Tag Archives: Italian politics

CURZIO MALAPARTE: THE CRUELTY OF LITERATURE BOOK LAUNCH with Franco Baldasso at The Center for Italian Modern Art in Soho


24 SEPTEMBER 2019 / 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

CIMA is thrilled to host a book launch and conversation with the author of “Curzio Malaparte: The cruelty of Literature,” Franco Baldasso and NYRB translator and novelist Jenny McPhee

Curzio Malaparte is today at the center of an international debate reappraising his work as a key figure of European modernity, rediscovering his books, cinema and theater. The scandals of Malaparte’s biography overshadowed the exceptional versatility of an author famous to architects worldwide for his arresting Casa Malaparte in Capri as well as for his heretic accounts of WWII in bestsellers such as Kaputt (1944) and The Skin (1949). Beginning with his controversial contribution to fascism and his outstanding reports from the war fronts, Baldasso’s book interprets the cruelty of Malaparte’s literature as a critical response to the collapse of European civilization and the failure of post-WWI revolutionary ideals that ended up fueling totalitarian regimes. In conversation with novelist Jenny McPhee, who translated Malaparte’s The Kremlin Ball for NYRB Classics, Baldasso will further discuss the unexplored visual impact of Malaparte’s work: not only his house in Capri created with Adalberto De Libera, but also the rarely screened movie The Forbidden Christ (1951) and his photos as a war correspondent from Ethiopia to Ukraine.

Curzio Malaparte, la letteratura crudele (Carocci, 2019) is the first study on the Italian author to concentrate on his artistic production beyond the scandals of his life as a public intellectual. The book interprets Malaparte’s crucial period 1937-1951 in the context of the tragic failure of totalitarian regimes to establish new political religions. The clash between modern technology and old humanist worldviews takes central stage in Malaparte’s unique testimony of the downfall of European civilization, from literature to cinema.

Franco Baldasso is Assistant Professor and Director of the Italian Program at Bard College, NY. He is the 2019 Rome Prize in Modern Italian Studies from the American Academy in Rome. His main research interests are 20th century literature, art and intellectual history, the complex relations between Fascism and Modernism, and the idea of the Mediterranean in modern aesthetics. He authored a book on Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, Il cerchio di gesso. Primo Levi narratore e testimone (Bologna 2007) and the volume Curzio Malaparte, la letteratura crudele. KaputtLa pelle e la caduta della civiltà europea (Carocci, 2019). He is currently revising a new manuscript titled: “Against Redemption: Literary Dissent during the Transition from Fascism to Democracy in Italy.”

Jenny McPhee is the Director of the Center for Applied Liberal Arts at NYU’s School of Professional Studies where she is a Clinical Assistant Professor teaching in the MS in Translation. She is the author of the novels The Center of Things, No Ordinary Matter, and A Man of No Moon, and she co-authored Girls: Ordinary Girls and Their Extraordinary Pursuits. Her translations from the Italian include books by the authors Natalia Ginzburg, Primo Levi, Giacomo Leopardi, Curzio Malaparte, Anna Maria Ortese, Paolo Maurensig, and Pope John Paul II. She recently taught literary translation at Princeton University as a visiting lecturer.

This event is free and open to the public.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


The damage Silvio Berlusconi has done to Italian politics and society is so overwhelmingly enormous it is very difficult as a citizen of that country (I have dual US/Italian citizenship) to feel anything but cynical and hopeless. For female Italian citizens, the situation is even more dire. Berlusconi’s blatant and public disdain for women both in his personal conduct and his political appointments has made me so depressed that I have even found myself hankering for the days of Cicciolina,
the Italian porn star who was elected to parliament in 1987. By comparison, he makes her career look admirable. Things haven’t been too good for women in other spheres of Italian life either.

There’s the Vatican’s persistent exclusion and oppression of women which goes hand in hand with their endless sex scandals; and then there’s the repulsively sexist treatment by the Italian judiciary and press of Amanda Knox, whose acquittal has recently been overturned, her retrial immanent. But there is the more quotidian fact that despite Italy’s robust feminist movement in the 1970s, the conditions today for working women at all levels of the workforce are among the worst in the West. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that over the past two decades Berlusconi’s private media empire along with the state-owned broadcasters under his political purview have routinely and almost exclusively portrayed women as scantily-clad sex toys whose purpose in life is for male pleasure, allowing misogynistic attitudes to flourish.

Then, on April 28th Enrico Letta, Italy’s new Prime Minister, albeit the head of a questionable and unstable new government, appointed SEVEN women to his cabinet–a third of its members. Obama has FOUR. In the U.K. David Cameron has FOUR. (Germany has seven but they comprise fewer than a third. France’s cabinet is fully half women.) From one day to the next, my feelings of defeatism and embarrassment about Italy’s political future have transformed into giddiness and excitement. I want to break out into song, and the lyric that comes most readily to mind is Sam Cooke’s famous “a change is gonna come.” Of course, it’s early days and I’ve lived with Berlusconi long enough to know that things can and will get worse, but the fact that those seven women have been appointed sets a precedent in Italy that will remain for all time. The message is loud and clear: Italians, and especially Italian women, have had enough of their systematic disenfranchisement and want to do something about it.
The most crucial appointment of the seven is Anna Maria Cancellieri–former interior minister–as Minister of Justice. The Italian courts are in massive need of reform. But Cancellieri has most notably been given the incredibly tricky task of dealing with the legal entanglements of Berlusconi who is under four current indictments. Berlusconi has the power to bring this government down at any moment and if he doesn’t like what Cancellieri does, it’s all over. Emma Bonino, a veteran politician, former member of the European parliament, fierce defender of human and civil rights, is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Maria Chiara Carrozza, a scientist and academic, will take over the Ministry of Education. Two of Berlusconi’s lawmakers have been given the junior posts of health and agriculture. Josefa Idem, an Olympic gold medalist, will be responsible for sport, youth, and equal opportunity. Last, but by no means least, Cécile Kyenge, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the Minister for Integration. Kyenge’s appointment is a huge step forward for Italy whose struggle with racism has a long, fraught history. In fact, her assignment has already been viciously attacked most audibly from the anti-immigrant, radical right Northern League.
On the international stage Italy has long been the well-deserved subject of ridicule and derision. For once, instead of hanging my head in shame over the shenanigans of my adoptive country, I can proudly honor and celebrate something the Italian government has done not only for its own citizens but symbolically for all the world’s citizens. Who knows what will happen in the coming weeks, but in the meantime I’ll be singing Italy’s praises at the top of my lungs for this magnificent seven.


Filed under Uncategorized