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The bullet's song : romantic violence and utopia /
William Pfaff.
imprint
New York : Simon & Schuster, c2004.
description
368 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0684809079
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Simon & Schuster, c2004.
isbn
0684809079
catalogue key
5289742
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 337-350) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Chapter Six: The Mediterranean SupermanUntil 1915, Gabriele D'Annunzio, poet, novelist, and playwright, was devoted to the transforming power of art. His chosen personage was that of aesthete, dandy, and lover. After 1915, he became a romantic and flamboyant Italian nationalist and irredentist. Although he was fifty-two when Italy intervened in the world war, he arranged combat service in the army with subsequent attachments to the navy in torpedo boats -- even though he was afflicted with terrible seasickness all his life -- and to the air service. He carried out spectacularly brave if largely gratuitous acts of warfare that seemed to symbolize and justify the Italian cause, relating it to traditions of honor and chivalry.One of the most famous writers in Europe at the time of the First World War, he made himself a leader of Italian resistance to the Versailles treaty's settlement of a controversial Dalmatian frontier between Italy and a newly created Yugoslavia. He led a military coup which seized the port of Fiume (now Rijeka), denied to Italy in the Versailles negotiations, and created there a utopian political society which endured sixteen months, drew the attention of the world, and as the historian of the adventure, Michael Ledeen, has written in his indispensable book on the Fiume adventure, produced "a kind of preview of the twentieth century."Gabriele D'Annunzio was born in Pescara on the Adriatic on March 12, 1863, in a town that one of his Italian biographers, Paolo Alatri, describes as one "for which even 'provincial' is probably too grand a description." His father was a good-natured but licentious man, a prosperous farmer, winemaker, and town notable who ended a bankrupt, having squandered a considerable inheritance "on his relations with women of every condition in the town and in the surrounding countryside." D'Annunzio's British biographer, Anthony Rhodes, notes that in an early novel,Il trionfo della morte,D'Annunzio describes a man such as his father: "a person of reason, of thought and feeling, [who] had in his flesh the fatal inheritance of his coarse being....Certain impulses of animalism, gusts of it, moving like storms across cultivated ground, were destroying the spiritual side of his life. They shut off every source of interior light, they opened great voids of misery...."D'Annunzio was classically educated at a good boarding school, writing poetry on Greek and Roman models from an early age. He said that the discovery at fifteen of the poetry of Giosuè Carducci (awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906) was "the shock that revealed [to me] what poetry is." He wrote to Carducci, saying "I speak to you from my heart, I feel deep in me a strange and vivid emotion, and my hand trembles in writing this. I want to follow in your steps and also courageously fight for this school of poetry which they call new, and which is destined for a triumph very different from those of the past."D'Annunzio's first volume of poetry, published at sixteen -- publication paid for by his father -- was favorably noticed in Rome's literary press, although a derivative note of "decadence" in his work was deplored. The most influential Italian critic of the time, Giuseppe Chiarini, greeted the birth "of a new poet." D'Annunzio assured himself attention by telling the newspapers, anonymously, that the young D'Annunzio had tragically died in a fall from a horse, which prompted new articles on the premature loss of so talented a youth. While the news was eventually corrected, the eulogies remained. It was the first manifestation of a lifelong talent for self-promotion.He went to Rome at the age of nineteen, when a second volume of poetry and his first of stories had already been published. A decade after Italian troops had ended papal rule in Rome, the city was becoming the political and commercial center of Italy, and replacing Florence as the center
Excerpt from Book
Chapter Six: The Mediterranean Superman Until 1915, Gabriele D'Annunzio, poet, novelist, and playwright, was devoted to the transforming power of art. His chosen personage was that of aesthete, dandy, and lover. After 1915, he became a romantic and flamboyant Italian nationalist and irredentist. Although he was fifty-two when Italy intervened in the world war, he arranged combat service in the army with subsequent attachments to the navy in torpedo boats -- even though he was afflicted with terrible seasickness all his life -- and to the air service. He carried out spectacularly brave if largely gratuitous acts of warfare that seemed to symbolize and justify the Italian cause, relating it to traditions of honor and chivalry.One of the most famous writers in Europe at the time of the First World War, he made himself a leader of Italian resistance to the Versailles treaty's settlement of a controversial Dalmatian frontier between Italy and a newly created Yugoslavia. He led a military coup which seized the port of Fiume (now Rijeka), denied to Italy in the Versailles negotiations, and created there a utopian political society which endured sixteen months, drew the attention of the world, and as the historian of the adventure, Michael Ledeen, has written in his indispensable book on the Fiume adventure, produced "a kind of preview of the twentieth century."Gabriele D'Annunzio was born in Pescara on the Adriatic on March 12, 1863, in a town that one of his Italian biographers, Paolo Alatri, describes as one "for which even 'provincial' is probably too grand a description." His father was a good-natured but licentious man, a prosperous farmer, winemaker, and town notable who ended a bankrupt, having squandered a considerable inheritance "on his relations with women of every condition in the town and in the surrounding countryside." D'Annunzio's British biographer, Anthony Rhodes, notes that in an early novel,Il trionfo della morte,D'Annunzio describes a man such as his father: "a person of reason, of thought and feeling, [who] had in his flesh the fatal inheritance of his coarse being....Certain impulses of animalism, gusts of it, moving like storms across cultivated ground, were destroying the spiritual side of his life. They shut off every source of interior light, they opened great voids of misery...."D'Annunzio was classically educated at a good boarding school, writing poetry on Greek and Roman models from an early age. He said that the discovery at fifteen of the poetry of Giosue Carducci (awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906) was "the shock that revealed [to me] what poetry is." He wrote to Carducci, saying "I speak to you from my heart, I feel deep in me a strange and vivid emotion, and my hand trembles in writing this. I want to follow in your steps and also courageously fight for this school of poetry which they call new, and which is destined for a triumph very different from those of the past."D'Annunzio's first volume of poetry, published at sixteen -- publication paid for by his father -- was favorably noticed in Rome's literary press, although a derivative note of "decadence" in his work was deplored. The most influential Italian critic of the time, Giuseppe Chiarini, greeted the birth "of a new poet." D'Annunzio assured himself attention by telling the newspapers, anonymously, that the young D'Annunzio had tragically died in a fall from a horse, which prompted new articles on the premature loss of so talented a youth. While the news was eventually corrected, the eulogies remained. It was the first manifestation of a lifelong talent for self-promotion.He went to Rome at the age of nineteen, when a second volume of poetry and his first of stories had already been published. A decade after Italian troops had ended papal rule in Rome, the city was becoming the political and commercial center of Italy, and replacing Florence as the center
First Chapter

Chapter Six: The Mediterranean Superman

Until 1915, Gabriele D'Annunzio, poet, novelist, and playwright, was devoted to the transforming power of art. His chosen personage was that of aesthete, dandy, and lover. After 1915, he became a romantic and flamboyant Italian nationalist and irredentist. Although he was fifty-two when Italy intervened in the world war, he arranged combat service in the army with subsequent attachments to the navy in torpedo boats -- even though he was afflicted with terrible seasickness all his life -- and to the air service. He carried out spectacularly brave if largely gratuitous acts of warfare that seemed to symbolize and justify the Italian cause, relating it to traditions of honor and chivalry.

One of the most famous writers in Europe at the time of the First World War, he made himself a leader of Italian resistance to the Versailles treaty's settlement of a controversial Dalmatian frontier between Italy and a newly created Yugoslavia. He led a military coup which seized the port of Fiume (now Rijeka), denied to Italy in the Versailles negotiations, and created there a utopian political society which endured sixteen months, drew the attention of the world, and as the historian of the adventure, Michael Ledeen, has written in his indispensable book on the Fiume adventure, produced "a kind of preview of the twentieth century."

Gabriele D'Annunzio was born in Pescara on the Adriatic on March 12, 1863, in a town that one of his Italian biographers, Paolo Alatri, describes as one "for which even 'provincial' is probably too grand a description." His father was a good-natured but licentious man, a prosperous farmer, winemaker, and town notable who ended a bankrupt, having squandered a considerable inheritance "on his relations with women of every condition in the town and in the surrounding countryside." D'Annunzio's British biographer, Anthony Rhodes, notes that in an early novel, Il trionfo della morte, D'Annunzio describes a man such as his father: "a person of reason, of thought and feeling, [who] had in his flesh the fatal inheritance of his coarse being....Certain impulses of animalism, gusts of it, moving like storms across cultivated ground, were destroying the spiritual side of his life. They shut off every source of interior light, they opened great voids of misery...."

