Memoirs of an Italian Terrorist

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From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, there were frequent terrorist acts in Italy, from assassinations and bombings, to kidnappings. While there is some debate over government involvement in using the attacks as a precursor for suppressing radical left-wing movements that advocated “armed struggle,” nothing can take away from the reality that Italy was a violent place. Giorgio, an anonymous member of the “armed struggle,” sent this story to an Italian magazine where it was originally published in 1981.

I came upon this book by accident at the library, but after reading the jacket, felt it would be an interesting read in light of earlier studies on the Weather Underground in the United States. However, this book is not an exploration of the politics and analysis that motivated Giorgio to turn to armed confrontation, rather it is an account of the isolation of living underground. Giorgio managed to write a surprisingly revealing glimpse into his own psychological condition, despite the necessity of keeping many details of his activities a secret for security reasons. His honesty and refusal to glamorize the life of an underground radical is refreshing, while his criticism of such a life is unrelenting. Certainly, there is no sense that Giorgio regrets his decision, but he presents an honest appraisal of the life when he states that “the life we lead does not encourage solidarity, but rather tension, resentment, and constant conflict,” a reality that no doubt is in direct opposition to the feelings that motivated his actions. He is also strikingly realistic about the potential failure of their movement, admitting that the likely outcome is prison–or worse.

My main problem with this text came from a lack of knowledge of regarding the historical context. While Antony Shugaar provides an introduction that attempts to explain the intricacies of the various radical groups, of both the left and the right, that operated during the time when Giorgio was active, I found his introduction to be rather muddled and not as helpful as I would have like. Giorgio’s story is interesting, but without a developed understanding of the reasons that some left-wing groups turned to armed struggle, it remains little more than that.

Giorgio, Memoirs of an Italian Terrorist, trans. Antony Shugaar, (Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003).

Author: mediamouse

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