Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone

Stanislao G. Pugliese, Author Farrar, Straus & Giroux $27.95 (426p) ISBN 978-0-374-11348-3

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 “some of the most poignant and powerful fiction of the 20th century.” (June)

Reviewed on: 04/06/2009
Release date: 06/01/2009
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