D'Annunzio was classically educated at a good boarding school, writing poetry on Greek and Roman models from an early age. He said that the discovery at fifteen of the poetry of GiosuÈ Carducci (awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906) was "the shock that revealed [to me] what poetry is." He wrote to Carducci, saying "I speak to you from my heart, I feel deep in me a strange and vivid emotion, and my hand trembles in writing this. I want to follow in your steps and also courageously fight for this school of poetry which they call new, and which is destined for a triumph very different from those of the past."

D'Annunzio's first volume of poetry, published at sixteen -- publication paid for by his father -- was favorably noticed in Rome's literary press, although a derivative note of "decadence" in his work was deplored. The most influential Italian critic of the time, Giuseppe Chiarini, greeted the birth "of a new poet." D'Annunzio assured himself attention by telling the newspapers, anonymously, that the young D'Annunzio had tragically died in a fall from a horse, which prompted new articles on the premature loss of so talented a youth. While the news was eventually corrected, the eulogies remained. It was the first manifestation of a lifelong talent for self-promotion.

He went to Rome at the age of nineteen, when a second volume of poetry and his first of stories had already been published. A decade after Italian troops had ended papal rule in Rome, the city was becoming the political and commercial center of Italy, and replacing Florence as the center of journalism and literature. The Roman middle classes were stirring from the near-feudal torpor of the pre-Risorgimento decades, and the aristocracy was taking up the manners of foreigners. Luigi Barzini says the nobility "for the first time set about acting the part of 'nobles'; they ceased to be patriarchal, with a place in the people's ancient way of life, in order to live a fictitious literary and choreographic existence." Their servants now were silent as they served meals; before, they had intervened in the family conversation. The literary intelligentsia took up French modes of bohemianism.

D'Annunzio wrote to an old friend in Pescara that in Rome he "lived in an absolute whirl of excitement and energy. I have thrown myself into the Roman maelstrom of pleasure and struggle...." He said, "My desire for glory sometimes gives me torment and melancholy." He was respectfully received in literary and intellectual circles on the strength of the three volumes he had published. He enrolled in letters and philosophy at the University of Rome, taking up fencing and riding as well; but he never passed his university examinations. His prose style, Rhodes says, was then "direct, even dry...all matter, concrete, with a jealous economy of expression and image." Later it became very ornate, after he acquired "the unfortunate notion that the Italian language possessed 'musical elements, various and powerful enough to compare with the great Wagnerian orchestras.' "

His personal magnetism, particularly for women, was immediately evident, despite his lack of physical distinction (he was short, unhandsome; a school friend described him at the time as "a little bucolic fellow with crinkly hair, and a pair of great, glaucous eyes with almond lids"). Later Isadora Duncan, one of his many lovers, said, possibly sardonically, but feelingly, how she imagined his first encounters in Rome: "The lady he is talking to suddenly feels that her very soul and being are lifted, as it were, into an ethereal region, where she walks in company with the Divine Beatrice. Above ordinary mortals, she goes about with a kind of imaginary halo. But, also, when the caprice is over and he moves on to another lady, the halo dulls, the aureole diminishes, and she feels again of clay. She does not quite understand what has happened, but seems to be back on earth searching desperately for her transfiguration, aware that never in her whole life will she meet this kind of love again."

In the summer of 1882 he broke relations with the young Florentine woman he professed to love; her father objected to their engagement. In the fall, his friend Edoardo Scarfoglio wrote that "he has returned strangely changed. During the summer, because of God knows what unhappy event or psychological phenomenon, a transformation took place....Gabriele left Rome ingenuous, modest, agreeable, and returned tricky, vain, ingratiating. A sudden need to immediately taste all the doubtful and sterile pleasures of popularity has installed itself in him like a cancer of body and spirit....Since the arrival of the winter season opened the doors of the great Roman houses, he has ceded to the flattery of the ladies...." Another friend recalled that D'Annunzio was taken up by a smart crowd "whom his artist's instincts should have kept at a distance."

He became a social and gossip reporter for La Tribuna, incorporating foreign words and phrases into his articles -- "five o'clock tea," "parures," "flirtation" -- and alluding to his (wholly imaginary) days of aristocratic pursuits in English country houses. In literary circles it had been (as it remains) fashionable to be unfashionable and negligent in dress, but D'Annunzio now dressed as a dandy. His first novel was peopled with princesses, dukes, and ambassadors. He encouraged what Rhodes calls the "romantic and morbid fascination" of Roman ladies.

In 1883 he married into the aristocracy, a child already having been born to the twenty-year-old Maria Hardouin, dutchess of Gallese, the sheltered and highly romantic daughter of the second marriage of a widow of the "black" Roman aristocracy, the papal aristocracy. Hers was the first great aristocratic house which D'Annunzio entered as a guest and not as a journalist. The daughter was later to say "I really thought I was marrying poetry."

Her stepfather deplored the forced engagement, refused to attend the wedding, and cut Maria Hardouin off without a dowry. Her mother, one of the most beautiful women in Rome, to whose charms D'Annunzio "was not indifferent" (according to another Italian biographer, Annamaria Andreoli), was later to install herself with the young couple. She promoted D'Annunzio's career as a society chronicler.

He claimed to love Maria, but eventually left her and the children in an Adriatic fishing village to resume his extravagant Roman life. He failed to return for the birth of their third child, and eventually she had to sue to obtain support for the children. D'Annunzio displayed respect for Maria all her life, but formally separated from her in 1891, having met Elvira Natalia Leoni, whom he called Barbara, who convinced him to stop wasting his talent on journalism. His career as a lover, which was to be spectacular, had resumed. His first important novel followed.

The flamboyance of D'Annunzio's writings is of a kind that Anglo-Americans find unsympathetic. It strikes us as in crucial respects unserious, unauthentic. Henry James devoted a long essay to the case in 1902, saying of D'Annunzio's work that the doctrine of "beauty at any price, beauty appealing alike to the sense and the mind -- was never felt to fall into its place as really adopted and efficient. It remained for us a queer high-flavored fruit from overseas, grown under another sun than ours, passed round and solemnly partaken of at banquets organized to try it, but not found on the whole really to agree with us, not proving thoroughly digestible."

D'Annunzio defined himself -- James goes on -- as

a rare imagination, a poetic, an artistic intelligence of extraordinary range and fineness concentrated almost wholly on the life of the senses. For the critic who simplifies a little to state clearly, the only ideas he urges upon us are the erotic and the plastic, which have for him about an equal intensity, or of which it would be doubtless more correct to say that he makes them interchangeable faces of the same figure. [His sharpest artistic powers were] first his rare notation of states of excited sensibility; second his splendid visual sense, the quick generosity of his response to the message, as we nowadays say, of aspects and appearances, to the beauty of places and things; third his ample and exquisite style, his curious, various, inquisitive, always active employment of language as a means of communication and representation.

Elsewhere James speaks of D'Annunzio's treatment of "love as a form of suffering." "The fusion of manner," he says, with "the matter submitted to it...is complete and admirable, so that, though his work is nothing if not 'literary,' we see at no point of it where literature or where life begins or ends...."

This is at the source of D'Annunzio's eventual military and political engagements. The novelist or playwright conventionally turns experience into fictional art; another kind of artist, such as D'Annunzio, makes art of his life, or tries to do so. Is doing this a form of confusion? Or a separate art which must be considered on its own terms: life as a fictional construction, as distinct from art itself? Italians were eventually to refer to D'Annunzio simply as "the Poet" (Francis Lacassin writes, "without risk of error"; there was no other claimant to the title).

James concludes that D'Annunzio's obsessive concern with sexual passion -- "from which he extracts such admirable detached pictures insists on remaining for him only the act of a moment, beginning and ending in itself and disowning any representative character." Surely, James says, what makes sexual love interesting is

its extension and consummation only in the rest of life. Shut out from the rest of life, shut out from all fruition and assimilation, it has no more dignity than -- to use a homely image -- the boots and shoes that we see, in the corridors of promiscuous hotels, standing, often in double pairs, at the doors of rooms. Detached and unassociated these clusters of objects present, however obtruded, no importance. What the participants do with their agitation, in short, or even what it does with them, that is the stuff of poetry, and it is never really interesting save when something finely contributive in themselves makes it so.

