by Leonardo Sciascia
You know my thinking," said the district prosecutor. The perfect opening for the man whose thinking you don't know, or if he has a "thinking," or if he thinks at all. The little judge looked at him gently, sleepily, a lingering, indulgent look. And the prosecutor felt the look on his face, just as once, as a boy, he had felt the hand of an old, blind relative who wanted-he said-to see which of the older members of the family he resembled. The hand of that relative, whom he'd never met before, moving over his face as though modeling it, had aroused in him a certain gnance, disgust. And now this look caused him irritation and anxiety. Who was the little judge likening him to? And he regretted the sentence, which had been meant to open a confiding, almost friendly discussion. But he could think of --nothing better than to turn it around. He said: "I know your thinking." But still that look, increasing his irritation and anxiety He skipped the whole argument he had carefully prepared and, as if grasping at air, said: "It must be admitted they have never asked anything of us. Even in this case-let's be quite clear about this-they have made no demands."
The prosecutor's imposing stature, and the imposing chair he usually sat in, made the little judge uneasy and embarrassed, and in their rare conversations this unease always turned to indifference and boredom. His mind wandered, or gave an ironic twist to the phrases it caught: His thinking, my thinking: what a silly, tedious game. I don't know his thinking, and I don't want to know; but I don't have a "thinking" at all: I just think. And his mind dwelt on the phrase whose essence no grammar or dictionary would register as a substitute for the thing you don't want to name, the thing you don't want to think: especially when the possessive pronoun precedes the thinking and nothing follows, A phrase that, for Italians, belonged to the Catholic religion, the governing party, Freemasonry, anything that hadobviously or, worse, obscurely-force and power, anything to be feared; and now belonged to fascism, its rulings and its rituals. "You know my thinking, I know your thinking- so let's not think about it. That's the best thing."
Like a landscape out of the mist, the prosecutor's words floated to the surface of his mind. He was saying: "They set up their special tribunals, they kept us outside and-why shouldn't we say it-above politics, their politics: and we still have judges, functioning without any interference, who have not only passed sentences that were unpopular with some official, or even with the regime, but have quite openly and firmly ignored the pronouncement of some official or some group or of the entire party, on certain cases or certain interpretations of the laws . . ."
"Yes, outside or above: but their special tribunals .
"We couldn't oppose them: we would have lost what we have managed to hold on to."
"We went along with it."
"Yes, we went along with it," the prosecutor admitted. A sigh of resignation turned into a yawn. He yawned frequently: because of something going on in his body that he chose to ignore; but also because of the life he led, caught between the huge power his office gave him, which he exercised with obsessive caution and concern, and that which his family utterly denied him, caring only for his salary. "But you know my thinking," he said again. And again he yawned, this time for the tedium of having to work out his thinking, if only on a matter of detail, losing sight, as always, of the whole. But all at once he lost sight of that detail too, descending to another, more concrete. He opened a desk drawer and pulled out a red folder. He held it between his hands to surprise the judge at the right moment. "The police," he said, "sent us all the papers found in the defendant's house. All except this one. It was included in the list that accompanied the others, but was held back at the police station. To get hold of it, I had to insist. Why, I said, and wrote, why send us so many papers, even useless ones-agendas, letters, postcards, family photos, butcher's bills, baker's bills-and not this one? It seems they had orders from above not to give it to us. If I ask myself why, one answer does occur to me; but perhaps it's not the right one. So I'd like to hear your opinion. Yesterday, at last, they gave way." And he gave way, holding the folder out to the judge.
The judge took it, and as he glanced at it he gave a start: it was an image that, thirteen years before, newspapers, manifestos, even postcards, had as it were hammered into the memory of Italians with a memory, into the feelings of Italians with feelings. This very image: a serene, severe countenance, broad brow, thoughtful gaze with something sorrowful, even tragic, about it; or perhaps with the tragic touch con- ferred upon his living image by his tragic death. An image that took the judge back to that summer of 1924 (he was a pretore in a little country district in Sicily, where there were few Fascists and fewer Socialists), when the fate of fascism seemed to hang in the balance but, as the summer waned, to reassert itself and get the upper hand. And in his memory the sense, literally the sense-colors, smells, even tastes-of the dying summer was associated with the waning of the passions that tragic case had kindled even in ordinary homes. A passion he, too, had felt, but within a passion for law, justice, and right. And he thought: A feeling like that was never meant to die.
Beside the photo, spattered with dots and exclamation marks, was the passage in which, attributed to Giacomo Matteotti, were phrases addressed "to his executioners": "kill me, but you will never kill the idea that is in me ... my ideas cannot die ... my little ones will glory in their father ... the workers will bless my corpse ... long live socialism." And from these ingenuously solemn and heroic phrases (which nonetheless, he remembered, proved effective not only in encouraging the opposition but in moving the hearts of housewives) the word "corpse" stood out starkly, and the image in front of him dissolved into another: the photograph showing the "mortal remains" being carried from the Quartarella woods to the cemetery at Riano Flaminio; the white wood box, the four carabinieri carrying it; and the first one (on the left in the photo, he recalled with terrible precision), closest to the camera, holding a handkerchief to his nose and mouth. For years now, whenever certain facts at certain moments had reminded him of the murder of Matteotti, he had thought of it only in words belonging to subsequent history and its verdict; but this red folder had thrown him right back into visual memories, surprising in their clarity and precision, that were steeped in those words and that verdict. Photographs from the weekly magazine that printed more than any other at the time: the women of Riano carrying flowers to the place where the body had been found; the funeral at Fratta Polesine, the coffin carried on the shoulders of relatives and friends (the baritone Titta Ruffo, a cousin, was singled out in the caption: had he paid dearly for that relationship and that devotion?); and the most remarkable image of all, which said more than a whole chapter in a history book, of those Socialist deputies kneeling near the parapet of the bridge where Matteotti had been seized. They had laid a wreath and knelt down: eyes eager to pass into history turned toward the camera; some at the back had got to their feet, fearing the lens would miss them. And he thought he would search out the photograph: he remembered two or three of the kneeling men and was curious to know what had become of them all.
One thought led to another, and he found himself saying rashly: "One thing nobody paid much attention to at the time: he was a qualified teacher of criminal law at the University of Bologna."
"Who?" asked the prosecutor.
"Matteotti," said the judge; but the prosecutor's guarded, almost pitying look suggested not only wariness but a suspicion of muddled thinking, of talking in non sequiturs: what the detail of being a qualified teacher to do with such a thorny subject? But that detail had told the judge something: that Matteotti had been considered the most implacable of all the opponents of fascism, not because he spoke in the name of socialism, which was then an open door that anyone pass through, but because he spoke in the name of the law. Of criminal law.
