APT Basilicata

APT Basilicata

Basilicata turistica

Alianello Carlo

a cura di Giovanni Caserta

Born in Rome on March 20, 1901 out of a Lucanian family coming from Missanello, Carlo Alianello, Liceo professor, then inspector of the Department of Education, revisited Lucania-Basilicata through the memories and the history of his ancestors: his father’s first, then his grandfather’s, who had served as officer in the Bourbon army when Francesco II, the “rightful” king, was ousted by Garibaldi’s Red Shirts. As an army, they were pretty far from being considered regular: according to some, they were just a band of robbers, which anyway was not quite untrue.

Carlo Alianello’s grandfather, as the loyal officer he was, hung on to his Bourbon king and never gave up nor did he break his soldier’s oath of allegiance. History had placed him on the defeated side and so, according to Carlo Alianello, among those who were wrong. When you are on the defeated side, the ideals of honour, consistency, loyalty to one’s own cause are worthless because, in Dante’s words, “the blame” always follows “the party injur’d.”

Alianello’s historical, cultural, and narrative aim, urged as he was by ethical and moral motivations, was to carry out a brave and a little desecrating reassessment of the Risorgimento history: in the South it did not mean liberation, as winners’ rhetoric had always declared, but the dramatic occupation of a free country by a foreign power. A moot point indeed, this theory was, especially with L’Alfiere (1943, Torino, Einaudi; 2000, Venosa, Osanna) an anticipation of the themes which were to be in Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard (Il Gattopardo). At the same time, though, it induced Alianello to take up polemical and sometimes incautiously forced positions. This is what happens in the essay La conquista del Sud (1972, Milano, Rusconi), a summary of his philosophy. The book was written in the last years of his life, and is filled with rancour and resentment: his was the typical attitude of those who believe they have preached the truth for all their life and feel confined among the outcast and the isolated, that is to say, once more, among the defeated. The author of that essay was not an ordinary conservative, but rather a rabid reactionary trying to accomplish the impossible mission of defending, totally and uncritically, the Bourbons and the brigandage. On the other hand, Alianello was a catholic: his faith wanted him to consider literature as an educational instrument, but also to achieve the necessary detachment to encompass, in a compassionate embrace, winners and defeated in the name of their common belonging to humanity, even though his sympathies went to those which history, the powerful and their armies, declared were wrong.

Religious faith, therefore, took away from Alianello the nihilist smile which was Tomasi di Lampedusa’s: according to the latter, there were no such things as winners and defeated, neither did ideals and idealists, dreamers and utopians, exist. Carlo Alienallo, by virtue of his faith, would take heart at the thought that one day those defeated by human justice would have won justice in the world to come. His “heroes” do not turn to prayer at the end of their lives by accident: in this respect, he followed the precepts of Manzoni, who also chose as favourite literary genre the historical novel, which according to both had to be wide, well-documented, meticulously and coherently organized in all its parts. Alianello was, like Manzoni, a clever story manufacturer and an acute thinker, sometimes a little cold and long-winded. But when he plunges deep in the heart of his characters to probe their humanity, he reaches a very high lyrical intensity. This is what happens in Soldati del re (1952, Milano, Mondadori; 1989, Venosa, Osanna), in L’Alfiere (op. cit.), but most of all in L’Eredità della priora (1963, Milano, Feltrinelli; 1993, Venosa, Osanna, with an introduction by Giovanni Caserta), among the best 20th century novels. On the contrary, L’inghippo (1973, Milano, Rusconi) is a big letdown, pervaded as it is by a stilted moralistic attitude and by his anti-liberalism and his prejudices against Risorgimento. Among the other works which deserve to be mentioned, whose main feature is the religious theme, are Maria e i fratelli (1955), Nascita di Eva (1966), Lo scrittore e la solitudine (1970).

Alianello died in Rome on April 1, 1981.

Back to Top