Form and Content
In Garibaldi: The Man Who Made a Nation, Sir Ronald Syme has written a clear, but perhaps sometimes rather too cursory, biography of the nineteenth century Italian revolutionary fighter who provided inspiration and muscle for the struggle to unify the different parts of Italy and to weld them into a modern nation-state. In his narrative, Syme follows the life of Giuseppe Garibaldi from his birth in the Mediterranean port city of Nice in 1807 to his death on his small island of Caprera, just off the coast of Sardinia, in 1882. What falls in between these two dates is a rich, dan-gerous, and romantic life, the highs and lows of which Syme retells for the reader in eleven well-organized chapters.
After first meeting Garibaldi as a young, tanned schoolboy more interested in the sea than in his teacher’s lessons, the reader is given some background information on the boy’s times. Because of centuries of political infighting, in Garibaldi’s youth the country of the Italians was still divided into many small states, which were headed by a variety of Italian and foreign potentates. To change this antiquated situation, and to make his people proud citizens of their country, Garibaldi devoted his young life to the ideal of a free and united Italy.
While Garibaldi is the uncontested center of the book, Syme also sketches the lives of the men and women who played important roles in his life. Like Garibaldi himself, they are subjects of the expressive black-and-white drawings by Syme’s friend William Stobbs that head each chapter and are interspersed throughout the text.
Once he became the captain of his own ship, at the age of twenty-six, Garibaldi was ready for his dream. The map of Italy, which Syme includes early in his book, helps the young reader to keep track of Garibaldi’s movements. Thus, the reader can easily find Genoa, the city where Garibaldi entered history with a failed coup that forced the young man to leave Italy in 1834.
While Syme is very interested in chronicling how, as a restless exile in South America, Garibaldi gained valuable fighting...
(The entire section is 539 words.)