The prosecutor gave him time to switch back to the topic he had invited him there to discuss; then he asked with a yawn: "What do you think? I mean, about the fact that they didn't want to send us this particular document."
"Delicacy," said the judge.
"Quite so," said the prosecutor, irritated as he always was when he suspected sarcasm or irony. "It seems to me that in drawing attention to the omission, and persisting in it, they were telling us: we don't want to confuse the issue and accuse the defendant of a crime of a quite different order, although it might be necessary to bear it in mind as a detail that completes the whole wretched picture; besides, you have plenty of evidence on which to base the harshest verdict."
"Indelicacy, then," commented the judge.
"Never mind delicacy and indelicacy, let's take it for what it is: a warning. The fact is, they expect a swift, exemplary sentence."
There was a knock; the prosecutor said: "Come in"; the usher came in with a bundle of mad and put it on the table. As soon as be had gone out again, shutting the door behind him, the prosecutor said: "A spy: I suspect a high-ranking one and well paid; I got the carabinieri to inquire very discreetly: he lives way above his salary. Or mine ... At this moment he'll certainly have his ear glued to the door. But only for art's sake: you can't bear anything; I've checked."
The judge longed to cut short this conversation, in which he felt uneasily he must either reveal his true feelings or lie. Or worse still: fail both to conceal his feelings and to lie. He tried a shortcut: "So you say they expect a swift, exemplary sentence. But they're not the only ones- I am well aware that everyone expects it."
The prosecutor looked relieved. "Let's speak quite clearly about it, then," he said; but instead he fell silent for some time, as if waiting for a slow-dawning light to clarify what he had to say. At last, like a hunting dog returning from some distant trail: "The prosecutor's office and the judiciary: it's almost a commonplace to believe that the judiciary, to which you belong, has nothing to do with political power and has remained absolutely independent these last years; while people think quite the opposite about the prosecutor's office. But I could quote as many cases of submission on both sides. Cases, I may say, which cannot be assumed to prove real dependency on either side. But let's admit the truth of the commonplace, and that you, too, at this very moment, believe it to be true and see in my words some sort of message, an oblique threat, that the political powers have charged me to convey. It's not true; but go ahead and think it, if you like..."
The judge moved his right hand in a gesture of denial: gesture of a boy wiping something off a blackboard. And not believe it: the prosecutor was not a bad always boring but never underhanded; outside body arrogant at times, but within the confraternity capable of only small, fairly harmless deceptions.
"If You don t believe it at this moment. the prosecutor went on -with his inveterate pessimism, "you'll end up be- it tomorrow or next year. Anyway, the point is this: I ten years ago, a discussion we had about We were not alone, if you recall. An article His Excellency Rocco had just come out, in The Empire. Here it is: I read it through again this morning ..." He pulled the review out from under the bundle of letters and marker. "Here it is: 'On the Reintroduction of the Death Penalty in Italy.' I don't remember the arguments you used to refute it, but I remember your tone of extreme irritation. And I grant you, his introduction is rather irritating: " 'The return,' " he read, " 'of the death penalty in Italy demanded by the national conscience, invoked by the Chamber of Deputies, decided by His Majesty's Government, satisfies an ancient wish of Italian wisdom'- which is a bit much, I admit. But I was and am entirely in agreement with the arguments developed in the article." He waited for the judge to say something. Disappointed, he went on. "Believe it or not, out of the respect I feel for you and, if you will permit me to say so, out of a feeling of goodwill, of friendship .. ."
"Thank you," said the judge.
". . . I merely ask you to think twice about this trial, which is due to come up in your court; and above all, if it poses problems for you, assuming your-opinions on the death penalty are unchanged, to turn it down or-it's not my fieldget together with the president of the court of appeals to find the most convenient, least prejudicial way of transferring it to another session ... least prejudicial, I mean, to your career: a brilliant one up to now, it seems to me ... I said it before and I say it again: I am entirely in agreement with the theses of His Excellency Rocco""--he never forgot to give the title he boasted to anyone else with a claim to it"and therefore in agreement with the law, since the death penalty has been a state law for ten years now: law is law; we can only apply it and serve it. And this, of all cases, would seem to call for capital punishment, since capital punishment is now the law of the land; these are cold, brutal crimes; the man is the lowest of the low. The whole town is up in arms, appalled: in a lynching mood. But I seem to recall-I say it without irony, indeed with regret, almost with pain-that you would prefer lynching..."
"I would not prefer it. I said at the time, I recall, that a band of fanatics or drunks who think they are making the own justice in fact corroborate the law by contravening it: in the sense that the action imposes on its agents the indemn fication of the law, an affirmation that must not, cannot be. But surely the instincts that erupt in a lynching, the fury an 'madness, are less atrocious than the macabre ritual that ac tivates a court of justice in pronouncing the death sentence a sentence that, in the very name of justice, law, reason, o the king by the grace of God and the will of the nation consigns a man, the way it is done here, to be shot by twelve rifles: twelve rifles aimed by twelve men who were enlisted the good of the people, the ultimate good being life, but at a particular moment in time have responded eagerly call to commit murder, not only unpunished but rewarded ... a vocation to murder fulfilled with the state's gratitude and remuneration."
"Let's not exaggerate," said the prosecutor. He was quite thrown, the "at the time" with which the judge had begun, distancing into memory the opinion he had held ten years Wore, had led him to expect a different, changed opinion now but the ensuing vehemence accorded ill with the "at the time."
Generally a taciturn man of few and well-honed words, little judge seemed a prey to uncontrollable eloquence. "Did you know," he went on, "how a firing squad is formed? I don't mean by the military and in time of war, when there's ligation to take part: I mean here and now, in peacetime, in the system we administer. Have you ever seen the men in a squad? Black uniforms, black capes when I saw them; faces that lend conviction to Lombroso's theories on the physiognomy of criminals, faces that in a barracks of the guardia or the carabinieri, where they are performing the duties for which they were enrolled, we might say showed atavistic deprivation and brutality: but looking at them, and knowing that these are the faces of men who have chosen to kill, who have been chosen to kill ... They call them metropolitani; they arrive like a flock of crows, a flock of death, from the capital: a curious association of the capital city with capital punishment."
