Liberation Day Monologue

Translator’s note: April 25 is a national holiday in Italy. It commemorates the liberation of Italy from Nazism and fascism after a long resistance movement during World War II, ending in 1945. On April 20, 2024, Italian novelist Antonio Scurati—author of the Strega prizewinning and international bestseller M: Son of the Century, the first of a tetralogy about the life of Mussolini—was supposed to read his monologue about Liberation Day on a Rai 3 national television programme called Che sarà (What will be). However, on the day the show was to air, its host Serena Bortone announced on social media that Scurati’s contract had been annulled and that he would not be appearing on the show. His monologue had been cancelled “for editorial reasons” according to a note sent to Scurati from Rai. Bortone’s post went viral with many accusing Rai of censorship and being a megaphone of the government. To counter that accusation, Giorgia Meloni, the Prime Minister herself—whose Brothers of Italy party observers have described as right-wing, neo-fascist or post-fascist—posted Scurati’s monolgue on her Facebook page. While claiming that she, too, did not know the real reasons why his monologue was axed, she speculated that it was not because of censorship but because the Rai did not want to pay the fee, equivalent to the monthly salary of many employees for a, according to her, “one-minute” monologue. The following day, both Scurati’s monologue and his reply to Meloni went viral. Many have come out in support of Scurati. A video of 53 Italian writers reading Scurati’s monologue was made and hosted on Lucy, a multimedia cultural review. Scurati himself has been making public appearances to read and talk about his monologue. What will be of Scurati’s Liberation Day monologue?  It can’t and won’t be silenced now. Below, reproduced in translation, are his monologue and his reply to Giorgia Meloni. – Masturah Alatas

Antonio Scurati’s Liberation Day monologue:

“Giacomo Matteotti was murdered by fascist hitmen on June 10, 1924.

Five of them waited for him outside his house. They were all squad members from Milan, professionals of violence hired by Benito Mussolini’s closest collaborators. The Honorable Matteotti, secretary of the Unitary Socialist Party and the last person in Parliament who still openly opposed the fascist dictatorship, was kidnapped in the centre of Rome, in broad daylight. He fought to the end, as he had fought all his life. They stabbed him to death, then disfigured his body. They bent him into two in order to fit him into a grave, badly dug out with a blacksmith’s file.

Mussolini was immediately informed. Along with this crime, he was guilty of the infamy of swearing to Matteotti’s widow that he would do everything possible to bring her husband back to her. While he was making this promise, the Duce of fascism kept the bloodstained documents of his victim in his desk drawer.

In this false spring of ours, however, we are not only commemorating Matteotti’s political murder. We are also commemorating the 1944 Nazi-fascist massacres perpetrated by the German SS, with the complicity and collaboration of the Italian fascists, those that were carried out at the Fosse Ardeatine, Sant’Anna di Stazzema and Marzabotto. These are just some of the places where Mussolini’s demonic allies massacred thousands of defenceless Italian civilians in cold blood. Among them hundreds of children and even infants. Many were even burned alive, some decapitated.

These two concomitant anniversaries of mourning – the Spring of 1924 and the Spring of 1944 – proclaim that fascism was, throughout its entire historical existence and not just at the end or occasionally, an irredeemable phenomenon of systematic political violence characterized by murder and massacres.  Will the heirs to that history recognize it once and for all? Unfortunately, everything leads one to think that this will not be the case. The current post-fascist ruling group, having won the elections in October 2022, could have gone down one of these two paths: repudiate its neo-fascist past or try to rewrite history. It has undoubtedly taken the second path.

After having avoided the topic during the electoral campaign, Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni , when forced to address it on the occasion of historical anniversaries, obstinately stuck to the ideological line of her neo-fascist culture of origin: she distanced herself from the indefensible brutalities perpetrated by the regime (the persecution of the Jews) without ever repudiating the fascist experience as a whole. She blamed the massacres carried out with the collaboration of Italian fascists on the Nazis alone. And finally, she ignored the fundamental role of the Resistance in the rebirth of Italy (to the point of never mentioning the word “anti-fascism” on April 25, 2023).

As I speak to you, we are once again on the eve of the anniversary of the Liberation from Nazi-fascism. The word that the Prime Minister refused to pronounce will still be quivering on the grateful lips of all sincere believers in democracy, be they on the left, center or right. Until that word – anti-fascism – is pronounced by those who govern us, the spectre of fascism will continue to haunt the house of Italian democracy.”

Antonio Scurati’s reply to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni:

“I read your statements about me. You, yourself, admit that you don’t know ‘what the truth is’ regarding the cancellation of the slot in which I was to read my monologue on Rai. Well, I inform you that what you incautiously say, despite being unaware of the truth by your own admission, is false; not just for what concerns the compensation for my tv appearance, but also the terms of engagement with the programme.

I don’t think I deserve this further defamatory attack. I didn’t argue with anyone, neither before nor after. I was dragged by my hair into this matter. I only accepted the invitation from a public television program to write a monologue for compensation, mutually agreed upon with the same company by the agency that represents me and perfectly in line with what other writers who came before me have received.  The decision to cancel my monologue is evidently due to “editorial reasons”, as explicitly stated in a Rai document now made public. My thoughts on fascism and post-fascism, well rooted in facts, had to be silenced. It continues to be so now that the focus has shifted to the evidently specious question of compensation. In order to muddy the waters and hide the real issue raised by my text, a head of government, using all her overwhelming power, does not hesitate to personally and harshly attack with denigrating statements a compatriot, private citizen and writer who has been translated and read all over the world. This, dear Prime Minister, is violence. Not physical, of course, but still violence. Is this the price onehas to pay today in your Italy for expressing one’s thoughts?”

Translated from the Italian by Masturah Alatas, with the author’s permission.

Antonio Scurati is a novelist, professor of comparative literature at IULM University – Milan and a columnist for Corriere della Sera. He won the Strega Prize for his novel M: Son of the Century (2018).