Malaparte, Curzio (1898–1957)

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Italian journalist and writer.

Curzio Malaparte was born Kurt Erick Suckert in Prato, Tuscany, into a petit-bourgeois family; his father was German, his mother Italian. As a politically committed journalist and writer who shifted from fascism to communism, his work and career were a fairly accurate reflection of the successive passions of not a few Italian intellectuals of his generation. He eventually came to be seen, at home and abroad, as one of Italy's most eminent writers. Piero Gobetti (1901–1926) called him "fascism's finest pen," but he had a complex and stormy relationship with Benito Mussolini's (1883–1945) regime.

In World War I, Kurt Suckert enlisted at the age of sixteen with the Garibaldi volunteers, alongside the French. He later wrote that the Garibaldi Legion, where he met many syndicalists and anarchists and discovered the Italian proletariat, was for him "the antechamber of fascism."

In December 1920 he published his first book, Viva Caporetto! The work was provocative, Caporetto being the site of a disastrous Italian defeat in 1917; the second edition (1921) was renamed La rivolta dei santi maledetti (The Revolt of Damned Saints). The work criticized the way the war had been managed by bourgeois elites, to the detriment of the masses, and suggested not a little admiration for the Russian Revolution. After a short diplomatic career, Suckert joined the Florence fascio, one of the most "radical" fascist groups in Italy. He went on to occupy a variety of positions in the Fascist Party and trade unions. His political friendships in the movement included leaders of the most intransigent tendencies (notably Roberto Farinacci [1892–1945]) and of "integral syndicalism" (Edmondo Rossoni [1884–1965]). According to him, the fascist revolution would complete the Italian Risorgimento and would be at once "anti-bourgeois" and "antiproletarian," thus expressing the individualist aspirations of the Italian people. As a journalist, however, Suckert—who took the pen name Curzio Malaparte in 1925—was more eclectic: although he contributed to extremist fascist publications such as Mario Carli (1889–1935) and Emilio Settimelli's (1891–1954) L'Impero, he could also be read in Gobetti's antifascist review La Rivoluzione liberale.

When the decisive moment arrived, though, Malaparte was resolute in his support for fascism. He backed Mussolini during the Matteotti affair and the shift toward dictatorship that followed. In 1929 he became director of La Stampa, the prestigious Turin daily newspaper controlled by Fiat. In the spring of 1931 he was nevertheless dismissed by Giovanni Agnelli (1866–1945), head of the Fiat empire, who did not like Malaparte's way of running the paper. In 1931 Malaparte published a pamphlet against Mussolini in France, Technique du coup d'Etat. He was thoroughly disgraced in 1933 after trying to bring down Italo Balbo (1896–1940), the minister of the air force, by accusing him of corruption, and he spent more than a year in internal exile on the island of Lipari. When he returned to political activity, thanks to the intervention of Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944), he resumed propaganda work for the regime, going so far as to urge Italian participation in the Spanish civil war at a time when some Italian intellectuals, among them Elio Vittorini (1908–1966), had begun to distance themselves from the government.

As a war correspondent for Corriere della Sera, Malaparte witnessed the atrocities of the Wehrmacht on the eastern front and abandoned fascism. As a liaison officer with the American army in the summer of 1944 Captain Malaparte accompanied the Allied advance up the Italian peninsula from Naples to Florence. He published a series of reports in L'Unità and incorporated his experiences into his novel La Pelle (The skin), which was published in 1949 and brought him celebrity. The work described a society riddled with corruption and threatened by disintegration in the wake of the war; the Mezzogiorno was portrayed as a land more desolate than ever. The lesson of the novel was that war obliterated ideological differences: "Today we suffer and we cause others to suffer, we kill and we die, we bring about marvels and we bring about horrors, not to save our souls but to save our skins. We believe we are struggling and suffering to save our own souls, but in reality we are struggling and suffering to save our own skins. Nothing else counts." Perhaps this cynical political stance accounted for the appeal of Malaparte's novel to a population whose dominant attitude had long been one of "wait and see."

After the war Malaparte went back to work as a reporter, visiting Joseph Stalin's (1879–1953) USSR and Mao's China. The People's Republic of China became one of his last political enthusiasms. He died in 1957.

See alsoAgnelli, Giovanni; Fascism; Italy .


De Grand, A. J. "Curzio Malaparte: The Illusion of the Fascist Revolution." Journal of Contemporary History 7 (1972): 73–90.

Pardini, G. Curzio Malaparte: Biografia politica. Luni, Italy, 1998.

Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci

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