Saying that D'Annunzio condemns his creatures to an "almost complete absence of other contacts" while engrossed in their passionate adventures, James concludes that: "It may doubtless be conceded that our English-speaking failure of insistence, of inquiry and penetration, in certain directions, springs partly from our deep-rooted habit of dealing with man, dramatically, on his social and gregarious side, as a being the variety of whose intercourse with his fellows, whatever forms his fellows may take, is positively half his interesting motion. We fear to isolate him, for we remember that as we see and know him he scarcely understands himself save in action, action which inevitably mixes him with his kind. To see and know him, like Signor D'Annunzio, almost only in passion is another matter, for passion spends itself quickly in the open and burns hot mainly in nooks and corners."

D'Annunzio became celebrated and rich ("or rather, prodigal," one critic notes), extravagant and indebted, as well as unfaithful to his women, as he remained throughout his life. His liaison with the great actress Eleonora Duse began in 1896, and the income from the plays he wrote for her, which she interpreted in theaters throughout Europe, served to support them both until 1903, when his encounter with a young (and gravely ill) widow, Alessandra di Rudini, provoked their separation. In all there were eight grand love affairs and hundreds of minor ones, Rhodes calculates, all of them -- he says -- important to D'Annunzio "only in so far as they contributed to D'Annunzio as the Stendhalian hero, nourished on the myth of Roman greatness, determined to repeat it in his own life, to become the superman." (When he later was in Paris, the rich and flamboyant Nathalie Barney -- "l'Amazone," Chicago-born dominatrix of the expatriate lesbian community -- said, "he was the rage. A woman who had not slept with him made herself ridiculed.")

He was a genius at self-promotion in an age committed to artist as romantic and dramatic creature. In 1909 he took up flying with the American aviation innovator Glenn Curtiss. In 1910 his Italian debts forced him to move to France, which he considered his second country, where he had a large and admiring audience. He returned to Italy after the First World War broke out, and getting himself accepted for active military service at fifty-two, made himself into a spectacular and authentic hero (however, it is reported that the aviators who flew on missions with him looked upon him as undeniably brave but preposterous).

He served as cavalry officer and torpedo-boat commander as well as flyer. The authorities recognized his value as popular hero and dramatist of the Italian cause and let him do more or less as he wanted. The result was a series of exploits: torpedo attacks in Austrian ports, bombing flights, expeditions to drop personal messages by leaflet over Hapsburg palaces in Vienna. These stirred the imagination of Italians and greatly gratified D'Annunzio, who operated from an apartment in the luxurious Danieli Hotel in Venice, and later from a palazzo, the Casetta Rossa, in that city (where his bedroom, according to the French consul in Venice, resembled "an exquisite bonbon box...a boudoir rather than a major's sleeping quarters"). From here he also conducted another widely known love affair with the fashionable Countess Morosini, former mistress of the kaiser, and lived with relish the most glorious role in Italy: "with literary genius but also with physical courage, he acted what he sang."

A word about the political background is necessary. Before 1914 Italy had been Austria's ally in the Triple Alliance. When Austria went to war against Serbia in August 1914, Italy remained neutral, as Vienna had neglected to inform Italy before delivering its ultimatum to Belgrade, breaking a promise to consult and agree with Rome on any steps likely to compromise their common interests in the Balkans. The Italians considered the Austrian ultimatum a shocking overreaction to the Hapsburg archduke Francis Ferdinand's murder in Sarajevo.

However, popular pressure built up for intervention on the side of the Allies, against Austria, in order to recover Italian-speaking territories inside Austria-Hungary. Intervention on the Austro-German side might have given Italy Nice and a slice of France (which Mussolini was to seize in 1940), but intervention to support the Allies could give Italy Trieste and the Trentino region in the South Tyrol. The Foreign Ministry negotiated secretly with both sides, looking for the more interesting bargain, thus earning Italy contempt from both Allies and the Central Powers.

A second force pushing Italy toward the war was that larger European sentiment already mentioned, a perverse enthusiasm for war after a long period of peace. There was elite frustration that the new united Italian nation cut a poorer figure than France (in particular) and was treated patronizingly by the other major powers. Italian intellectuals were writing about "ignoble Italy, pacific, the ridiculous Italy, with her pope, her king, and her constitutional democracy" (the poet Giosuè Carducci said that). Italians had been reading D'Annunzio, Marinetti, Georges Sorel, and other theoreticians of violence, and they wanted action. There had been too much peace, too much bourgeois virtue, and the Italians considered that the time had arrived for some thrilling bloodletting.

When D'Annunzio said in one of his interventionist speeches that Italy "is no longer a 'pension de famille,' a museum, a horizon painted with Prussian blue for international honeymooners, but a 'living nation,' " the roar of applause would not let him go on. By 1915 the only groups still holding out for neutrality were some Catholics, who admired Catholic Austria and considered France an "atheist nation," and the official Socialists, who said that all war was wicked and imperialistic, and demanded absolute neutrality.

Liberal internationalism's spectacular failure in preventing war had much to do with this surge of nationalism, as well as with Fascism's eventual emergence as nationalism's political vehicle. It was impossible to take democratic Socialist internationalism seriously after the Socialist parties in all the belligerent countries opted for nationalist war over class solidarity and international class interest. Men were willing to die for the Italian nation but not for the international working class.

War itself proved a revelation: Mussolini later wrote, "War alone brings up to their highest tension all human energies and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it." Liberal ideas seemed discredited, those of materialistic logic, rationalism, interest-maximizing motivation and action. According to D'Annunzio, the war was a struggle by Latins against Barbarians. War in 1915 was a continuation of Italian civilization's ancient struggle against Barbarian forces descended from German forests.

However, this war was not a success for Italian civilization. The Italian army was badly trained and incompetently led. Its traditions were negative ones. It had never before fought as a national army. The military as well as political leadership in Italy had complacently assumed that the Russian "steamroller" would crush Austria and Prussia within weeks, and Italy could then dart in, to its profit. Instead, the Germans magisterially defeated the Russian army at the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, which then began to disintegrate while revolutionary forces made their appearance in Saint Petersburg. By 1917 Russia was out of the war.

The Italians engaged the Austrians on the Isonzo River, north of Venice, and for two years fought eleven successive battles on a sixty-mile front, failing to advance beyond twelve miles, half the distance to Trieste. In December 1917, the German command reinforced the Austrians with six divisions in order to knock Italy out of the war. Their attack was made on the upper Isonzo, near Caporetto. The Italians broke and fell back more than ten miles to the Piave River, where the Austro-Germans outran their supply lines. (Hemingway describes the retreat from Caporetto in A Farewell to Arms.) French and British troops were rapidly moved to Italy to stabilize the line. The Italians had lost some three hundred thousand men taken prisoner, and a still larger number deserted. From then on the Italians fought adequately but ingloriously.

They nonetheless ended the war expecting that their lives would change. D'Annunzio wrote, "Something stronger, more beautiful will be born from all this blood and sacrifice. All forms of art and politics will be overthrown; the new ones will be healthier. I believe that we are entering a new era, whose transformation will surpass that of the Renaissance and the French Revolution." He said, "Happy are they who shall see this new world; happy too, those, like us, who have announced it, foreseen it, prepared it...." There was also a tradition in Italy of what was called "reducismo," that returning armies remake the state (the word literally means a returning). This was in the air.

By conventional measurements Italy was better off when the war was over than its afflicted or defeated neighbors, France and Austria (the one having had the worst of the war fought on its own territory, and the other defeated and stripped of empire). The social dislocation in Italy nonetheless was great. Still essentially an agricultural society, industrialized war had been a great shock. There had been a million dead and another million wounded. An army had to be demobilized but the civilian economy had insufficient jobs for the ex-soldiers. There was not enough housing. Strikes followed, and devaluation of the lira.

The Italian public became obsessed with what was happening on the northern Adriatic coast, where the Allies, meeting at Versailles, had agreed to put the former south Slavic dependencies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire together with Serbia to create a new Kingdom of the South Slavs, later to become known as Yugoslavia. Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau were handing over to this new Yugoslavia territory that was part of Italy's formal war claims. In the secret negotiations before Italy entered the war, France and Britain had promised Italy part of the Dalmatian coast, including the port of Fiume. However, because Slovenia and Croatia had produced partisan uprisings supporting the Allies and attacking the Austrians, they too expected territorial rewards.

Italian sentiment was influenced by the probably justified suspicion that in 1917 the Allies had attempted to make a separate peace with Austria, at the expense of their promises to Italy. Worse, Woodrow Wilson had committed the United States to the principle of national self-determination for all of the former members of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires, none of whom was capable of generally agreed territorial definition because of the complex and overlapping ethnic composition of the region.

