early stages of complementary
 schismogenesis, the behavior of his associates pushing the dictator
 into every greater pride and assertiveness. (37)

After this compelling early view of the exacerbating conflict, Bateson was to adopt the concept of end-linkage in his research on national character after World War II. We have seen how useful and scientific the analytical research tools of the anthropologist can be in assessing the context within which fascism was born, flourished and waned. Just as the intersubjective relationship between D'Annunzio and Mussolini festered in a state of temporized conflict over a nineteen year period, so too the Italian institutions stagnated in uncertain alliances and the national character was mollified by the dictatorship's sham idealization of empire and its blatantly contradictory attitude toward change. The Carteggio has allowed us to analyze at a distance the ways in which these two men, holding themselves up as ideals to the nation, manipulated the codes by which Italianness is defined, distributed through the institutions, and transmitted to future generations.


(1) The critical edition of the Carteggio appeared in 1971. In his introduction, Renzo De Felice concentrates on the years after World War I and concluding in the Fiume affair; he puts considerable weight on D'Annunzio's supposed leftism, and his detachment from fascism. The volume also contains an essay on language and style in the correspondence by Emilio Mariano. The following is a list of the total number of letters per year: 1919: 29; 1920: 8; 1921: 5; 1922: 11; 1923: 64; 1924: 51; 1925: 76; 1926: 66; 1927: 39; 1928: 45; 1929: 23; 1930: 26; 1931: 15; 1932: 11; 1933: 8; 1934: 20; 1935: 29; 1936: 16; 1937: 18; 1938: 4.

(2) Geoffrey Gorer, in M. Mead and R. Metraux, ed., The Study of Culture at a Distance 61.

(3) Bateson, Naven 175.

(4)See Bateson, "Culture Contact and Schismogenesis," Steps to an Ecology of Mind 61-72.

(5) Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind 155: "From that time on, I have consciously focused on the qualitative structure of contexts rather than on intensity of interaction." See Berman: "The real issue, Bateson saw later, was how (and whether) increasing schismogenic tension served to trigger controlling factors, and he came to reevaluate the theory in cybernetic terms with the concept of end-linkage" (332).

(6) Rusconi, summarizing and citing the ideas of Ernst Nolte, "D'Annunzio: festa di guerra" 17. Emphasis mine.

(7) Nolte, Three Faces of Fascism 186, 189.

(8) Mack Smith, Mussolini 112.

(9) Vecchioni: "del pubescente," "la sensualita e senza scopo"; "vincolata alla strenuita del pubescente, pure aspira a qualcosa che in seguito si definisce nel drammatico" (48). It is in the final period--the one we study here--that D'Annunzio identifies the feminine with the sculpted silver image of the Venere callipige ("di bella forma rotonda di dietro"). A collector and art-lover, he evokes this image of the derriere with the words "insertare" [Lat. "insert at the center"] and "falce" ["sickle"], and "Venere callipige in una oscena / posa," acknowledging, as it were fruitless path of his sexual misadventures.

(10) Ibid: "liberatasi dalla corposita di tutte le cose" (48).

(11) Dombroski, Properties of Writing 68.

(12) Just "how" D'Annunzio remained awake may have had to do with the cocaine used to support the soldiers' vigil. For the soldiers, Flume represented an opportunity to continue the war and avoid the trouble of reintegration into society, and in some cases the simple pride and wanderlust of expansionism.

(13) Meanwhile, head of government Nitti compares D'Annunzio's concept of Italy to his many women: "e il suo solito estetismo sensuale," (Chiara, Vita di Gabriele D'Annunzio 336).

(14) In this interim D'Annunzio attempted to receive recognition of Fiume from Clemenceau at a conference chaired by him in Paris early in 1920. The usual leaflets were air-dropped over Paris. Mussolini's project at this time is seen by Chiara as more realistic: "di estendere l'azione legionaria e trasformarla in un moto rivoluzionario di vasta portata, gia sorto nella mente di Mussolini e ripreso poi da varie parti per iniziativa ..." (341).

(15) Lyttleton, Italian Fascisms 12.

(16) I refer to Whitehead and Russell's theory of logical types, and to its adoption by Bateson and others as a construct in their cybernetically informed epistemologies. The mixture of logical types is a common and effective device of propagandists. But when the confusion or mixture is known, intended, and exploited by the user as a means of successful inferential communication (or abduction), the results can be poetic or reverential, just as they can be scientifically illuminating.

(17) Becker's chapter, "Masculinity, Homoeroticism, and Nationalism" 157-82, explores the "homoerotic warrior culture" of the earlier D'Annunzio, of the D'Annunzio of Fiume, and of Giovanni Comisso, a gay novelist legionary at Fiume.

