‘Today Italy is a country like any other,’ Moravia declared in a recent interview, and there is more than a grain of truth in this. More than five years have passed since Pasolini took the disappearance of fireflies, dense sparkling clouds that hung over the countryside on summer nights, as a symbol of the impoverishment of Italy, the void in political vision and direction, the destruction even of the vigorous, articulate sub-proletarian culture of the Roman ‘borgate’. Since then the homogenising processes of consumerism have continued irresistably through political and economic crises, while terrorist groups, most notorious among them the Red Brigade, have spent the fire of the left in spectacularly useless flares of violence and cruelty.
There would be enough to be pessimistic about, if one could afford such an indulgence. Ten years ago this December a bomb exploded in a bank in Milan’s Piazza Fontana killing or maiming a large number of the customers present, and the question arose ‘cui prodest?’ – whose purpose does it serve?; the question has been raised repeatedly at every new act of political violence, and has become an ever more insoluble riddle.
Until five years ago the geography and hierarchy of the mafia were fairly well-known: recently a magistrate, who had been deputy in Parliament in the independent lists of the Communist Party, returned to Sicily not so much to incriminate or acquit as to try to understand what was happening, and