The new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes claimed the whole Dalmatian coast, largely populated by Slavs, including the port of Fiume, which was economically indispensable to the region, a trade outlet for Zagreb, Belgrade, Budapest, and Prague. Italy already had three major Adriatic ports, Trieste, Venice, and Bari. But Fiume was an Italian-speaking city, and Dalmatia itself had once been part of the Venetian Empire. Under the Austro-Hungarian system, it had been governed by Hungary, with the city itself granted a unique juridical status. It had been a corpus separatum in many functions. In 1910, of fourteen elementary schools in the city, two were Hungarian and twelve Italian-language. None was Croatian, even though the working class of the city was predominantly Croatian, many commuting from outside Fiume.

Wilson's conclusion that Fiume should be given to the new Yugoslavia was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that the Slavs, who had fought to throw off Austrian rule, appeared in a heroic light to the Allies -- certainly to the Americans -- while the Italian war record was unimpressive. Italians, as such, were considered by Protestant Americans (and no doubt by a president who was also a Presbyterian clergyman) as expedient, devious, and untrustworthy -- that "Mediterranean type" to which Americans and north Europeans of Protestant religion felt superior in "race" as well as in matters of political conduct, civic life, and religious enlightenment.

The leaders of the Italian government, including the Liberal prime minister, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, were conscious of their difficult position, respectful of Wilson, whose popularity among Europeans at the time of the Versailles conference was overwhelming ("unearthly," as one contemporary American observer said), and diffident about presenting their claims. There were people in the Italian government and political class who recognized that Fiume made sense as a Yugoslav port, and saw that Yugoslavia needed such a port on the Dalmatian coast whereas Italy had Venice and Trieste in the region. The Italian claim was sentimental and historical. But Wilson treated the Italians with arrogance and condescension, insisting on his ideas and his own solution, and rejecting the compromises that were proposed. This provoked in Italy a sentiment which D'Annunzio grandiloquently announced by saying: "Victory, you shall not be mutilated....We fought for a greater Italy. We want a greater Italy. I say that we have prepared the mystic space for her appearance."

Wilson issued an appeal to the Italian people, over the head of their government, setting forth his argument for rejecting the Italian claim. The government considered this an affront, and Prime Minister Orlando dramatically left Versailles to consult parliament. Fiume had been made into a question of national honor.

When Hungarian officials were withdrawn from Fiume just before the armistice, the mayor, an Italian, was left in de facto authority, and the Municipal Council declared that he embodied "the will of the people." When representatives of the new Yugoslavia arrived to raise the flag of Croatia, the Municipal Council declared itself the "Italian National Council of Fiume," and citing the Wilsonian principle of self-determination for all peoples, appealed to Italy for union. At the same time a workers' council with both Croatian and Italian members asked for a plebiscite on the city's future.

When Yugoslav military forces moved toward the city, an Italian warship and four torpedo boats were dispatched with the assignment to protect Italian nationals and Italian interests. A quiet political struggle began over the city's control, which was to last until the following September. France, Britain, and the United States, for different reasons, all opposed Italy's claim. The French, who had sponsored Croatian irregular forces during the war, made themselves patrons of a Croatian Fiume. However, the Versailles conference supposed to settle the matter considered the problem of Fiume one of the lesser issues in sorting out the ex-Austro-Hungarian empire, and in the interim the city, for practical purposes, was run by its Italian community, with a symbolic presence of Allied forces.

Some in Italy wanted simply to seize Fiume. However, the government conscientiously waited on the Versailles conference decision, patiently pressing Italy's claims to Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George, and the other assembled Allied chiefs. It is known that Orlando, the Italian prime minister, was told of various schemes to take Fiume, but the government and the army commander, Pietro Badoglio, were opposed. Among Fiumians, the conviction grew that they had to act themselves, and that is what finally happened.

In the spring of 1919, after Wilson made his maladroit appeal to the Italian public, Italian popular demands had gone beyond anything the government could reasonably expect from the Allies. Increasingly there were calls for force -- a coup de main in Fiume. The government became convinced that there could be a popular uprising if Versailles ruled against Italy. Ledeen writes that D'Annunzio, leading the outcry for Fiume, concluded that if "divine Italy" was not safeguarded by Versailles, he would take matters into his own hands. "I am ready today," he told a Dalmatian audience, "to sacrifice every love and friendship, every comfort, to your cause...you will have me with you to the end. And you know what I mean by this promise...." Ledeen adds: "D'Annunzio was speaking not only for himself and other patriotic veterans of the war but also for a large and potent sector of the Italian political and industrial spheres. Should Orlando and Sonnino [the foreign minister] fail to obtain their goals in France, there were wealthy and powerful men who were prepared to support D'Annunzio, or others like him, who would simply take what they felt was rightfully theirs."

In fact the Allied powers themselves precipitated intervention. In June 1919, they named an Inter-Allied Commission to investigate the situation and make recommendations. By the end of August rumors were circulating that their recommendations would go against Italy. There was supposed to be a new government elected by proportional representation, to include the vote of the predominantly Slavic suburbs.

The Sardinian Grenadiers, the Italian unit that had "liberated" the city the previous November, was ordered withdrawn and replaced, and the commander in chief of Allied forces in Fiume was also replaced, considered by the Allies as too sympathetic to the Italian nationalists.

Early in the morning of September 25, the day the Grenadiers were to leave, the town hall bell was rung to bring people out for the soldiers' departure, and people blocked the streets, shouting "Don't leave us in Croatia's hands!" The soldiers responded with patriotic slogans and cries of "Viva Fiume!" When their replacements, the Regina Brigade, also Italian, arrived, the men were greeted with applause, flowers, and kisses -- the latter evidence of what Ledeen calls the "bacchic atmosphere characteristic of Fiume, noted by all who went there."

The departed Sardinian officers wanted to return to the city and made contact with likely interventionist leaders, including Mussolini and D'Annunzio, but none was yet ready for a march on Fiume. D'Annunzio's Casetta Rossa in Venice was already a center of interventionist planning and conspiracy. He himself remained unconvinced that the time was right for a coup, although several Grenadier officers carried a plea to him that said: "And you do nothing for Fiume? You who have all Italy in your hands...."

He ostensibly was preparing another dramatic project, a long-distance airplane flight to the Orient. An anonymous American official in Rome reported to Washington his conviction that the Japan flight was a diversion, adding, however, that the Italian government had already sent two ships to the Pacific in logistical support for the expedition. According to the Italian writer Paolo Alatri, the government was actively encouraging the projected flight to distract D'Annunzio from doing something dangerous and compromising about Fiume. It had already been embarrassed by D'Annunzio's attacks on Wilson in speeches and newspaper articles, and in an interview he gave to the Hearst press in the United States. Prime Minister Francesco Saverio Nitti told his foreign minister that he would himself "see that [D'Annunzio] understands that his silence is essential, but you know all too well that this is not easy." On September 30, D'Annunzio attacked Nitti as someone "without a homeland, neither Slovene, Croat, partisan of Italy, partisan of Austria...his motto is 'I do not think except out of fear.' " On October 3, D'Annunzio said, "Those who are not with us are against us." Mussolini later made that his principle, as others have done since.

In mid-August, in a newspaper article declaring that "command passes to the people," D'Annunzio wrote that it was "good and just that an armed poet...spokesman of the lyric order [that Italy required], should lead the people by validating what had been suffered and sacrificed in the war with a postwar triumph." When the Inter-Allied Commission recommendations became known, he finally decided to act, settling on the eleventh of September because "the eleventh is a lucky day for me." Nationalist leaders inside Fiume agreed in high excitement.

Near midnight of the tenth, D'Annunzio's convoy set out from Venice, initially with 186 soldiers from the Sardinian Grenadiers who had gone absent without leave, but more troops bivouacked along the route spontaneously joined the march, or set off on their own for Fiume, against orders meant to prevent this. A formation of Arditi was sent to intercept D'Annunzio, with orders to fire on him if necessary, but its commander defected to D'Annunzio and he and his men joined the march. D'Annunzio arrived at Fiume with some two thousand to twenty-five hundred men, four armored cars, and a number of trucks "liberated" from the Italian army. Not a shot was fired.

At the city gate Allied authorities told him he was committing an act of sedition. He brushed them aside and entered the city to cheers. Among the crowd were women who had filled the main square overnight, dressed in finery, some of them armed because they had set out to block a naval vessel from sailing, the Dante Alighieri, set to leave Fiume with a contingent of departing Italian troops. The women "sealed the ears" of the sailors "with the wax of their kisses." An enterprising band had even gone aboard and stolen bits of machinery. The Dante Alighieri became one of the original vessels in Fiume's independent navy (which eventually was sizable). The former Municipal Council, become the "Italian National Council," had already held a referendum that by an overwhelming majority had given women the vote in civic elections.

