Self-censorship in Massimo Bontempelli’s Magical Realism

Wissia Fiorucci


This article aims to investigate the interplay between censorship, self-censorship and the narrative strategies of magical realism in Il figlio di due madri by Italian author Massimo Bontempelli (1878–1960).

Having been head of the National Fascist Writers Union from the mid- to late-1920s, critics have noted that Bontempelli’s detachment from the Fascist credo emerges in his work from the mid- to late-1930s. I intend to problematise this perspective, by recognising the significance of Il figlio di due madri (1929) in the development of Bontempelli’s anti-Fascist sentiment. This work preceded (by several years) Bontempelli’s official break with Fascism in 1936, when he published an article against the political control of the arts and caesarianism in La gazzetta del popolo. An anti-Fascist sentiment had, however, in my view already been expressed in Bontempelli’s works of magical realism Il figlio di due madri (1929) and Vita e morte di Adria e dei suoi figli (1930). These two novels deal with controversial topics that, I would claim, refute some of Fascism’s foremost principles, an appraisal that was disguised through deliberate acts of self-censorship. More precisely, it is through his deconstruction of mimetic writing that Bontempelli’s critique of the regime comes into existence, as the narrative strategies I deem instrumental to his self-censorship (e.g. authorial reticence, metaphor, mythopoiesis) reflect the poetics of magical realism in «its inherent transgressive and subversive qualities» (Bowers 2004: 63). By conveying a rejection of the systematised understanding of literature that Bontempelli associates with literary realisms, at the same time he conveys his ideological refusal of dogmatic views of reality. Thus, in his mystifying realism, magic acts as both a tool for concealing his ideology—a tool for self-censorship, that is—and as the very means by which this ideology can be generated.


Bontempelli; censorship; Fascism; realismo magico; self-censorship

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