chapter  7
22 Pages

Cultures and Ideology for Export: Italy and the Italies 1860-1960

In 1931, Giuseppe Prezzolini, an intellectual who in his arrogance and cynicism had been as responsible as any for the rise of Fascism but by then had a certain aura of dissidence, was managing the Casa Italiana, the 'house' of Italian culture, in New York. It was, he confided to his diary, something of a labour of Sisyphus, especially so far as his emigrant co-nationals were concerned: 'They are not Italians', he noted,

because they have never been Italians. Here they have taken on certain American habits, but at base they have remained southern peasants without a culture, without learning, without a language, people for whom the moment of 'italianità' has never arrived. They leave Italy before being Italians. They have settled here but have not become real Americans.1