Having taken the city, or had it presented to him, D'Annunzio seems to have assumed that his task was over. However, one of the activists who had attached himself to D'Annunzio's movement convinced the National Council that the poet should take command of Fiume. This had not been anticipated. But at six that evening D'Annunzio appeared on a balcony of the Hotel Europa to announce that he had annexed Fiume to Italy. "In the mad and cowardly world Fiume is the symbol of liberty. In the mad and cowardly world there is a single pure element: Fiume! There is a single truth: and it is Fiume! There is a single love: and this is Fiume! Fiume is like a blazing searchlight that radiates in the midst of an ocean of abjection!" He offered the people the flag that had covered the body of a close comrade, killed in the war, saying this "had to be reconsecrated by your faith." He asked the people to swear their allegiance to the city on this flag, demanding, "Do you confirm your commitment?" The crowd shouted, "Yes, yes!" Ledeen goes on:

There is a traditional theatricality to all Italian politics, and much of it is dictated by the architecture of Italian cities. Built as they are around great public areas, the cities of Italy seem almost to have been created for outdoor celebrations and civic festivals....It is a point that needs to be stressed [that] D'Annunzio's political style was uniquely suited to Italy, where outdoor rallies, whether under the sun or beneath the stars were part of the civic tradition.

He argues that D'Annunzio was creating a new political style which was to have immense effect in Europe as a whole during the years to follow.

D'Annunzio's innovative genius went far beyond the traditional sphere of politics...and his appearance as an actor on the European stage heralded widespread changes in the organization of political celebration. The major elements in the new style were clear in his opening speech to the Fiumians: politics had become something greater, something transcendental. In his dialogue with the crowd, D'Annunzio manipulated the mass of his listeners into a single personality, which spoke to him with a single voice. When he asked for its act of faith, it spoke to him with a single si, and he expected this unanimity....

Flames, Ledeen writes, "are an old religious symbol (an insignia of the Arditi as well) and...the concept of Fiume as a city ablaze, consumed by its own passion, had been one of D'Annunzio's theses for some time. It was he who coined the phrase by which the city became widely known: the city of the Holocaust....For him, Fiume was the beginning of a spiritual blaze that would consume all of the rotting and decrepit western world and that would purify the West...."

The coup threw Fiume into a state of excitement approaching the overtly sexual, "a period of madness and baccanale" a witness said. There was drug-taking as celebration, not escape (cocaine, taken by aviators as a stimulant during the war, was associated with heroism and daring enterprises). D'Annunzio's rhetoric of heroism and his dialogue from his balcony with the crowds, which turned into a continuing series of speeches, gave public life constant drama and color.

However, the world beyond Fiume failed to react. D'Annunzio had expected the Italian government either to accept Fiume's adherence to Italy or to fall. In the latter case, he anticipated revolution in Rome. Nothing happened. D'Annunzio's flamboyant gesture failed to produce the expected result. The government initially made known its anger and chagrin, and made an appeal to duty to the people of Fiume. After that, it demonstrated great circumspection. It wanted to remain loyal to the Allies, and while its negotiating position at Versailles was strengthened by what had happened in Fiume, this also was a dangerous factor, since the public generally approved of the Fiume coup, and D'Annunzio's popularity was immense.

The government had believed that it had sidelined officers likely to sympathize with D'Annunzio. It was disconcerted that the army had done nothing effective to stop him. It seemed doubtful that the army would obey new orders to dislodge the poet and the mutinous troops that had joined him. Would the army even defend the government in Rome?

The Allies, for their part, suspected that the Italian government had connived at the Fiume coup. When most were eventually satisfied that this had not been the case, they faced the possibility that the Versailles decision might cause the Italian army and public to overturn the government. Civil war even seemed possible, since if the Rome government were threatened, the Italian Left might rise against what it would see as an attempted military coup d'état. The American diplomatic observers of these events reported in an early version of that form of analysis later known as the domino theory: Peter Jay, at the embassy in Rome, sent a coded telegram to the American delegation at Versailles saying that "disaster...may be precipitated at any moment....If civil disruption breaks out in Italy, and law and order go by the board,...anarchy will spread within a week to France and later to England."

Woodrow Wilson was not impressed. Characteristically, he interpreted the whole affair as a personal affront. He didn't like Italians anyway. He telegraphed Jay: "Do not allow yourself to be or even seem to be impressed with what is being said to you by members of the Italian government....It is all part of a desperate endeavor to get me to yield to claims which, if allowed, would destroy the peace of Europe....The only course to be pursued is one of absolute firmness...." The Italian premier, Francesco Saverio Nitti, was a more intelligent man. He waited to see how D'Annunzio would handle his success.

The poet-warrior waited throughout his first night in Fiume for the response from Rome (and from Paris, since the primary purpose of the coup was to defy the Allied peace negotiators). Hearing nothing, he tried to get the Italian officer who had been the Inter-Allied commander in Fiume to take control of the city he had just personally annexed to Italy. The commander declined, and left for Italy proper. D'Annunzio and his colleagues found themselves with a city to manage and provision.

In practice, the National Council continued to administer the city, but D'Annunzio's entourage persuaded him to assert a power of veto. Rome ordered Fiume embargoed, then relaxed the order to let food and basic supplies enter. The U.S. and British contingents of the Inter-Allied force pulled out on the fourteenth, and the larger French force was gone by the twentieth, all three governments having been told by Rome that order would be restored.

D'Annunzio began to think about a march on Rome itself. On September 16 he met with a group including the Futurist Marinetti to consider that possibility. A logical first step would be to march on nearby Trieste, where there was "a mass of Bolsheviks." An experienced politician, Giovanni Giuriati, sympathetic to the cause, argued that popular sympathy was unsure, that D'Annunzio had no real policy for Italy even if he were to seize power, and that D'Annunzio possessed questionable ability to manage the consequences of seizing power. He thought that a march on Rome would strengthen those who wanted to overthrow the monarchy and install a republic.

Other nationalists were afraid that D'Annunzio would compromise their own ideas of territorial expansion in Dalmatia. The Futurists Marinetti and Ferruccio Vecchi wanted a republican insurrection in Italy, came to Fiume late in September, and soon departed; according to Carabinière reports, D'Annunzio ordered them removed as "agitators." One historian, Emilio Gentile, suggests that it was these disagreements with D'Annunzio that sent the two Futurists off toward the embryonic fascist movement in Milan.

Nonetheless, the mutinous troops joining D'Annunzio steadily augmented, reaching some nine thousand, at which point he started sending them back as he had no facilities for them. War heros and distinguished generals arrived, indication, as Ledeen says, of "the extent to which D'Annunzio's ideas had penetrated the Italian 'Establishment.'"

In Fiume itself, a kind of permanent festival had been installed, a form of political theater animated by D'Annunzio with a speech nearly every day, eliciting from the public the spontaneous response, the emotional public dialogue, which was his key political invention, and his legacy to Mussolini.

However, this theater required a counterpart in reality: the Fiume adventure had to go somewhere. The government's toleration of what was happening and its willingness to outwait D'Annunzio were a serious threat. Mussolini wrote to D'Annunzio proposing that he demand overthrow of the monarchy and a new government with D'Annunzio at its head.

On the same day Mussolini's letter was sent, the king called a royal council including past prime ministers, the presidents of the chamber and the senate, the military high command, and the principal party leaders. Three days later, after a long parliamentary debate, the Nitti government called for and received a vote of confidence by a large majority. It then called national elections.

On the eve of those elections, D'Annunzio took six hundred of his followers aboard a troop transport, escorted by torpedo boats, to the Dalmatian port of Zara (now Zadar), where he spoke from the city hall balcony, saying that the great question had become that of an Italian Adriatic, which "we will resolve!" He had no sense of the negative effect this peremptory defiance had on his followers in Italy. The elections proved a disaster for D'Annunzio and the nationalists. Another of his biographers, Eurialo de Michelis, said of him that "his ability to make long-term political calculations was limited -- it's the least one can say -- by the impulsiveness of his character; he could never see more than one thing at a time." Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, himself a D'Annunzian, wrote a sketch of him which acknowledged his very wide range of cultural reference but also the superficiality of it all. He noted D'Annunzio's lack of "disinterestedness....The brain of D'Annunzio was more or less innocent of the laws of philosophical or critical thought....Those intimately acquainted with him know that his conversation, sparkling with images and intoxicated sensibility as it was, cut off the thread of his thoughts with aphorisms before they could be completed. Full of a certain genius, he lacked that more common virtue which, for simplicity's sake, we call intelligence."

