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img337img336In a previous post on Solzhenitsyn, I alluded to the fact that some great literary works are virtually unknown to a large public, combine this with the political deception that seems to have free reign in this new century and you have all the more reasons why a book can be or even should be read by the second or third generation of readers after it was published. The book Pane e Vino, published in English as Bread and Wine by the Italian author/novelist Ignazio Silone (1900-1978) from the Abruzzo Region in Italy is one of those books.

It really is one of those books that really merits to be read again and again, especially today in a world where apathy and ignorance in political matters are no longer a matter of shame but a mere demonstration of indifference towards our future.

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Where Solzhenitsyn goes about his business as an author in a direct descriptive matter, the novel by Silone does not give you the chills, but slowly envelops you in a blanket of personalities with generally good intentions, whose character and attitudes results in major consequences for themselves and free society as a whole.

In the lives of Solzhenitsyn and Silone, we know many striking similarities as well. Both had to conquer the utmost distrust of the human spirit of both fellow men and adversaries, while at the same time overcoming physical and mental adversity and exile for political reasons. Similar to a degree was a certain indifference or ridicule at home in their own countries. Both had been communists and had been fighting fascism in various ways, Solzhenitsyn in the Russian army, Silone as a writer of powerful anti-fascist books and participant in the Resistance.

The book Bread and Wine, because its powerful narrative perhaps, was printed by the United States Army in an non-authorized version at the end of WWII and given as informal presents to Italians. This particular trade paperback version was published by Time Inc. in their Time Reading Program (RTP). It is a well edited and wonderfully designed publication with an apropos cover design by Tracy Sugarman (signed on the back cover). The cover is a nice illustration of a forlorn mountain landscape interpretation. Here are some interesting facts about the Time program taken from Wikipedia

“Time Reading Program From Wikipedia:

The Time Reading Program (TRP), was a book sales club run by Time–Life, the publisher of Time magazine, from 1962 through 1966. Time was known for its magazines, and nonfiction book series’ published under the Time-Life imprint, while the TRP books were reprints of an eclectic set of literature, both classic and contemporary, as well as nonfiction works and topics in history. The books were chosen by National Book Award judge Max Gissen, the chief book reviewer for Time from 1947 until the TRP began in 1962.

The books themselves were published by Time Inc. and followed a specific format across their widely varying subject matter. The editions were trade paperbacks, with covers constructed of very stiff plastic coated paper, for durability. The books were eight inches tall, just under than an inch taller than a standard mass-market or “rack” paperback. Each book had a wraparound cover with a continuous piece of artwork across both covers and the spine, generally a painting by a contemporary artist, commissioned specifically for the TRP edition. The TRP covers attracted a measure of acclaim at the time. According to Time, 19 TRP covers were cited in 1964 for awards from The American Institute of Graphic Arts, Commercial Art Magazine and the Society of Illustrators guild. Typography and other printing credits were given in a colophon on the end pages, in the manner of sophisticated publishing houses like Alfred A. Knopf. The William Addison Dwiggins typeface Caledonia was typically used. The logo for the series was in format of a monogram, RTP, enclosed in a rounded slightly rectangular box.

While not, strictly speaking, original publications, most of the TRP books had unique introductions written by various scholars specifically for the TRP edition. In a few cases, the texts had also been revised by the authors to create a definitive edition, and did not constitute abridgement.

Subscribers to the TRP typically received four books a month, though some books arrived as multi-volume sets. Included with shipments was a small newsletter describing the books and why they were chosen.

Time revived the program in the early 1980s, with many of the same titles.”

img340The books technical aspects are as follows: The typeface for the book in this case is in Latine Medium; the photo composition done at Time Inc. under the direction of Albert J. and Arthur J. Dunn; printed in Atlanta, Ga. and bound in Buffalo, NY. with the wrap around cover printed in Providence, RI. Perhaps they had too much money to spend in those days! With an interesting foresight the Time Editors chose another Italian Professor Luigi Barzini to write the foreword. They could have asked any writer to do this, but chose instead a strong author/novelist relatively well known in the USA through his own books. So let us attempt to read a few pages together to understand where the authors came from and how they were perceived by critics and public in their heyday.

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img344I particularly like the following foreword by Luigi Barzini.

img346img347img348What strikes me as beautiful prose are some of the simple sentences used by Silone in his well written preface for this new edition in which he really becomes the racconteur, he is in his book, as opposed to the somewhat dour figure he would like to express in real life or perhaps did. His reasoning and modesty expressed in the re-writing of the book became an attribute of a by now apolitical man, with a wisdom acquired with age and with a clear vision of a hardened realist without the attitude of a “defeated humanist”.

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Here is a YouTube video running 17 minutes plus that is a Documentary on Ignazio Silone by Luigi Boneschi in Italian. It is part one of a three part series. Quite wonderful!

I am quite sure that we can find parallels to current situations which face us in our daily life. Here are some examples of parallels: An unresolved lack of action with respect to the Benghazi incident; A constant bickering of two political parties; A spending habit into the nation’s oblivion from the world scene; A mise-en-scene of imagined dangers with respect to religion; Disrespect for elders and the weaker ones among us in society; Lack of moral sobriety as demonstrated by a criminal class; The wasteful US Congress, which occupies the same power seats decades after decades, with utter disregard for the people’s wishes.

Included in this list would be a Narcissist President not unlike the Dictators of the Second World War but one who would like to curtail the most elementary of freedoms – the right to bear arms, to defend oneself, home, family and property at all costs in a lawless society. A President who loves to spend the Nation’s wealth and surrounds himself with incompetence and indifference all the while usurping power by Executive Degree like a Medieval Ruler in a land with porous borders, slowly sinking like a State but not a Nation. He is like a Machiavellian Prince of Darkness emboldened by the lack of insight of his followers and reveling in the connivance of the “moneybag men” who catapult to power the lonesome era of ignorance.

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