Confino (i.e., internal exile) was a malleable form of imprisonment during the Fascist ventennio. Confinement allowed Mussolini to bypass the judiciary thereby placing prisoners outside magistrates’ jurisdiction. The Regime applied it to political dissidents, ethnic and religious minorities, gender nonconforming people, and mafiosi, among others. Recent political discourse in and beyond Italy has drawn on similar rationales to address perceived threats against the State. This study examines confino from a historical, political, social, and cultural perspective. It provides a broad overview of the practice and it also examines particular cases and situations. In addition to this historical assessment, it is the first to analyse confinement as a cultural practice through representations in literature (e.g., letters, memoirs, historical fiction) and film. English-language publications often overlook confino and its representations. Italian critical literature, instead, often speaks in purely historical terms or is rooted in partisan perspectives. This book demonstrates that internal exile is not purely political: it possesses a cultural history that speaks to the present. The scope of this study, therefore, is to provide a cultural reading that makes manifest aspects of confino that have been appropriated by contemporary political discourse. Although directed towards students and specialists of Italian history, literature, film, and culture, the study offers a coherent portrait of confino accessible to those with a general interest in Fascism.
Confino (internal exile) was a precautionary detention measure utilised under Fascism to bypass the judiciary. Between 1926 and 1943, the Regime sent political dissidents and other people considered difficult to remote islands off the coast of Italy and to isolated villages on the peninsula. The introduction provides an overview of the relevant literature and lays out the organisation of the book into two parts (‘Context and history of internal exile’, and ‘Representations of internal exile in literature and film’). Discussions around confino in contemporary political discourse make clear that it is a contested memory – one with which society must come to terms.
The Lipari political colony was one of the largest detention sites for internal exiles. It held over 1,400 prisoners and was operational from 1926 to 1933. The chapter discusses the daily rituals of the exile community, the population’s composition, the system of surveillance, the interactions with the local population, and the perceptions of the colony from outside Lipari through memoirs and archival materials. These primary sources present different and contrasting representations of the experience. This chapter also discusses the women who were exiled to Lipari, the famous escape of Carlo Rosselli, Francesco Fausto Nitti, and Emilio Lussu, and the international criticism of the practice of confino. Closed in 1933, Lipari continued to be utilised as a detention site through to 1945.
Confino (internal exile) has a history that pre-dates Fascism. While utilised in ancient times, it has its immediate antecedents in Liberal Italy. Fascism expanded the scope of practice to consolidate its political power and to exert social control. Drawing on legislation, the penal codes, and archival materials, this chapter examines the legal, political and philosophical foundations of internal exile and the factors that permitted its rapid implementation as an effective means for addressing internal political opposition to the Regime. The so-called ‘exceptional laws’ presented the rationale for internal exile, but the punishment extended beyond the purely political. Anyone considered ‘different’ could be exiled: e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Freemasons, defeatists, sex workers, abortion providers, gender nonconformists, Roma, mafiosi, Slovenians, Croatians. The chapter also considers the role of Chief of Police Arturo Bocchini and the evolution of the practice of confino after 1943.
The body of literature concerning internal exile is quite vast, but has been largely ignored by both historians and literary critics. This cultural production (i.e., literary fiction, personal correspondence, and memoirs) gives voice to an array of experiences through prisoners’ self-expression. The concern here is not with historical facticity, but rather with representational strategies: how these texts express the internal exile experience. The fictional texts of Cesare Pavese, Giorgio Bassani and Carlo Lucarelli, for example, present complex relationships between self and other. These stories blur distinctions between historical narrative, life writing, and historical convention, much like the memoirs of Emilio Lussu, Carlo Rosselli, and Francesco Fausto Nitti, whose works established the thematic parameters of confinement narratives. Counter-narratives (e.g., Giovanni Ansaldo’s L’antifascista riluttante) emerge as well and evince the contested memory of the experience.
This chapter addresses the formula of internal exile as vacation through an examination of sixteen feature films, documentaries, and made-for-television movies released between 1960 and 2012 that depict the exile experience of mafiosi, prominent Italian intellectuals (Cesare Pavese, Carlo Rosselli, Giorgio Amendola, and Carlo Levi), and those considered politically suspect. In these texts, all of which fall under the generic classification of male melodrama, the event of internal exile serves as a convenient backdrop to narrate stories that are more pleasant and conform to the traditional logic of desire that dominates the classical cinema. As follows, the distressing events surrounding the practice of internal exile are disavowed and political confinement is reimagined as holiday.
The experience of many gay men sent into internal exile is cloaked in silence. This chapter interrogates this silence by looking at two feature films, four documentaries, and one graphic novel that give voice to experiences of gay men sent into internal exile. In the two feature films, exile is a minor narrative thread. The documentaries and graphic novel, however, are explicit in treating the exile experience of gay men, and evince a clear memorialising tendency surrounding gay confino. These five texts are different from the majority of the films discussed in the previous chapter that smooth over the cultural trauma of internal exile. In that chapter we saw that the stories of mafiosi, anti-Fascists, and intellectuals sent to internal exile are recast in a melodramatic light and the suffering of male protagonists is productive. Instead, the texts treated in this chapter aid in the project of recuperating submerged histories without subsuming individual narratives into larger restorative narratives.
Contemporary political discourse makes clear that confino is a contested memory. The collective memory of internal exile tends to be presented as inextricably linked to the Resistance, but the materials examined in this study resist such a neat identification. These texts describe divided memories through experiences that must be interpreted, remembered, and contested. Competing narratives call for a nuanced appreciation for the complexities of remembrance that are not fixed and cannot be reduced to a single moment, but instead are continuously being redefined. The ideals for what would become the European Union were first articulated in a manifesto written by exiles on the island of Ventotene. Today, geo-political and socio-economic challenges threaten the ideals of justice and freedom at the root of both European integration and the Italian constitution, which can also trace its influences to confino and to Ventotene. Divided memories of how Fascism suppressed dissent are changing the political course of Europe and Italy.