Mussolini is invading Italy’s bookstores.
For weeks, Antonio Scurati’s “M,” a doorstop of a novel about the rise of the dictator, Benito Mussolini, has sat on Italian best-seller lists. The book is set to be adapted into a major television series by Wildside, the same production company that is co-producing the HBO series based on Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend.” And this fall, it conquered Frankfurt’s book fair, where HarperCollins snapped up the English rights to the book.
“In the Italian imagination, Mussolini remains a kind of totem, a figure of great charisma, a kind of perverse national father whom we have repressed,” Scurati, 49, said in a recent interview. “This book has brought him out of that repression.”
The unexpected popularity of “M” has also provoked a debate in Italy on Mussolini’s legacy. Scurati’s cheerleaders says his book is a much-needed reminder of the evils of fascism, particularly for young people. But critics say the resurrection and repackaging of Mussolini for the 21st century presents dangers in a time when right-wing governments are being elected around Europe, including in Italy. (For what it’s worth, Jonathan Burnham, president and publisher of the Harper division of HarperCollins said, “it is compelling reading for anyone interested in 20th century history.” He called the book “a timely investigation of how fascism can take root in a society.”)