Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

ph_0111207116-Silone.jpg Ignazio Silone. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

While known primarily for his novels, Ignazio Silone (see-LOH-nay) also wrote short stories, sketches, essays, and plays. The essays and plays are considered to be among his finest works. Silone’s essays are, for the most part, autobiographical in character and apologetic in tone. His most famous essay, “Uscita di sicurezza” (“Emergency Exit,” which first appeared in English in 1949), was published in Italian in 1951. The essay recounts the author’s personal odyssey from early allegiance to the Communist Party, through his opposition to the Fascist regime in Italy and eventual exile in Switzerland, to a dramatic break with the Italian Socialist Party in the years following the reestablishment of democracy. Despite its intention to defend the author’s controversial political stances, the essay is free of polemical rhetoric and is distinguished by the simple and direct manner of expression that marks the style of Silone’s novels as well. This essay also appeared in 1965 in a collection with the same name.

The plays, though they often employ the same themes as the novels, lack their dramatic intensity and complex symbolic development. La scuola dei dittatori (pb. 1938; The School for Dictators, 1938), a satire, seems foreign to the usual tone of Silone’s work. Ed egli si nascose (pb. 1944; And He Did Hide Himself, 1946), which elaborates a single strand of the plot of the novel Bread and Wine,...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The most curious fact of Ignazio Silone’s literary reputation is that he has been highly regarded almost everywhere except in his native Italy. He received the honorary degree of doctor of letters from Yale, Toulouse, and Warwick universities and was a member of the French Legion of Honor, yet Silone has been severely criticized on both literary and political grounds by his countrymen.

Silone’s political commitments and his devotion to literary realism place him at odds with the main currents of twentieth century Italian literature. Turning his back to the models of aestheticism, eroticism, and Hermetism, which have to a great extent dominated modern letters in Italy, he was determined to make of literature a means to awaken the social conscience of his contemporaries. Such an aim is likely to stir opposition and controversy, for it often requires touching the raw nerves of national pride. Silone’s writings reflect an era of economic distress, political repression and instability, and military failure. Further, Silone was dedicated to examining the causes, effects, and remedies of this chaotic social scene through a vision of rural Italian life. This vision, with its constant reference to Abruzzi mountain villages, is anything but an appeal to the glory of twentieth century Italian culture: Silone’s characters embody values antithetical to urban industrialized Italy. In this sense, he would seem to be quite reactionary, yet he does not propose a...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Krieger, Murray. “Ignazio Silone: The Failure of the Secular Christ.” In The Tragic Vision: Variations on a Theme in Literary Interpretation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960. This is a probing study of Bread and Wine.

Mooney, Harry J., Jr., and Thomas F. Staley, eds. The Shapeless God: Essays on Modern Fiction. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1968. See chapter 2, “Ignazio Silone and the Pseudonyms of God.” This is chiefly a study of Bread and Wine, but there are illuminating references to Silone’s other novels as well.

Origo, Iris. A Need to Testify: Portraits of Lauro de Bosis, Ruth Draper, Gaetano Salvemini, Ignazio Silone and an Essay on Biography. New York: Books & Company/Helen Marx Books, 2002. A penetrating portrait of the writer by a distinguished biographer. Includes notes but no bibliography.

Paynter, Maria Nicolai. Ignazio Silone: Beyond the Tragic Vision. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 2000. Critical study focuses on Silone’s use of symbolism. Includes bibliography and index.

Pugliese, Stanislao G. Bitter Spring: A Life of Ignazio Silone. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. This is the most comprehensive biography yet written about Silone. Pugliese sheds light on the accusations waged against Silone of being an informant for the Italian Fascist police. He paints a portrait of the many sides of Silone and discusses the historical significance of his literature and political commentary.

Scott, Nathan A., Jr. “Ignazio Silone: Novelist of the Revolutionary Sensibility.” In Rehearsals of Discomposure: Alienation and Reconciliation in Modern Literature: Franz Kafka, Ignazio Silone, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot. New York: Columbia University Press, 1952. Scott offers a wide-ranging overview of Silone’s fiction in the context of European literature.

Slonim, Marc. Afterword to Bread and Wine, by Ignazio Silone. New York: New American Library, 1963. A useful introduction to the novel, explaining the circumstances in which it was written, analyzing its characters, the author’s politics, and Silone’s artistic achievement.