The situation in Fiume grew more restless, although there had been further military defections to the cause. The crews of four Italian naval vessels in the harbor defied Rome's orders to set sail. Two companies of Chasseurs Alpins, mountain troops, arrived in December, on a hijacked train. A group of nationalist officers boarded a destroyer in Trieste, locked up the captain and chief engineer, and sailed to Fiume. Young officers in Italy proper supported D'Annunzio or even tried to reach the rebel city. Ledeen quotes an observer in Romagna: "They are avid readers of [Mussolini's] Popolo d'Italia. In Faenza it appears that the [officers of the] entire regiment take D'Annunzio's side....In Verona and surrounding region....there is a committee that gathers funds and volunteers for Fiume....[In Italian-occupied] Libya the king is greatly beloved by the army, and the name of Fiume is equally dear to the troops...." The National Council in Fiume was interested chiefly in finding a peaceful and businesslike settlement. Its members were in contact with the Nitti government, but Rome's overtures were rejected by D'Annunzio, whose vision and ambitions were enlarging. He called new municipal elections in late October, to solidify his support among the workers, but there was a slow worsening of the economic situation in the city.

At the end of October, D'Annunzio dramatically enlarged the stakes. He made a speech on the meaning of the war and the expectations it had justified, and declared that his ambition to unite the Italians of Fiume with those of the rest of Dalmatia should serve as the model for the struggle of the oppressed everywhere.

All the rebels of all the races will be gathered under our sign, and the feeble will be armed. Force will be used against force. And the new crusade of all poor and impoverished nations, the new crusade of all poor and free men, against the usurping nations, the accumulators of all wealth, against the predatory races and against the caste of usurers who yesterday exploited the war in order to exploit peace today -- the new crusade will reestablish that true justice that has been crucified by an icy maniac with fourteen dull nails and with a hammer borrowed from the German Chancellor....Our cause...directed against the evil of the world...extends from Ireland to Egypt, from Russia to the United States, from Rumania to India. It gathers the white races and the colored peoples, reconciles the Gospel with the Koran....

This pushed him into what no one could have imagined at the start of the episode: the declaration of Fiume's independence.

That declaration had an unanticipated effect. Conventional Italian nationalists, and soldiers who had gone absent without leave (or, legally, had deserted) to join D'Annunzio's "Legion," began to drift away, uncomfortable with their position and the failure of the Italian government to take over the city, which would have given them retroactive justification. A radicalization of the Fiume revolution began, toward what might be described as an idealistic anarchism, existing within the framework of what actually had become D'Annunzio's dictatorship. The city continued to be administered by its old Municipal Council, but everything serious was referred to D'Annunzio and the circle around him.

His style of rule in Fiume during the weeks that followed was deeply to influence the style and what may be called the liturgy of Fascism, with real effect upon Fascism's success in Italy, while as Ledeen has noted, inadvertently anticipating another significant phenomenon, the 1968 revolt of the young and their proclamation of an "alternative" politics, which itself has lingering influence among a still later generation of Western intellectuals and critics of capitalism and globalization.

D'Annunzio found adventurous ways to survive. With the old sources of supply for the city cut off, his Legionnaires supported the economy with raids over the border into Italy and Yugoslavia and piracy in the Adriatic (during which the crews of raided ships were often talked into joining the adventure). These bloodless audacities, which seized the imagination and admiration of the Italian public, were carried off with ingenuity and style. D'Annunzio's Legionnaires stole forty-six military horses and rode them to Fiume. The Italian army threatened to blockade Fiume in retaliation. D'Annunzio agreed to return the horses, but at the border of the city handed over the forty-six most emaciated nags the city could find. An Italian general who criticized D'Annunzio was kidnapped in Trieste and held in elaborately courteous imprisonment for a month. D'Annunzio vetoed one project by declaring that "it is too D'Annunzian."

His rankless Legion, losing its regular soldiers, became more and more an exotic collection of former Arditi, military intellectuals, idealists, and adventurers. The English writer Oswald Sitwell saw them in 1920 and said: "We gazed and listened in amazement. Every man here seemed to wear a uniform designed by himself: some had beards, and shaved their heads completely, so as to resemble the Commander himself...others had cultivated huge tufts of hair, half a foot long, waving out of their foreheads, and wore, balanced on the back of their skulls, a black fez. Cloaks, feathers, and flowery black ties were universal, and every man -- and few women were to be seen -- carried the 'Roman dagger.'"

Public life in the city assumed increasingly fantastic forms, deliberately so. Holidays were invented, a new public liturgy adapted from religious liturgy. At the same time the city seemed increasingly pagan. The apostolic delegate complained that hedonism and aestheticism were given precedence over ethics, "Orpheus over Christ." A group of Capuchin friars rebelled against their superiors and demanded a series of reforms, including the right to marry, although, as Ledeen says, a strong liberalizing current had been at work among the city's clergy even before the war, just as Fiume had been a center of feminist reform sentiment.

D'Annunzio's idea of the city "of the holocaust" -- which was to say, representative of those who suffered -- was developed into a conception that no longer had to do merely with Italy but with the entire world. All this is forgotten today, blocked out by Mussolini and Fascism, but socialist and anarchist forces rallied to the Fiume adventurers, now that the city was supposed to be an international model. There was an attempt to change how people felt and how they saw. "Cultural revolution" was substituted for the historical model of revolution, or was put forward as the means by which the political revolution would be produced. There is an obvious link in this to later theories of third world revolution, as well as to the ideological Western European terrorism of the second half of the twentieth century, whose "Maoist" practitioners conceded that they had no chance to overthrow the state directly but believed they could change how people felt and how they saw their situations by violent acts "unmasking" the realities about them. They consciously took upon themselves the burden of the "inevitable" failure of the revolutionary program in order to change how people saw their lives.

In October 1919, D'Annunzio complained that having seized Fiume for Italy, "sailors did not disembark; the liberators did not appear. Where was victory halted?" The struggle of the city, he went on, represented the struggle of exploited people elsewhere, in conflict with established powers -- "usurping nations, the accumulators of all wealth." In the spring of 1920 he announced formation of a "league of oppressed peoples," the "League of Fiume," meant to challenge the League of Nations ("that conspiracy of privileged thieves and robbers"). The enemy was the Versailles settlement, taken to stand for the old regimes that had made the war, bourgeois statecraft, traditional diplomacy. D'Annunzio appealed to international colonial populations, outcasts, and oppressed minorities to unite in the League of Fiume to fight the old political and imperialist systems: the Irish (then in rebellion against the British), Egyptians, Arabs, Indians, Flemish, Turks, Austrians and Hungarians, and the Croats, Montenegrins, Albanians, and Macedonians being put under Serbian domination in the new Yugoslavia. He demanded support from Italy's radical socialists and the new Bolshevik government in Russia, but failed to get it.

This idea seems to have come from Leon Kochnitzky, a Belgian poet who came to Fiume soon after the coup, and eventually became one of the heads of the city's foreign office, its "office of external relations" (the title given during the French Revolution to what before had been France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs). It was an experiment with serious political intentions. In June 1920, the Italian Interior Ministry discovered from the maritime authorities that 250,000 rifles had been shipped to Egypt from stocks in Fiume (replenished in turn by copo di mano -- armed raids -- including seizure of a ship loaded with armaments meant for the White forces in the Russian civil war). The Italian authorities were not entirely displeased to see unrest stirred up in the new Yugoslavia, but supporting Arab, Irish, and Indian nationalism against the British Empire was another matter.

In the end, the League of Oppressed Peoples became compromised by its convoluted dealings with Balkan nationalists and international adventurers, and by its lack of the money to carry out its more extravagant plans. Kochnitzky resigned his post and left Fiume that summer.

While the League proved ephemeral, the constitution written for Fiume, the Carta del Carnaro, was a document of great originality and permanent interest. It was a product of the left-wing phase in independent Fiume's short history, after the nationalists and Italian expansionists of the first phase had distanced themselves from D'Annunzio, and he had invited Italian unions, syndicalists, and anarchists to take part in the great experiment. One of the most important was Alceste de Ambris, secretary of the Unione Italiana del Lavoro, internationally known as a nonconformist of the Left and also an old friend of Benito Mussolini. (Like Mussolini he had favored Italian intervention in the world war, and had broken with the official socialists on the issue.) He became head of D'Annunzio's cabinet.