"Never mind that," said the prosecutor, irritated by the judge's emotion and a little by his own. And he thought: I wash my hands of it: and thought it so intensely that he made the gesture. "Never mind that. But whatever your thinking and whatever my thinking on the matter, we must consider . . ." That phrase again: but this time it was a technical, a "shop" matter, a more or less pointless debating matter within a confraternity, since the law was Stronger than any opinion: ". . . we must consider that no novelistic fancy could confer the slightest doubt or the slightest ambiguity on this case, not the faintest echo of pity or mercy: unless for the victims, of course; nor project it in such a way as to arouse regret for the old state or criticism of the new. Impossible to turn it into anything like the Sergeant Grischa question, believe me." Arnold Zweig's novel had been on the prosecutor's latest reading list: it wasn't really relevant, but the prosecutor was keen to show himself a man of literary pursuits, and besides, he wanted to change the subject slightly. And indeed, the judge asked: "What question is that? "
"I don't know what historical or documentary basis it has. A novel. By a German. Very interesting: the old Prussian state with its princes, its rules, its scruples, losing out in the clash against postwar Germany and its petty tyrannies, disregard for law, total lack of scruple, its inhuman abstraction ... the Germany of today: and let's hope ours will stop in time, that they won't get us too compromised in that liaison .. ." But he realized he was getting too compromised himself, and said "Let's get back to the point. You know it's ,generally felt here that since fascism, you can sleep with open doors..."
"I always close mine," said the judge.
"So do I: but we must admit that for the past fifteen yms conditions of public safety have improved considerably. Even in Sicily, in spite of everything. Now, whatever we think ut the death penalty, we must admit that its reintroducserves to hammer home the idea of a state totally dedicated to the safety of its citizens; the idea that from now on people really can sleep with open doors."
"I wouldn't deny it," said the judge.
"So we agree," said the prosecutor, with the haste of man afraid to find they don't agree in the least. He got the judge got up, they shook hands. "May I ask you," the judge, "to lend me this review? I should like to reread the article by His Excellency Rocco." The prosecutor gave it to him, led him to the door, opened it; the usher was standing outside, a false obsequiousness making real expression even more disagreeable: greedy and ferrety. Looking at him, prosecutor and judge remembered dwy had doubly infringed the Fascist party code: they bad used the formal "you" to each other and shaken ds. They took leave using voi and giving the Fascist salute.
The prosecutor went back into his office and returned to his
lofty chair. He yawned wearily. "Whatever his thinking, he will
have to reflect, weigh the pros and cons. After all, it's his
career!" But we are often wrong to judge our fellows as our
fellows in every way. Some are worse, but some are better too.
The conversation with the prosecutor had lasted a very long time (much longer than it will have seemed to the reader). When the judge left the Palace of Justice it was already evening; streetlamps were lit, the great trees on the square formed dark masses, their branches monstrously articulated. Every time he crossed the threshold of this palace, the word "inquisition" flashed through the judge's mind. For a couple of centuries it was here that blasphemers, witches, heretics, often of no known heresy, were judged; from this portico the auto-da-fé processions had wound through the town to the fire that would be lit not far away, though the plan of the route and the slowness of the cortege made it seem very far indeed. The state--the Bourbon state, the state of Savoy-was obviously fated, given the shortage of public buildings, to inherit this palace from the Inquisition; but by a choice made law, it had also inherited the conduct of fiscal proceedings against the heretics, appropriating the estates of the condemned and disputing interminably with the legitimate heirs. One dispute had lasted until about iolo, over the estate of a Quietist heretic, a woman (the transgression had been sexual rather than doctrinal), who had been burned in 1724. Money has no smell, not even of the living flesh burning at the stake, which spectators at autos-da-fé maintain has a powerful and quite peculiar smell. "When all's said and done, it attaches tremendous weight to one's own opinions if a man is roasted alive for their sake." Grand words; everything is a matter of opinion, of relative or derisory value, except the opinion that you cannot roast a man idive because he does not share certain opinions. And except the opinion, here and now in 1937 (1987) that humanity, justice, law-in short, the state, which the idealist philosophy and the doctrine of fascism at the time called ethical-must not answer murder with murder.
Speaking of those years, perhaps of that very year, Vitaliano Brancati says of a poor man who felt a strong aversion to iniquity that he could find no words to explain: "Why did 4 a canto on liberty by Milton or Leopardi, or a book by some outlawed philosopher, not fly to the help of this poor man,
suffering all the torment oppression can inflict upon an honest soul, yet incapable of explaining his suffering?" But the
little judge was not lacking in such help. There were these
indelible words: "When I saw how the head split away from
the body, and how each landed separately in the crate, then
I realized, not with my intelligence but with my whole being,
that there is no theory of the rationality of life or of progress
that can justify such an act, and that even if everyone on
earth since the world began, arguing from whatever theory,
were to declare it necessary, I know that it is not necessary,
that it is evil and therefore that neither the words and actions
of men, nor progress itself, can judge what is good and necessary, but only I, in my own heart." Words that, in our
pursuit of the judge's thoughts, we failed to find in the translation he had acquired as a boy around Christmas 1913 (he remembered it exactly, because only at such a time, thanks to a gift from a relative in America, did he have the one and a half or two lire needed to buy it); so we have used another, more recent one, knowing that no translation, neither the clumsiest nor the most beautiful (the most beautiful could be the most dangerous), will ever succeed in translating a great Russian writer. In the judge's mind, too, was another page, by another Russian: "But the Prince was a half-wit-the lackey was quite sure of this": that is, the Prince who is telling of an execution he has witnessed (again by the guillotine in Paris) and who pours out the most inspired attack on capital punishment that has ever been made. And the judge seemed to recall that the lackey had been moved at one point, but it could not have gone very deep, for lackeys are always in favor of capital punishment, those who are lackeys by their function and those who are lackeys in their soul.
Now, here (he had arrived home, put on his slippers, opened the balcony windows, lit the lamp on his desk, and begun to read the article "On the Reintroduction of the Death Penalty in Italy"), here's this poor Rocco-and he really felt a sort of commiseration, almost pity for him-who starts with a long list of the great names of Italian and foreign "wisdom" who have approved, or even invoked, the death penalty. Wisdom, wisdom. Poor Rocco, professor of criminal law in the Royal University of Rome, minister of justice (and grace), His Excellency Rocco: titles perfectly suited to the garb of a lackey, but the title of lawyer, which he liked to put before his name-no, the judge really could not grant him that.
