Every historical period has a novel that best tells its story, every state has a history that establishes and fixes its story as narrated from the perspective of its dominant ideology. The losing ideology on that given social and political scene finds itself on the losing side of the narrative process of the inscription of the official history, the story which is to be told to future generations. At the same time, the story of this losing ideology is almost always portrayed one-dimensionally, through a point of view limited to only the barest minimum of favorable facts which support the prescribed history. Victims of this approach are the historical facts, various sequences of events, as well as historical personages which are lost or pushed back into apocryphal texts and histories. Most often, they end up a part of the repressed collective memory that lurks under the surface, waiting for its moment to burst out with all its suppressed might.
One of these defeated ideologies in the 20th century is of course fascism, the story of which is mostly told and perceived through the viewpoint of the victorious post-war ideologies: western liberalism and communism. The general public mostly preceives it through movies about the era, where fascism more often than not is portayed as a caricature or as the embodiment of ultimate evil which cinematic heroes (Indiana Jones, Walter when he defends Sarajevo, Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds) always defeat it in the end and send it into to the dark recesses of history. Yet, it only on the rare occasion that we are presented with the actual story about how this ideology was born, how it spread among the common folk and managed to take its place in history. This a quite sensitive issue for all countries and nations where fascism played a significant role in the development of their collective history, but also their existing social reality, such as Italy, the birthplace of fascism. Italian society is still divided along the historical fault lines that were set as early as the creation of its modern state in the 19th century, and intensified with the tectonic events of the 20th century which lead to division of the societal fabric into the right and the left, a process very similar to the events that have shaped modern Macedonian history.
Consequently, it is always fascinating and instructive to learn about new aspects of the history of this Mediterranean nation that is so similar to us. In more recent times, we had the chance to get better acquainted with this part of Italian history through the works of art of primarily left-leaning authors such as Umberto Eco, Federico Fellini (Amarcord), Roberto Benigni (La Vita e Bella). Antonio Pennacchi’s novel Canale Mussolini (translated and published in Macedonian by ILI-ILI) provides us with an opportunity to get a look at this history from the other side. The novel serves as an insight into the origin of fascism and the environment in which it was born and thrived. We shouldn’t rush to conclusions that this work is a pamphlet for fascism or that is a mere romanticized version of a historical period. Quite the contrary. Pennacchi deftly depicts a rich and complex portrait of the economic and political situation in the country at the time, but also gives us insight into the psyche, mentality and the tradition of the community which gave birth to fascism. Thus, he successfully casts a light on a not as well known, at least for us, side of Italian history. The secret of the success of this novel lies in Pennacchi’s mastery to tell the whole story in a rather simple, even colloquial and folksy language infused with great doses of humor and subversion, in the same way history is told and seen by the common man witnessing the events unfolding on the great historical stage.