He believed that the Fiume experiment could provoke a new order in Italy, "guaranteeing everyone the fruits of their own labor." Once again a seizure of power in Rome was envisaged, carried out this time by unions, students, Mussolini's Fascists, and the Fiumian Legionnaires, all acting together. The Carta del Carnaro was to provide the ideological base for this enterprise. Such an improbable alliance was never put together, although the effort was made. By the summer of 1920, there was a new Italian prime minister, Giovanni Giolitti, the government in Rome had recovered confidence, and popular enthusiasm for the Fiume revolution was waning.

It was the beginning of the end for a constitutional experiment influenced by contemporary ideas of corporatism and revolutionary syndicalism, and also emulating the Renaissance experience of political organization by city republics, and indeed by the memory of the Roman republic itself.

The possession of property was linked to obligation in its use. The Carnaro constitution was a political experiment marked by religion as well, not by piety or belief, but by the cultural influence of Italian Catholicism and Catholic social thought (reflecting the corporatism of Leo XIII's encyclical on social issues, Rerum Novarum [1891], which attacked both capitalism and Marxism), and by the artist D'Annunzio's recognition of the power of religious liturgy and symbolism.

The political system was to be classless and corporatist: salaried workers, technical workers, clerks, owners and managers, civil servants; intellectuals, artists and teachers; the free professions -- each was given corporate representation in governing the city. There was local autonomy. The constitution provided for no executive except in times of extreme peril, when a "dictator" might be named for a fixed period (as in Republican Rome). This, in Fiume, was the office of Commandante, who would be charged to "gather, excite, and conduct all of the forces of the people to battle and to victory."

Laws were to be administered by seven Rectors, each in charge of a separate aspect of public life. These were named to one-year terms by one of the three legislative institutions, two of them elected and one, the Consiglio dei Provisori, representing the "corporations" composed of the economic and professional groups active in the city.

The Consiglio degli Ottimi, or representative house, would be directly elected by universal suffrage, one member for each thousand citizens. It would be responsible for public order, civil and penal law, schools, and art, while the Provisori dealt with economic and professional questions.

Together, these two bodies formed the Arengo, or Assembly, which legislated foreign policy, finance, higher education, and constitutional matters. These legislative bodies were enjoined to act with "sharply concise brevity" and to conduct their deliberations "using a laconic style."

Under these governing bodies of the city as a whole were the communes, the various communities of the city, who were to find their own forms of government by simple majority votes, and to make their own arrangements among one another. The central government reserved to itself the right to challenge unconstitutional communal laws, or to do so on appeal from communal authorities or from one-third of the voters in a commune. Each corporation was told to invent "its emblems, its music, its chants, its prayers; to institute its ceremonies and rites." Festivals, celebrations, dancing, games, and art all were proclaimed vital to the community.

There would be complete equality of the sexes before the law and equal access to all public and private functions and offices, universal health and accident insurance and pensions, unemployment compensation, a minimum wage, and recourse to referendum. There was obligatory sport and protection of the environment -- all of this in August 1920, thirty years before such demands became general in Western Europe.

The Carnaro Constitution was an effort to reconcile a lyrical anarchism and syndicalism with precedents from the Renaissance and Rome. It was a revolutionary effort conducted within the constraints of political possibility and moral realism, unlike what was to follow during the next twenty years in Western Europe. D'Annunzio later wrote, "I wanted to establish equilibrium between two fundamental human tendencies, the need for liberty, for without that there are only slaves, and the need for association, because without that there is no society."

There was a genuine Republicanism in Fiume, as in the Constitution, a confidence that public life could produce exceptional men capable of governing, as had been the case (although the reference was not made) in Federal America. At the same time the Constitution said that "the sole lawful claim to dominion over any means of production or exchange is Labor."

Fascism was independently developing along another course, but its impulse to combine nationalism with a new form of social justice, the impulse that had moved the Arditi, was a victim of its militarization of politics and ended in resembling what was happening in Germany at the time, among the mercenary Freikorps of discharged soldiers. These initially served the Weimar government and various partisan interests, and later conducted more or less clandestine wars against the Bolsheviks in the Baltic states and left-wing forces in Germany. Bands of Italian "Fascisti" were fighting the Socialists, whose Peasant League had seized villages and municipalities in the mistaken impression that revolution was about to break out in Italy. In Russia a secular messianism was being installed, a simulacrum of religion, which was not true of Fascism.

The Fiume adventure was romantic and poetic, even rather lighthearted. Few died, even in the bombardment by the Italian army which ended the affair. The end came abruptly. The Allies had lost interest. The new Yugoslav government seemed to have found its feet, and established its authority in surrounding Croatia and Bosnia-Herzogovina. The conference at Versailles decided to leave the Fiume problem for the Yugoslav and Italian governments to solve. Direct negotiations between the two produced the Treaty of Rapallo of November 1920, defining the border between the two countries, and making Fiume a free city "of Italian character."

That seemed a satisfactory solution to a substantial part of Fiume's population and their representatives on the old municipal council. It seemed to many Italians, Mussolini among them, a reasonable compromise. The advocates of direct annexation of Fiume were undermined by the treaty, and public interest in the cause waned. It seems that most of D'Annunzio's own supporters believed that the settlement had to be accepted.

D'Annunzio resisted, believing that the Italian authorities would never move against him. He declared general mobilization of Fiume and, paraphrasing Nelson, told the Italian forces outside Fiume that "Italy expects every man this day not to do his duty."

This time he had overestimated the effect of his eloquence. The Italian navy began a bombardment of the city. The council members wanted to capitulate. D'Annunzio (by his own characteristically dramatic account) tossed a coin, then said that the Italian people were not worth the sacrifices required by the city's defense (anticipating, as Rhodes remarks, "events to come, twenty-five years ahead, in a bunker in Berlin"). D'Annunzio said that his "supreme poetic effect was accomplished in Fiume."

Fiume during the regency of Carnaro was a work of political art in which the population of a whole city, together with the soldiers and adventurers who had seized it, the crews of the ships hijacked by D'Annunzio's Legionnaires, and the others who found themselves in Fiume or took themselves there, all assumed roles prepared for them in D'Annunzio's imagination, becoming, for a time, part of a living act of the aesthetic imagination. In this they discovered within themselves unexpected possibilities, unexpected innovation.

