The central character in Ernest Hemingway's very short story "The Revolutionist" is an idealistic young "comrade" traveling alone in Italy. He carries a note of recommendation from the headquarters of the Communist party, and reproductions of famous Italian paintings wrapped in a copy of Avanti, the socialist newspaper edited at one time by Benito Mussolini. The traveler is described as a Magyar, "a very nice boy and very shy." He has been tortured by "Harthy's men" in Hungary for his political beliefs, but still retains an unshakeable faith in the Communist revolution. The young man is happy to be in Italy, and despite the fact that the narrator, who meets up with him in Bologna, a Fascist stronghold, tells him that the movement in Italy is going "very badly," he believes that things will get better. The revolutionist considers Italy to be "the one country that every one is sure of" and is convinced it will be "the starting point of everything." After a short trip to the Romagna together, the revolutionist parts ways with the narrator back in Bologna, with plans to walk "over the pass into Switzerland." The young man's wide-eyed eagerness and optimism turns out to be illusory, and he ends up in a jail near Sion.
Believed to have been written sometime in 1923, "The Revolutionist" was first published in Paris in 1924, and then in the the United States in 1925 as part of the short story collection In Our Time. It is a well-crafted story about youthful idealism and false hope, as well as a comment on the political situation in Italy in the years immediately following the First World War. It is no accident that, in the very first words of the story, the author places the narrative squarely in a specific place in time, "in 1919." The young revolutionist, traveling in Italy during that year, dreams of a better world led by the Communist movement, but in Italy, it is the Fascists who are taking over. As the author knows through firsthand observation, that group's power is being expressed in an increasingly aggressive and bellicose manner, especially against those they oppose, including the Communists. As an astute reporter who interviewed Mussolini twice during the post-World War I years, Hemingway was knowledgeable about Italian politics and deeply pessimistic about that country's future.