His Excellency Rocco: the prosecutor was always referring to him. A good fellow, the prosecutor, but good felloinw form the base of every pyramid of iniquity. "In fact, I'm of those good fellows too." And even if the prosecutor though otherwise, the judge could not bring himself to believe, no even remotely, that the cautious admonition he had received was prompted by anything but a sense of corporate concern by a hope of satisfying an almost universal demand for justice in this case, and perhaps by some personal esteem bor dering on friendship, although there had never really been a proper friendship between them. According to his parents, his brothers, and his wife, the judge's chief weakness was this: believing until direct evidence to the contrary, and even then viewing the evidence in an indulgent light, that there was more good than bad in everyone and that in everyone the bad might suddenly prevail because of some absentmindedness, a false step, some fall of more or less vast and deadly consequence, both for oneself and for others. A weakness that had prompted his calling to become a judge and enabled him to carry out the task. Not that he did not feel touches of unkindness and spite, prickings of amour propre, but be sublimated them-at least he thought so and took comfort in the fact-in a sphere we might call literary and that he called innocent, in the sense that he considered they hurt no one. But we will use literary, giving it another, although not too serious, sense, since literature is never wholly innocent.
Not even the most innocent.
He had come to the end of Rocco's article: "As for cases involving the death penalty (whether this should be limited
only to the gravest political crimes or only to the most brutal common crimes or extended to both and to those that lie between the two), likewise as to the mode of execution of the death penalty, and the judicial body to which it should be entrusted, the forms of procedure and judgment and so on, these are particular questions of criminal legislative policy which I consider must be left to the political wisdom of government and parliament. For they will know how to act in this as in other matters as sure and faithful interpreters of the juridical conscience of the Italian Nation." And "in this matter, too," Rocco's expectations had not been disappointed. How could they be, since he was the prime contributor to their realization?
He had failed to wax indignant in rereading it, which had been his intention in asking the prosecutor to lend it to him. Whereas the latter had thought he wanted to find in it reasons for rethinking his ideas, changing his mind. A good fellow, in favor of the death penalty as of something remote, willed by others, carried out by others, abstract, almost a piece of propaganda and, ultimately, aesthetic. He had never been required to call for it in a triii; and if it was called for by his substitutes, perhaps he thought it was their business, of no great weight since calling for it was quite different from carrying it out. And to give him his due, the judge thought, if he had been required to carry it out, at least the perception that it had been reintroduced to deceive the citizenry about improved law and order under the Fascist State, this dawning perception would have touched and troubled his conscience. Which would never have happened to Professor Rocco, who knew perfectly well the reason for the reintroduction.
He had failed to work up a fresh sense of indignation. As
his chemistry professor used to say, the solution was already
saturated. Saturated with indignation.
0pen doors. Supreme metaphor for order, security, and trust: "You can sleep with the doors open." But in that sleep would be a dream of open doors, corresponding in everyday, wide-awake reality, especially for those who liked to stay awake and scrutinize and understand and judge, to so many closed doors. The newspapers, above 4 were closed doors, but the citizens who spent thirty centesimi a day to buy them-two out of every thousand in the densely populated south-were unaware of this closed door, _except when something happened before their own eyes, someserious or tragic, and they looked for news of it, and either did not find it or found it shamelessly impostured (the word is not considered good usage, we know, but we are sure reader will forgive it if we offer in its justification the definitions that persuaded us to use it: "Falsity directly concaerns things, insofar as they do not correspond to the concept in the mind; falsehood concerns words, insofar as they do not heart; imposture concerns facts, insofar as and silence are directed to deceiving somethat is, to making him believe untruths to the advantage 6f the deceiver and to the satisfaction of some ignoble pasoion of his": definitions, I need hardly say, to be found in the great Tommaseo dictionary).
In the case that was about to come before the judge-a man who had killed three people in a matter of hours--imposture had reached its apogee and toppled over into the grotesque or comic. The victims had been, in chronological order, the murderer's wife; the man who had taken over the murderer's job in the office from which he had been dismissed; and the man in charge of the office, who had decided upon his dismissal. But as far as the paper was concerned, there had been no murder: There was no mention of the wife, and the other two had died, albeit suddenly, a natural death. For two days, reports had spoken of them, their sudden deaths, the funerals, the grief of the townspeople. So, as journalism moves onward and upward toward the magnificent destiny it must surely achieve, if it has not already done so, we thought it might serve as a model to offer the report as it appeared, the day after the tragic events, in the paper with the widest circulation in Sicily:
The news of the sudden death of Municipal Advocate Giuseppe Bruno, president of the Fascist Provincial Union of Artists and Professionals and secretary of the Legal Syndicate, has spread rapidly throughout our city, causing a general sense of profound grief in every area of life in which the deceased was so highly esteemed for his noble qualities of heart and mind.
In Giuseppe Bruno, Palermo has lost one of its most active representatives, whose generous contribution to public life was always wide-ranging and invariably marked by balanced judgment, rectitude of feeling, and nobility of intention.
The outstanding qualities that so widely endeared him to all unions of artists and professionals in our city made him a distinguished syndicate chairman and administrative head. President of the Union of Artists and Professionals from its foundation, secretary of the Legal Syndicate, vice-secretary of the Federation of Fascist Branches in Palermo, he was a wise organizer and promoter of every institution entrusted to his leadership.
In the Palermo law courts in particular he will be remembered for his exquisite sense of justice, which made his presence a guarantee of harmony in every decision taken.
In the administration of public affairs, as municipal assessor, commissioner of the Water Board, chairman of the governing body of the hospital, member of the governing council of the Bank of Sicily, he displayed at all times the energy and passion with which he espoused the highest causes, born of a scrupulous and lofty sense of responsibility.
The unfailing trust he earned among party leaders for his dignified conduct of the most delicate Fascist and Syndicalist functions in the province was to him the cherished reward for his disinterested and devoted work as a party official.
The grief of his afflicted family is therefore shared by the great family of Artists and Professionals in Palermo, by whom he will always be remembered as an example and a guide.
Around his mortal remains today are dipped the banners of fascism and of syndicalism in Palermo, just as around his memory are gathered the grieving thoughts of all who knew him and were enabled to appreciate his noble qualities.
The solemn honors which will be rendered to Giuseppe Bruno today will be a fitting testimony to these feelings.
The body, lying in state at the Union of Artists and Professionals, has been since yesterday evening the focus of a devoted pilgrimage on the part of the principal Fas. cist and Syndicalist leaders and officials, as well as a wide range of representatives from the various categories of professional people and artists.
Conveyed late yesterday afternoon to the headquarters of the union, the body has been the object of an allnight vigil by Young Fascists, and from nine in the morning all the representatives of the Unions of Artists and Professionals will take turns in mounting guard until the cortege moves off.
The funeral will be attended by the party leaders and officials, and all the unions, led by the flag bearers, secretaries, and presidents of the individual directories.
Party members will attend the funeral in Fascist uniform.