It proved in the end to have been a work of narcissism

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-10-04:
In Pfaff's view, the Romantic movement and its notion of "redemptive, utopian violence" fueled the century-long conflagration that first engulfed Europe in August 1914. A National Book Award finalist for Barbarian Sentiments: America in the New Century (1989) and a political columnist for the International Herald Tribune, Pfaff believes the death of chivalry, "a code of national and personal conduct," and the growth of totalitarian utopias were the legacy of WWI. To explore this, Pfaff closely examines six influential artists, writers and intellectuals-T.E. Lawrence, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Ernst Junger, Willy Munzenberg, Andr? Malraux and Arthur Koestler-"who believed themselves committed to progressive causes" and styled themselves romantic warriors; all ended up disillusioned or murdered. In crisp learned prose, Pfaff weaves a tale of men driven by a lust for power fueled by the heroic notion of human society perfected through the application of romantic ideals. Pfaff holds the classical view that human life is fundamentally tragic, and for him, these utopias necessarily devolved into cruel, murderous totalitarian regimes. He concludes that we have no worldview today to replace the belief in religious or secular progress; he vaguely argues for a reawaking of the power of virtue over idealism. At a time when war has been cast as redemptive, this book deserves to be widely read and discussed. Agent, Emma Sweeney. (Nov. 5) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2005-05-01:
For over three generations, Pfaff has contributed to the understanding of contemporary European and US politics, but nothing he has written before deserves the attention of historians as much as this book. Using the examples of 20th-century intellectuals ranging from Filippo Marinetti and T. E. Lawrence to Willi Munzenberg and Andre Malraux, Pfaff argues that the history of the 20th century is a history of intellectual treason. Julien Benda may have suggested as much long ago, but Pfaff makes the case with even greater force. He shows that behind the wars and revolutions of this time lies a profound psychological transformation. Violence has ceased to be a necessary evil and has become (beginning with the futurists) purificatory and redemptory. Or, to state the matter differently, intellectuals have embraced the use of manipulation, terror, and even outright destruction in the name of supposed higher goods. Pfaff is clear and even compelling in arguing that the retreat from reason and restraint is the hallmark of this age. His is an eloquent book whose chief merit is its warning that one can no longer find comfort in the belief that history means progress. ^BSumming Up: Essential. Most levels/libraries. S. Bailey Knox College
Reviews
Review Quotes
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.William Pfaff is a master at relating ideas and politics.The Bullet's Songilluminates our understanding of the violent twentieth century through fascinating studies of intense people at the mercy of intense ideas. If we wish to avoid the last century's utopian disasters,The Bullet's Songoffers invaluable lessons for the future.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. William Pfaff is a master at relating ideas and politics. The Bullet's Song illuminates our understanding of the violent twentieth century through fascinating studies of intense people at the mercy of intense ideas. If we wish to avoid the last century's utopian disasters, The Bullet's Song offers invaluable lessons for the future.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.William Pfaff is a master at relating ideas and politics. The Bullet's Song illuminates our understanding of the violent twentieth century through fascinating studies of intense people at the mercy of intense ideas. If we wish to avoid the last century's utopian disasters, The Bullet's Song offers invaluable lessons for the future.
James Chace, author of1912William Pfaff has given us a classic for our time -- beautifully written, deeply moving, and indispensable to our understanding of a world now threatened by terrorism and utopian ideologies.
James Chace, author of 1912 William Pfaff has given us a classic for our time -- beautifully written, deeply moving, and indispensable to our understanding of a world now threatened by terrorism and utopian ideologies.
Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings InstitutionA work that combines intellectual courage, passion, and discipline. By connecting the dots among a dozen or so emblematic lives -- and by tying together the insights he has accumulated during his own long career as an astute and eloquent commentator on politics and international affairs -- Pfaff helps make sense of the uniquely brutal century that has now passe into history and draws lessons for the one just begun.
Walter LaFeber, Tisch University Professor, Cornell UniversityIn this stunningly original account of the West's contradictory love affair over the past century with both the idea of progress and the supposed benefits of mass violence, one of our most distinguished authors utilizes beautifully realized biographical sketches of leading and lesser-known twentieth-century figures to warn that this terrible love affair has direct, tragic meaning for our post-9/11 world.
William Greider, author ofThe Soul of CapitalismWilliam Pfaff is brilliant, intriguing, and disturbing in this deep history of how our modern political civilization became a machine for massive killing. Millions of lives were -- still are -- sacrificed to the romantic longings of left and right for utopian futures. This dread disease may yet be curable, he guardedly allows, but this would require revival of a distinctly unmodern quality -- a sense of humility toward mortal existence itself.
William Greider, author of The Soul of Capitalism William Pfaff is brilliant, intriguing, and disturbing in this deep history of how our modern political civilization became a machine for massive killing. Millions of lives were -- still are -- sacrificed to the romantic longings of left and right for utopian futures. This dread disease may yet be curable, he guardedly allows, but this would require revival of a distinctly unmodern quality -- a sense of humility toward mortal existence itself.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Booklist, October 2004
Publishers Weekly, October 2004
Los Angeles Times, November 2004
Globe & Mail, January 2005
Washington Post, January 2005
Choice, May 2005
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Summaries
Long Description
A hidden moral history of the twentieth century unfolds in William Pfaff's fascinating story of writers, artists, intellectual soldiers, and religious revolutionaries implicated in the century's physical and moral violence. They were motivated by romanticism, nationalism, utopianism -- and the search for transcendence. To our twenty-first century, already plunged -- once again -- into visionary terrorism and utopian quests, they leave a warning....The account begins with Italy's Futurists, who glorified war as "the world's only hygiene"; painted speed, action, and noise; invented "found sound" and chromatic pianos; thought violence sublime; and demanded "reconstruction of the universe."Gabriele D'Annunzio,poet, playwright, and nationalist buccaneer, created a revolutionary utopia in a Dalmatian city stolen in 1919 from Woodrow Wilson and the Versailles Treaty makers. In doing so, he invented the political style and rituals of Fascism, as well as Third World liberation.T.E. Lawrence,archaeologist and spy, guided the Arab revolt against the Turks, becoming both "Uncrowned King of Arabia" and masochist secular saint.Ernst Junger,artist and scientist, the German army's most decorated hero of World War I, made heroism a political ideology and became intellectual leader of the National Cause. Hitler was a follower. In World War II Junger plotted Hitler's assassination and survived to become a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation.Willi Munzenberg,Lenin's propaganda genius and an original member of the Comintern, invented the political "front" organization, created the Sacco and Vanzetti case, and seduced a generation of "innocents" to the Communist cause before becoming a dissident himself. He wasstrangled by Soviet agents in a French forest.Andre Malraux,fantasist "Byron of the 1930s," world-famous novelist, emulator of T.E. Lawrence, and make-believe leader of the Chinese revolution, discovered "that daydreaming gives rise to action." He created and led an air squadron for Republican Spain, wrote himself into the script of the French Resistance as a hero -- and became one.Arthur Koestler,the most famous scientific journalist in Europe, was a Comintern spy in Spain; condemned to death there, he abandoned the cause and wrote Darkness at Noon, the most influential anti-Communist work of its time, before committing suicide in 1976.Others with roles in The Bullet's Song areBenito Mussolini, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Che Guevara, Charles de Foucauld, Simone Weil, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir,Europe's terrorists of the 1970s, and"Popski"-- Vladimir Peniakoff -- the honorable man who found happiness in leading his private army to war.
Main Description
A hidden moral history of the twentieth century unfolds in William Pfaff's fascinating story of writers, artists, intellectual soldiers, and religious revolutionaries implicated in the century's physical and moral violence. They were motivated by romanticism, nationalism, utopianism -- and the search for transcendence. To our twenty-first century, already plunged -- once again -- into visionary terrorism and utopian quests, they leave a warning.... The account begins with Italy's Futurists, who glorified war as "the world's only hygiene"; painted speed, action, and noise; invented "found sound" and chromatic pianos; thought violence sublime; and demanded "reconstruction of the universe." Gabriele D'Annunzio, poet, playwright, and nationalist buccaneer, created a revolutionary utopia in a Dalmatian city stolen in 1919 from Woodrow Wilson and the Versailles Treaty makers. In doing so, he invented the political style and rituals of Fascism, as well as Third World liberation. T.E. Lawrence, archaeologist and spy, guided the Arab revolt against the Turks, becoming both "Uncrowned King of Arabia" and masochist secular saint. Ernst Jünger, artist and scientist, the German army's most decorated hero of World War I, made heroism a political ideology and became intellectual leader of the National Cause. Hitler was a follower. In World War II Jünger plotted Hitler's assassination and survived to become a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation. Willi Münzenberg, Lenin's propaganda genius and an original member of the Comintern, invented the political "front" organization, created the Sacco and Vanzetti case, and seduced a generation of "innocents" to the Communist cause before becoming a dissident himself. He wasstrangled by Soviet agents in a French forest. André Malraux, fantasist "Byron of the 1930s," world-famous novelist, emulator of T.E. Lawrence, and make-believe leader of the Chinese revolution, discovered "that daydreaming gives rise to action." He created and led an air squadron for Republican Spain, wrote himself into the script of the French Resistance as a hero -- and became one. Arthur Koestler, the most famous scientific journalist in Europe, was a Comintern spy in Spain; condemned to death there, he abandoned the cause and wrote Darkness at Noon, the most influential anti-Communist work of its time, before committing suicide in 1976. Others with roles in The Bullet's Song are Benito Mussolini, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Che Guevara, Charles de Foucauld, Simone Weil, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Europe's terrorists of the 1970s, and "Popski" -- Vladimir Peniakoff -- the honorable man who found happiness in leading his private army to war.
Main Description
If the past is prologue, one can read in The Bullets Song the story of the roots of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism that took the lives of hundreds of millions in Europe and Asia in the 20th century, affected the United States radically, and which goes directly to the terrorism and violence of the Middle East today. Pfaff begins with the Italian Futurists of the 1920s, who glorified war and embraced Benito Mussolini, who militarized Italy and combined nationalism with socialism--the two most volatile innovations of the century.
Unpaid Annotation
The syndicated political columnist relates the dramatic, untold story of the roots of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism which took the lives of hundreds of millions in the 20th century, as well as of today's fundamentalist terrorism.
Table of Contents
Contents Introduction
Romanticism and Violence
Overture
Chivalry
The Fallen Hero
The Warrior
The Happy Man
Utopias
The Mediterranean Superman
The Confidence Man
L'Homme Engage
The Anti-Communist
Coda: The Romantic Revolutionary Conclusion
"Out-Münzenberging Münzenberg"
Bibliography
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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