The Resistance of Memory, the Memory of Resistance. Stories of Italian Partisans through the Lens of the Aeneid
Anna Maria Cimino. Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa. Italy.
Under the label of Italian Resistance, we indicate a huge variety of armed groups: even if they belonged to different parties and were organized in small groups spread in the mountains of the northern regions, most of them participated in a national organization – the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale (CLN, “National Liberation Committee”) – or, at least, had affiliations with it. They fought against the German Invasion and the Italian Social Republic of Salò, the last bastion of Fascism in the country. This civil conflict started after the armistice signed between the king and the Allied forces, who landed in Italy on the 8th of September 1943. As a fratricidal war, it divided the Italian population between the supporters and the opponents of the Fascist Regime, thus marking a turning point in Italian history.
Indeed, for twenty years, the dictatorial propaganda had imposed its cultural vision to the citizens, but – thanks to the Opposition before, and the Resistance later – the country witnessed the creation of an alternative community. Along with the armed rebellion, the opposition forces openly refused the values and the ideas propagated by the Fascist society and offered a new way of re-reading the past and its traditions. In other words, the Liberation from the Nazi-Fascism constituted a broader and deeper process that was accomplished thanks to the efforts of a renewed people, who rejected the interpretations superimposed by the Fascist society and defended its own right to think freely.
In particular, this process touched the role of Roman cultural heritage in the effort to redefine Italian national identity. So, while Mussolini legitimized his dictatorship using the myth of Rome, the Anti-fascist Italy ascribed to classical texts different social functions and, through them, represented opposite experiences and sentiments. Moreover, while under the pressure and the propaganda of the Regime, the classical culture was being exploited as a status symbol of hierarchical power, imperialism and virility, the partisans and the intellectuals of the Resistance bestowed to Greek and Latin Literatures their condition of Resilience.
A telling example of these phenomena is offered by the song Eurialo e Niso, written by Massimo Bubola in memory of his father. About the lyrics, the author declared: “I wrote this ballad to keep the promise I made to my father, who was captain of the Adige brigade when he was only 22. Because of his love toward classical culture and Virgil in particular, I combined a story of love and war – set in 1943 – and the episode of the Aeneid in which the two Trojan soldiers Euryalus and Nisus try to accomplish a night play in the camp of Latin people”.
Through the analysis of the lyrics and its comparison with the Virgilian narration, I will explain the strategies of actualization and discuss the way in which the songwriter re-shaped the literary model in order to tell a story inspired by Italian Resistance. Moreover, I will show how this re-presentation of the classical imagery differs from those used by Fascist propaganda.
Finally, taking under consideration the two levels of memory implied in this narrative, I will present and discuss some passages of my interview of Massimo Bubola himself, during which he told me about his father, his work as a songwriter and his passion for Vergil.
In this way, following the path of individual memories, I will detect the role of the Aeneid in the personal and cultural life experience of a partisan – who was a teacher before joining the Resistance – and show how the poem became a “paradigm” of remembering and re-telling in the hands of his son.
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