Starting from Via Caltanissetta at 16 hours, the funeral cortege will proceed along Via Liberti, Via Ruggero Settimo, Via Cavour, and Via Roma. At the home of the deceased in Via San Cristoforo, the hearse will pause a few moments for those present to pay homage to the birthplace of Giuseppe Bruno. The cortege will disperse in Piazza Giulio Cesare (at theCentral Station~ with the Fascist salute.
On receipt of these fatal tidings, the Union of Artists and Professionals wished to give immediate expression to their profound grief, and arranged for General Officer Gennaro Vitelli, president of the Union of Artists and Professionals in Messina, to represent them.
The ceremony in honor of the late lamented Advocate Giuseppe Bruno will be combined with the funeral of Antonino Speciale, accountant to the secretariat of the Legal Syndicate, who yesterday was also suddenly taken from his loving family and from all those in the legal world who so highly valued his work.
The body of Accountant Antonino Speciale is also lying in a funeral chamber in the Union of Artists and Professionals, watched over by Young Fascists and by the police.
The judge had placed this report, together with the next
day a escribing the solemn "obsequies," in a file labeled "Nonexistence of the Crimes for Which Judgment upon the Man Accused of them Is Entrusted to the Second Session of the Superior Court of Palermo"; and he would have liked to take the sad jest further and insert the file among the documents of the trial, fantasizing about a possible, or impossible, incrimination of the newspaper and the reporter. To what legal "dictum," properly or by analogy, could one resort to incriminate them? Fantasies, to which the judge (often succumbed, juridical daydreams in a scheme of things that, while leaving the letter of the law intact, destroyed its substance.
In the report that we have extracted from this file there
was only one point you could call a wink and a nod from the e
reader, from the voluntary slave to the involuntary slave: and
this was the word "fatal," which, strictly in its dictionary
meaning, might be defended to the hierarchy simply for its sense
of grievous and doomed undeniability, for pleonastically, every
death is "fatal"; but not one of its readers would have failed to
recognize its sense the dark, violent, and bloody deed they were
choosing to hide.
When the trial began, in fact at the very first session, in a flash of childish fancy born of the many fairy tales that had marked his childhood, some funny, some frightening, the judge kept thinking what a good thing it would be to possess the power, some magic gift, to make the defendant invisible. To be precise, he did not think it: it was as if his thoughts were brushed, even suffused, for a moment by something vague and fleeting from a world of memory and dream, memory melting into dream. Sometimes it was only the flash of an object-a ring. Turn it around on the finger, and the man would vanish from the witness box, where he stood talking calmly with the two carabinieri at every pause in the proceedings. So that at times the judge was annoyed to catch himself twisting his wedding ring on his finger.
The man made him terribly uneasy; almost as if, while unconsciously soliciting and at times unbearably stimulating it, he prevented the dialogue with reason to which the judge was accustomed. And his instinct was to rub him out, as if from a drawing in which an allegorical representation of lifeof the terrifying side of life: passions, violence, pain-became unbalanced by the excessive realism of this figure. An incongruous note. An error.
But the drawing from which to erase him and the magic ring to make him invisible were, as he knew to his great irritation, a transference, an alibi, an attempt to escape from the word and the judgment upon this man that the law expected of him. Therefore to yield to this instinct would be to take on the mantle of the Rocco doctrine, an acceptance that is total and unhesitating in those who demand the return of capital punishment and, when they have got it, want it to apply not only to murderers but also to rapists, pickpockets, and chicken thieves, especially when they are the victims of the theft. But it could also be that those in favor of capital punishment were prompted by a sort of primordial, larval aestheticism. Aesthetic in two ways: because they wanted life cleansed and liberated from all extreme human degradation, that is, from those who have killed for degrading passions and degrading motives and in degrading ways (deceit, be trayal) and must be considered unfit to live; and because, sometimes having witnessed it but usually in their imagina tion, they see the ordered ritual violence of this death-dealing, th its savage but considerate rules, as a pure spectacle, ost a fiction, assuming the death-dealers are concerned only to perform it well and the recipient only to accept its inevitability and behave well. In short, what Stendhal called the sublime conceived by ignoble minds, when likening the torments depicted by Pomarancio and Tempesta in a church in Rome to the spectacle of the guillotine in action. And indeed, at every session, the judge felt an occasional stab of something ignoble, a contraction, pause, suspended animation as in a dream, the vertiginous horror and fascination of void or abyss. It never lasted, but the uneasiness lingered. He had been allotted a case in which even the most just and serene of men, those most illuminated by what the theolo- ,.'ren '~-ns call Grace and laymen Reason, must come to terms with the darkest, most secret part of himself: in fact, the most ignoble.
And then he was disturbed in a sort of gut reaction, a
horror of the flesh rather than the mind, by the dagger lying on a corner of the table at which the clerk went on and on writing-never lifting his bald head, spectacles thick as bottle glass-as if it were not he producing the writing but the writing producing him, like an excrescence. Placed on a sheet of newspaper-from his high seat the judge could read the banner headline: THE DUCE TO FRANCO ON THE FIRST ANNIMERSARY OF HIS NOMINATION AS HEAD OF THE SPANISH STATE-the dagger, rusty with traces of blood, reminded him of the defendant's words at the first interrogation, the one with the police commissioner- "I had already envisaged the rash acts I committed today, in that, at the time when I was no longer receiving my salary, I bought fifty cartridges for the revolver. I also bought a hunting knife ... and in the same period I took a bayonet I had in the house to be sharpened by a knife sharpener in the Via Beati Paoli" (the right name, thought the judge, for a street in which to sharpen a dagger, a weapon of which that legendary sect made frequent and, according to people of the same persuasion as the accused, perfectly justified use). Determined to carry out the punishment he had "envisaged" (all his experience with lawyers and magistrates failed to alert him to the fact that he was confessing premeditation), he had collected the bayonet that morning, paying the knife sharpener one lira for sharpening it and shortening it to the size of a dagger, and had put it into the belt of his trousers, in the pocket of which he already had a pistol and twenty-five cartridges. But he had chosen the dagger as the murder weapon; he said he meant to use the pistol to kill himself.
