Louis de Bernières’s book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin sold well in the day and prompted a movie with Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, which I haven’t seen. Set on the Greek island of Cephalonia, the over-tragic love story deals with its wartime occupation by German and Italian forces, and the subsequent Greek civil war.
Although the plot is over-wrought and the characters over-drawn, the book has a hidden gem worth mentioning. Chapter 35 “A Pamphlet Distributed on the Island, Entitled with the Fascist Slogan ‘Believe, Fight, and Obey’” is a funny, sarcastic and hyperbolic take on Mussolini’s life and rise to power in Italy, in seven pages.
“Italians! Let us celebrate together the life and achievements of Benita Amilcare Mussolini, Who from unpromising beginnings has led us to perdition.
In His infancy He was thought to be dumb, but later proved to be incorrigibly garrulous and more full of wind than all the cows that browse the pastures of the Alps. As a boy He blinded captive birds with pins, plucked the feathers of chickens, was deemed uncontrollable, and pinched little girls in school in order to make them cry. He led gangs, started fights, sought quarrels without provocation, and refused to pay up on the bets that He lost. At the age of ten he stabbed a boy at supper, and then stabbed someone else shortly after….”
That covers just the formative years, followed by ever-increasing levels of violence, political manipulation and eye-popping transgressions. I’m not familiar with the history of the Mussolini years, but I presume the author hasn’t invented something so fantastically obscene?