The Mussolini Canal is one of the great achievements of contemporary Italian fiction. It spans 100 years of Italian history as seen through the lives of a peasant family, the Peruzzi, from the Veneto, who are among the 30,000 peasants from Northern Italy sent down to farm the recently drained Pontine Marshes outside Rome in the 1930s. The book immediately brings to mind Verga’s I Malavoglia, one of the great landmarks of Italian literature, and what Verga achieves for the 19th-century Sicilian fishermen Pennacchi achieves for the 20th-century northern farm workers.
Mussolini and the fascists are liked, although the failings of fascism emerge loud and clear. Contemporary events flash through the book and the hardship and misery of earlier periods are also seen against the background of modern prosperity.
Judith Landry so brilliantly captures the narrator’s voice and the feel of Antonio Pennacchi’s novel that one can easily forget one is reading a translation and not the original.
‘A powerful portrait of the tensions that brought Mussolini to power and kept him there’
Times Literary Supplement