Why the dagger? Looking at it on the clerk's table, then looking up at the defendant, the judge answered his own question with a definition that was already in a book, but one that he would never read, by a writer whose name he would hear, perhaps, but only his name at the very end of his life: "It is more than a simple metal object; men conceived and forged it to a precise end; in a sense it is eternal: the dagger that killed a man last night in Tacuarembó, or the daggers that killed Caesar. It is meant to kill, to strike without warning, to shed blood still pulsing." Exactly what the judge was thinking, but he extended the thought, opening it out into a fan of somber images and memories that were part of him, just as suffering the consequences of a whole year of malaria was part of him: the Arditi shock troops arriving at the front for some night sortie demanding silence and surprise, armed only with daggers. The snipping of shears at barbed wire seemed to expand and echo like an alarm in the darkness of the night, and sometimes the alarm was really sounded in the enemy trench, so that the Arditi crawling toward it were met by a sudden burst of rifle and machine-gun fire. But the actions were usually successful, and when the Arditi returned and the infantry moved forward-a hundred, two hundred yards-to occupy the conquered enemy
re were the beardless Austrian soldiers stabbed in their sleep or in their sudden, alarmed awakening. It was like a vision, slowly revealed by the dawning light, those soldiers lying on their backs, blood trickling from their mouths: one of the worst atrocities of the war for the beardless Italian soldier called up in the autumn of 1917. And what of the song of the Fascist squads that ended with a promise of "bombs, bombs and the dagger's caress"? And the multiple stabbing Matteotti.
"The dagger's caress": how can you accept, help, applaud a
faction that promises such things to those who reject it?
0ne might also formulate a "detective story" hypothesis, which on the one hand aggravated the notion of premeditation, on the other gave the benefit of the doubt about the wickedness of the defendant , which seemed so profound, stubborn, and unfathomable. It went like this: that his use of the dagger was prompted not by perversity but by a wish to experience the pleasure of killing close up, in a sort of deadly intimacy. Having "envisaged" three killings, at different places and times, he may have reckoned that shooting, at the first or second, might have attracted attention that would prevent him from completing the slaughter "envisaged." He could have used the pistol for the third, but granted that he had also "envisaged" the place where he would commit suicide, then he needed a little time to get there. But the judge had only to glance at this hypothesis for it to evaporate. Perhaps he had thought that nothing remained but suicide, once the slaughter was consummated. But without conviction, as if judging someone else's actions and fate, something quite apart from him, his being, or his being there. For someone else who had done what he had done, the only open door would be suicide; but maybe he saw himself standing over the three bodies as if in one of those foolish photographs of a day's hunting- the slaughter was fulfilled, and in the great hereafter his victims knew the price of opposing him-or at least they had found out at the moment of death. In the dock, between the two
carabinieri, he was forever assuming expressions and attitudes that were both swaggering and servile. And these expressions and attitudes moved the judge to seek something in his case akin to what the penal code called "extenuating circumstances of a generic nature." In his swaggering, servile way, the man might be considered the product of an ambience, almost of a whole city, in which servants were allowed a more swaggering style than their masters. "Capital city of Sicily, seat of the King, distinguished by the title of Archbishopric, renowned among all authors, both ancient and modern, for the amenity of its spacious position, the excellence of its citizens . . ." And this was the snag, the false note, the impasse: the excellence of the citizens. About two thousand noble families, and many of improbable nobility, were concentrated in Sicily in the eighteenth century; and out of102,106 "souls," if you take away the masters, what souls do you expect the rest to be, if not servants?
In the legal and judicial undergrowth in which everything, in such a city, is indefinably entangled-as a coefficient, pure number, eluding all measure and measurement-the defendant had undeniably wielded a certain power. In those days when accounts and matrimony were both held sacred, his life could not be called irreproachable, and among his peers his temperament was far from gentle. But he had been awarded the cross of Cavaliere della Corona d'Italia, and he enjoyed the esteem, one might even say familiarity, of magistrates, lawyers, and artists. When called to testify in his favor, most of them maintained a cautious approach: they had no complaints, he had always behaved "with deference" toward them. The mayor of Palermo, however, had more to admit, so he pleaded the burden of his office, or offices, to
avoid testifying in court. But the court issued an order for him to appear: and this was the first sign that they were not going to be impressed by the hierarchy, from the mayor up, or what the Russians apparently -call the nomenclatura. So the mayor climbed into the witness box, swore the oath, and admitted that he addressed the defendant as "my dear fellow," called him tu, and had insisted on his being included in the roll of honor of NOMI, the National Organization for the protection of Mothers and Infants: which had a rather macabre ring in the courtroom, considering that the defendant had stabbed the mother of his children. And the defendant had been an associate not only of NOMI, at the express demand of the mayor, but also of the Society for the Protection of Animals, of the Italian Red Cross, of the National Artistic Institute of Fashion, of the Fascist Colonial Institute, of the National Tenants' Association, of the Azzurri di Dalmazia, a national association of war volunteers: all this either to satisfy people, like the mayor, who wanted him on their side; or because he had a mania for joining and holding membership cards. We don't know if he really was an associate of the Sicilian Society for the History of the Fatherland, whose president had nominated him inspector of the Risorgimento Museum: "in view of your evident patriotism, I beg you on behalf of the board of directors to accept the appointment." In short, he had been involved in so many activities; he had had so many friends. And out of the many documents in the investigation, the judge remembered one that stressed his active and ardent pursuit of friendship, presumably not unprofitable, since the real open doors of the city were those that only friendship could open: perhaps it was a report by the carabinieri. The carabinieri! Those ungrammatical reports of theirs, with their shaky spelling and the curiously "posh" courtroom language that seemed to
have evolved from memories of Dante or the opera (with words
surfacing every now and then from the southern dialects they were
trying to disguise and smothery those reports, thought the judge,
were the only truths current in Italy. Not all of them and not
always, of course: but you could trust almost all of them, almost
always. Just to look at the carabinieri gave him a certain
childish sense of security. Perhaps it went back to that
childhood game in which the world was divided apodictically
between cops and robbers, and nobody much wanted to be the
robbers. And in the squalid, ill-lit courtroom, where everything
was so worn and damp that you feared some sort of contagion, and
the stale smell made you think of the lives of Inquisition
victims that had macerated there, or the macerating and moldering
of documents macerating other human destinies-even in this
courtroom the two carabinieri in their grand uniforms standing at
his shoulders gave him a sense of security and, whenever he
glanced around at them, of repose and visual refreshment. Blue,
red, and silver: vivid colors in this dead and dusty air. And he
privately acknowledged a weakness for their grand uniforms:
again, a childish weakness, but the adult and judge added the
bitter rider that it would be difficult-or at least difficult to
imagine-for carabinieri in grand uniforms to set about torturing
From the many friends he had had, from the many relatives he had helped, from the many people who had shown their esteem for him and who, especially of late, had tried to help him hold on to his job, the defendant now listened to cautious testimonies that so distanced him from their lives that they seemed to be making an effort to remember ever having known him. And in this attitude, according to each man's social standing, two sentiments were at play: one was rather ignoble, dictated by the fear of compromising themselves politically; the other an instinctive repugnance and recoil from a man who, in these three murders that had all the appearance of cold premeditation, had proved to be a "beast," as the prosecution lawyers thundered ("The Man-Beast of Palermo" would later be the title of Lawyer Filippo Ungaro's protest to the court of cassation calling for a review of the verdict). It hardly needs saying that the first of these two sentiments prompted the people who had something to lose by compromising themselves politically; and the second, almost to the exclusion of the first, those who had little or nothing to lose and simply felt a horror of the "beast."
