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Between Memorial and Political Manifesto: Nono's Anti-fascist Pieces, 1951-1966

By Carola Nielinger-Vakil


A remarkably bold short story, 'Impiccagione di un giudice' by Italo Calvino, was first published in Rinascita in February 1948 on the condition that its title be changed to 'Il sogno di un giudice'. The story describes the trial of a fascist, accused of having participated in one of the brutal reprisal actions that shook Northern Italy throughout the partisan war. The crime is merely mentioned in passing, however, as the story is told from the perspective of the judge, Onofrio Clerici, whose sympathy for the former fascist regime is made clear form the outset. Within the realms of the judicial system the judge feels completely at ease, confident in the knowledge that the law was written by people like him and, moreover, may be turned in any desired direction. Throughout the proceedings, however, gallows are being constructed in the courtyard, and the judge’s confidence is undermined further by three characters hitherto unknown to the court: a clerk and two guards. The mob at the back of the court room, too, is unusually silent on this day. "Stupidi e ignoranti, - pensò il giudice Onofrio, - credono che l’imputato sia condannato a morte, perciò han construito una forca." And, to teach them a lesson, he proposes that the accused be absolved, a sentence which is unanimously approved by the magistrates of the court. But as the judge signs the acquittal, he inadvertently also signs another document, slipped in by the new clerk. It is his own death sentence, condemning him to die "come un cane". Without protest the judge succumbs to this sentence and, following the orders of the two guards, hangs himself on the gallows in the now deserted courtyard. (Excerpt, opening paragraph)

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