The Last Slaves of Mauritania, NY Review of Books, Nov 23, 2017

You can both see the desert and feel its presence in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, which goes months at a time without rain. Although it is a city of one million people, rivulets of sand collect along the main paved thoroughfares of the city center, in front of a handful of government buildings and small hotels. The backstreets and peripheral neighborhoods are a mix of dirt and sand. Chickens, donkeys, and goats wander the streets as if their owners had recently packed up and moved in from Read more [...]

Dancing to Nowhere, review of “La Grande Bellezza,” New York Review of Books blog, Jan. 9, 2014

If the character Marcello in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita—played unforgettably by Marcello Mastroianni—had spent another four decades flitting about the high life of Rome he might have turned into someone like Jep Gambardella, the protagonist of Italian film director Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty). A self-conscious twenty-first century version of the Fellini classic, La Grande Bellezza is a visual feast, one of the relatively few films that takes full Read more [...]

The Strange Victory of Padre Pio

Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age by Sergio Luzzatto, translated from the Italian by Frederika Randall Picador, 371 pp., $22.00 (paper) 1. In the summer of 1960, the Holy Office of the Vatican dispatched an apostolic visitor to investigate Padre Pio, a friar of the Capuchin order who had apparently borne the wounds of the stigmata for more than forty years. A genuine religious cult had grown up around Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, the small town in the southern Italian Read more [...]

The Corrupt Reign of Emperor Silvio

Papi: Uno Scandalo Politico (Papi: A Political Scandal)  by Peter Gomez, Marco Lillo, and Marco Travaglio Milan: Chiarelettere, 331 pp., P15.00 (paper) Il Regalo di Berlusconi (The Gift of Berlusconi)  by Peter Gomez and Antonella Mascali Milan: Chiarelettere, 339 pp., P15.00 (paper) Gradisca, Presidente: Tutta la verità della escort più famosa al mondo (At Your Pleasure, Mr. President: The Whole Truth About the Most Famous Escort in the World)  by Patrizia D’Addario, with Maddalena Read more [...]

Italy: The Crooks in Control

Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano, translated from the Italian by Virginia Jewiss Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 301 pp., $25.00 Last year, Italy seemed to wake up to the problem of the Camorra—the Neapolitan equivalent of the Mafia—in the form of 2,700 tons of garbage. On the nightly news for several days running, TV viewers stared with a mixture of wonder and horror at mountains and mountains of garbage—some of it wet and stinking, some of it on fire and spewing toxic fumes—on the streets Read more [...]

Italy Against Itself

La deriva: perché l’Italia rischia il naufragio (Adrift: Why Italy Risks a Shipwreck) by Gian Antonio Stella and Sergio Rizzo Milan: Rizzoli, 308 pp., €19.50 La paura e la speranza (Fear and Hope)  by Giulio Tremonti Milan: Mondadori, 111 pp., €16.00 Se li conosci li eviti (If You Know Them, You Avoid Them) by Peter Gomez and Marco Travaglio Milan: Chiarelettere, 571 pp., €14.60 (paper) 1. In late April, Gianni Alemanno, a former neofascist, was elected mayor of Rome, two Read more [...]

The Berlusconi Show

Traditionally on losing an election, a politician calls to congratulate the winner and urges voters to put their differences aside and come together for the good of the country. But Silvio Berlusconi is anything but a traditional politician. Instead, after his narrow defeat by the center-left candidate, Romano Prodi, Berlusconi made charges of fraud (even though his own government had overseen the voting), demanded a recount (which quickly confirmed the original result), and demanded that he be included Read more [...]

Italy: The Family Business

Italy and Its Discontents: Family, Civil Society, State, 1980-2001 by Paul Ginsborg Palgrave Macmillan, 521 pp., $35.00 “The Patrimonial Ambitions of Silvio B”  by Paul Ginsborg New Left Review 21, May–June 2003 The Dark Heart of Italy: Travels Through Time and Space Across Italy by Tobias Jones London: Faber and Faber, 266 pp., £16.99 A revised edition will be published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in June 2004. 1. On January 26, 1994, Silvio Berlusconi—the Read more [...]

‘Apocalypse Soon’: An Exchange

To the Editors of the New York Review of Books: In response to Alexander Stille’s “Apocalypse Soon” [NYR, November 7, 2002], I must correct some factual errors and clarify some important points. The essay is presented as a review of Empire, a book I coauthored with Michael Hardt, but, in fact, it is instead a profile of my political activity in 1970s Italy. When dealing with such complex subjects a writer must know how to distinguish among reliable information, gossip, and slander. Stille Read more [...]