Although the newspapers gave no information, the time, place, and manner of the three killings were known in minute detail, and more besides: things said to be certain that, on the contrary, if not imaginary were at least dubious.
In the murder of the wife, one detail that seemed to the judge dubious and, however he resolved it, extremely disturbing, to the general public had become a terrible cerbefore stabbing her, the defendant had made his wife say her prayers, for a good death, so to speak. But the facts should be reported, briefly at least.
After collecting the dagger from the knife. sharpener, the defendant had hired a car, a Balilla to be precise, and had returned home to tell his wife he was going to Piana degli Albanesi (the Fascists had foolishly changed the name Albanians to Greeks) to collect the children, who were staying with relatives. His wife, the defend'ant maintained, chose to go with him-but according to the prosecution, it was he who invited her to come, which seemed quite probable, if he had already "envisaged" the slaughters and had the dagger with him. During the journey they quarreled as usual; and since, in his nervous irritation, he had jerked the wheel and bumped a mudguard, they got out of the car, and as his wife on nagging, the "rash" act occurred. But just as it seemed unlikely that the wife had insisted on accompanying him, so it seemed quite incredible that things had happened as the defendant maintained: the car owner testified that there was no trace of a bump on the mudguards; and a peasant from Piana had recognized the dead woman as the lady , had seen praying at a roadside shrine. He had been struck by this well-dressed lady on her knees, praying, while a well-dressed man, a little way off, was strolling about near a car;
then, hearing of a body that had been found in that area, he had gone to the police station at Piana to report what he had seen. The defendant denied it: either because he really had behaved as judge and executioner, pronouncing the death sentence upon his wife and giving her a chance to put herself right with the hereafter (he was a very devout man; year before, he had had his family dedicated to the Heart of Jesu by a monsignore, a sub-cantor at the cathedral); or because he felt that this detail of a lady kneeling at prayer on a country road, suggested submission on her part rather than a resumption of their quarrel; or because he felt that killing her immediately after seeing her at prayer somehow made his act seem more solemn and barbarous. Or for the last two reasons together. And the judge oscillated between them, desperately wanting to exclude the one the public took to be certain: that he had cruelly communicated the sentence to his wife, cruelly offered her this celestial chance, then cruelly stabbed her.
A striking feature of the second murder was the cold hypocrisy, the lying, the treachery with which poor Speciale, the accountant, had been drawn into the fatal trap. The defendant had called for him it home, with a friendly smile and a credible pretext to go to the office together: and there, face-to-face he had stabbed him, then, according to the charge, contrived to lock the office door from inside and get out b some other door or window (the topographical description in the report was rather confused), thus delaying the discovery of the body long enough for him to strike down Lawyer Bruno, who was still unaware of what had happened in the office. But in the defendant's mind, as well as a calculated plan, killing Speciale in the office where, he thought, by sly pimping and prodding the man had coaxed Lawyer Bruno to give him the defendant's job was part of an almost symbolic design, a rite. However, although the offices were deserted at that hour, someone was about: hearing a cry as
the man was stabbed to death, he had run up the stairs and bumped into the defendant on his way down; asked what had happened, the latter had answered casually: "A joker," like Hamlet saying as he killed Polonius: "A rat."
The incident had been included in the police report, but it was when he heard it spoken in evidence that this sudden automatic, and in a sense gratuitous, surfacing of Hamlet' riposte seemed to draw the judge almost unconsciously close to the defendant. The sordid matter of the trial, the brutal and bloody misery of the facts, began to lift and take on the guise of tragedy. And why deny it the name of tragedy, if such passions were involved, revealed to the defendant by a ghostly apparition of despair that cried out for vengeance?
Except that the law does not admit such phantoms; it would
not even have admitted them in Hamlet's case, if he had found
himself on the level of the law and not above it: which, the
judge recalled, was the difference one of his teachers, speaking
of Alfieri, had postulated between tragedy and drama: tragedy was
what took place in a sphere where law was powerless, drama what
was subordinated to the vigor and the law; not an exhaustive
definition, but quite useful academically. The law admits only
one phantom which is madness. Only then does it stand back from
the crime, refrain from judgment, leaving it instead to the
psychiatrist and turning the punishment, in theory (for in fact
it is quite another matter), into care.
Lawyer Bruno enjoyed considerable authority and prestige in Palermo, as well as being a popular and respected figure. The spectacular pomp of his funeral, to which the coffin of poor Accountant Speciale was admitted but from which the first victim's was carefully exeluded, had been a demonstration of the unanimous affection and grief of the city, and of their unanimous loathing of the author of these atrocities. So when called upon by the Public Prosecutor's Office to undertake the official defense of the accused, some lawyers had refused, pleading the ties of friendship and grief that still bound them to the late lamented Lawyer Bruno. But when the defendant did manage to find a "family lawyer," as they say, why on earth did the latter not make an immediate appeal that the trial should be transferred to a superior court away from Palermo, on the grounds of legittima suspicione that he would not get a fair hearing at the scene of the crime? And granted that it was late to plead legittima suspicione, why on earth did they not call for psychiatric assessment of the defendant at the start of the proceedings? In his submission to the court of cassation Lawyer Ungaro was later to say: "It should be noted that not once in the proceedings did the defense request psychiatric assessment, clearly indicating their conviction that the defendant had throughout retained the ability to understand and to will his actions." A fine argument for the prosecution, but it really does nothing to explain why an appeal so obvious and basic in a trial of this kind was overlooked or omitted. Whatever judgment a lawyer may nurse in his heart of hearts about the man he has accepted to defend, his duty is precisely to defend him by all the means the law allows.
Considering that the defendant felt he had gleaned a fair sprinkling of the law from his time spent in the judicial and notarial mifl, the fact that psychiatric assessment was not requested as the hearing went on more or less convinced the judge it must be the man's own decision. Fierce, twisted, and desperate self-love that had gone beyond control. "Amour propre lives by all extremes ... it even crosses over to the side of its enemies, enters into their designs, and-in a wonderful way-joins them in hating itself, plots its own destruction, works for its own ruin: in short, is concerned only to exist and, in order to exist, adapts to becoming its own enemy." In a wonderful way, says La Rochefoucauld: and taking away from the wonderful its sense of wonder and amazement, the jydge gave it the sense of wondering, examining, scrutinizing-which is precisely the role of the psychiatrist. If, then, in his madness, the defendant refused to
be relegated to the sphere of madness, the defense could,
indeed should, have put forward the request, at the risk of
his opposition. But perhaps the defense, too, had only a
common, banal notion of madness: madness without method,
without calculation, inconsequential; while there is a sort
of madness in which only the first link is faulty and the rest is methodical, calculated, and consequential, and the first is usually the link of self-love in relation to an enemy.