(18) Spackman has meticulously examined this "speech act," in the sense proposed by Austin. She sees the Duce effectively "switching the criteria [of believability and validation] from those of verifiable evidence to those of verisimilitude" (138). He thus engages in the "rhetoricization of violence": "The violence that existed 'out there' has been fully rhetoricized, recycled as performative language--as promise and threat. Rhetoric and violence are interdependent; the positing of nonverbal violence gives meaning to the rhetoric, while rhetoric gives renewed meaning, as performative threat, to violence already committed" (141).

(19) These were more dangerous than the extremist squadristi who had, in a sense, provoked the crisis. As Lyttleton writes, "Legal repression was justified on the pretext that it was the only means of averting the 'second wave' of illegal violence." Such a wave could have been led by Malaparte, the "provincial fascist revolutionary" who had inspired the "events of Florence," a violent mass rally which destroyed printing presses and cultural institutions of middle class anti-fascism.

(20) Becker's presentation of D'Annunzio's proto-fascistic nationalist socialism notes how much recent scholarship has sought to deny its importance or its existence, reclaiming in the process the poet's own view of his literary and spiritual importance.

(21) Giachery, Verga e D'Annunzio 315-16.

(22) Bollati, L'italiano 121.

(23) As Mack Smith writes: "Mussolini, though not avaricious himself, knew how to corrupt others with the lure of money. D'Annunzio, for his part, knew how to blackmail the fascists into paying for his silent acquiescence. The result was that these two men, who at once despised and envied one another, maintained a strange association based on mutual flattery, from which both profited" (Mussolini 94).

(24) Pozzi, Alternatim 44.

(25) Sarfatti, in Schnapp, ed., A Primer of Italian Fascism 246.

(26) Ibid. 247.

(27) Berman 238.

(28) One image that stands out is Mussolini pulling the "carretto"--pretending to be the dutiful mule of the regime--and D'Annunzio chastizing him for that dutiful action, since obviously at this point, after some falling years for the regime--viewed in the legitimate parliamentary sense--Mussolini has become more of the cart-driver than the ox, and since D'Annunzio, making himself out to be figure of the leader and hero, is neither, but rather a sort of obsessional exhibitionist.

(29) See Bateson: "It is probable that these two contrasting patterns [the complementary and the symmetrical] are alike available as potentialities in all human beings; but clearly, any individual who behaves in both ways at once will risk internal confusion and conflict. In the various national groups, consequently, different methods of resolving this discrepancy have developed" (Steps to an Ecology of Mind 98).

(30) In contrast, see Pancrazi's harsh critique of D'Annunzio's "Canzone di Garibaldi" in La voce 1908/1916, ed. Giansiro Ferrata, 629. In June 1937 the brothers Rosselli, Carlo and Nello, are assassinated outside of Paris.

(31) D'Annunzio, Libro segreto 354.

(32) Zanchetti notes how D'Annunzio's was not a genuine pantheism (Sensualismo e naturalismo dannunziano 8-9). He details the falseness and arbitrariness of the "unity" embraced by the poet, whose attempt to join with the likes of Campanella and Bruno was thwarted by his lack of the necessary strengths. Zanchetti cites Borgese on the subject: "l'intuizione panica riposa sempre su di un ricco patrimonio concettuale convergente alla convinzione che l'universo e uno ed e spirito" and "il poeta panico e un poeta religioso, e un sensuale e un visivo come il D'Annunzio e proprio l'opposto del poeta panico" (ibid.).

(33) Bollati: "Cio che sfugge ai critici... e che il tentativo di svalutare come letteraria la politica dannunziana non la svaluta affatto, anzi ne puntualizza da un lato le intenzioni, che si sapeva bene non essere rivoluzionarie; dall'altro, ne sottolinea proprio il valore innovativo e inventivo, consistente nell'uso della Finzione (qui in costume medievale, per ragioni di cui conosciamo l'ascendenza storica) come strumento di governo diretto delle masse" (L'italiano 172).

(34) Vecchioni, I believe, overstates his case by transferring this notion of woman as art object, and love as pure sensation, away from this individual author and onto their shared Italian race: "Ma, dopo aver letto D'Annunzio, che si pensa dell'amore? Niente di piu di quel che si e arabescato: e in cio D'Annunzio si svela ancora una volta 'italiano,' poiche e della natura italiana, tanto dell'uomo quanto delia donna, di non chiedersi che cosa sia l'amore" (50).

(35) Lyttleton, Italian Fascisms 27-28.

(36) See Pasolini, on the continuation in our day of an oral equivalent of D'Annunzian language: "E il corrispettivo orale di tale tradizione centralistica (dannunziana) lo conosciamo: lo usano ancora (almeno lo usavano fino a due o tre anni fa), i superstiti del nazionalismo: facendo sopravvivere fino negli anni sessanta, insieme, mettiamo, agli alti graduati dell'esercito, la 'dizione' dell'autoritarismo estetizzante. Si tratta di un particolare 'birignao,' probabilmente nato contemporaneamente a quello teatrale" (Empirismo eretico 54).

(37) Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind 70.


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Date:Mar 22, 2004
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