One must also bear in mind, thought the judge, that whether it was refused by the defendant or neglected by the defense, the very fact of applying for psychiatric assessment at this stage, even if the court accepted it, would provoke a storm of derision in the prosecution ranks and in public opinion, which might prejudice the result. But the fact remains that this man lacks the two elements that should have been the mainstay of the defense: legittima suspicione, which defense lawyers often prefer to call "an atmosphere of raging passion," and psychiatric assessment. And so, thinking over the technicalities of the trial and linking certain moments in it with things he had read, or thought about things he had read, the little judge drew imperceptibly closer to the defendant, to his fierce, twisted humanity, to his madness: in short, as was his duty, seeing him with painful clarity.
One thing that troubled him somewhat was the part played in all this by his own aversion to fascism (even if he refused to consider himself an anti-fascist, merely opposing to fascism his personal dignity in thought and action). He could not fail to recognize that if, instead of Lawyer Bruno, one of the three victims had been a cousin of the defendant (they had always hated each other) or just any other clerk in the office, the trial would have proceeded aseptically in a more or less routine way, though still involving for him, of course, the problem of not leading to the death penalty. But Lawyer Bruno belonged to a corporation and was its chief representative in the provinces: the corporation must inevitably rise up with all its might and means to bring down the maximum penalty upon the guilty person, fascism or no fascism. Any corporation will react with exasperation against any threat to its security, even in the sphere of opinion; just imagine the reaction to a criminal attack against a corporation of lawyers (or judges), whose natural habitat is law. So the corporate closing of ranks against the, defendant was perfectly natural and spontaneous and would have occurred even in a free system. But in fact it was a fascist idea, at the core of fascist thinking, that the death penalty was, so to speak, an innate part of its existence, its security and its defense, suspended over any possible opposition and ready, before or beyond judgment, to fall upon anyone who offended the party in any way. Thus, after about forty years, the death penalty had been reintroduced in Italy, in defense of the Fascist State, and had been imposed upon those intending, simply intending, an attempt upon the life of Mussolini. Then it had been extended to the most serious nonpolitical crimes, but the
political stamp remained, so that the solemn funeral ordained
by the Fascist organizations, and by the party itself, then the
appointment as counsel for the prosecution of the honorable
Dr. Alessandro Pavolini, in the name and interests of the
Fascist Union of Artists and Professionals, these were already
a death sentence for the defendant, the superior court being
summoned only as a matter of form and ceremony. And in
all this the judge recognized that his aversion to fascism
played a part, and rightly so; but he tried to contain it,
telling himself it was not altogether true if, as judge in this
trial, he was consulting only his own conscience and his own
"dignity." But each day increased a sense, like an indefinable
(all too clearly definable) threat, of isolation and growing
solitude. A question from his wife had made it painful to the
point of obsession. They had never discussed his work, that
weight of papers and scruples he carried with him even at home,
in the hours he spent shut away in his study among his books. So
he was startled by the sudden question, one day at table: "Will
he be condemned?" She certainly meant would he be condemned to
death: fearing fie would, he chose to think. But the suspicion
that she, like all the rest, felt it was right that he should
die, and that any other verdict would be an absolution, gnawed at
him insidiously, especially as she looked reassured and appeased
when he replied: "Of course he will."
There was, however, in the jury drawn for this trial, in a few of the jurors (the law at that time required that they be called assessors), some scarcely perceptible sign of human tenderness. Not toward the defendant-none could rise to that-but toward life, the things of life, its order and disorder. As with the homosexuals in a famous page of Proust-though here it had nothing to do with homosexuality-it is given to some happy or unhappy men, in sensitivity, intelligence, and thought, to meet, recognize, and choose one another.
Five selected jurors, one substitute. Three were tradesmen and betrayed their anxiety for the business they had left they lamented the fact. Of the others, one was a municipal clerk, one a teacher of Latin and Greek in a grammar school, one a farmer. These three were selected members, as were two of the tradesmen, one of whom, despite an absent look apparently intent upon following from afar what was going on in the "colonial grocer's," as they were then called, which his wife and son were running in his absence, also had a sharp ear and a quick understanding for what was going on in the court. But the other four were attentive, too, quietly attentive, and shrewd. The substitute, on the other hand showed a certain inattention and impatience, and an occasional spasm of boredom; he felt useless and as if trapped there by a whim of the presiding judge.
With three of them-the "colonial grocer," the farmer, and the teacher-the judge had established a rapport, an afflatus, an understanding; over and above the few words they exchanged every day and one might even say through the silences their eyes exchanged every now and then, durthe hearings and in the meetings in the council chamber. with the farmer. He had the tanned face of a peasant, large peasant hands, a peasant's proverbs and metars: but one day the judge heard him talking to the teacher about the codex of Daphnis and Chloe at the Laurenziana the blot of ink Courier had left on it. Sometimes, for e people, the name of a writer, the title of a book, can out like the name of one's homeland: this was the effect judge of the name of Courier, in whose Complete Works, found in the lumber room of a relative who did not what to do with them, he had begun to spell out French
logic, French and law.
One day toward the end of the trial, when he got home, doorman gave him an envelope that seemed to contain a card: a large sealed envelope, with neither his name nor that e bearer or sender on it. "He told me it was for you, wouldn't say from whom. I insisted, but he said you And as if by way of apology: "He looked a decent fellow, tall, face like a peasant; dressed like a farmer Sunday best." Like all those born in a back alley in
Palermo, the doorman felt a certain scorn for country people,
even if he considered them, more for the simplicity of their minds than for the piety of their lives, decent Christians. The judge knew who it was. And when he opened the envelope and looked inside, good Christian seemed a fair definition of the bearer- between two pieces of card was an old popular woodcut. Nothing else: not a note, not a word. It was a picture of a Madonna, crowned by two angels, between two saints, one of whom was clearly Saint John. The group was ethereal, radiating shafts of light, held up by clouds that, to tell the truth, looked like shapeless lumps of stone. Below were a little church, a bridge with two small trees, four figures praying in the flames of purgatory, a guillotine, a gallows with a man dangling from it, and the words: "The Society of the Souls of the Beheaded." The judge TeMCMbered: the image referred to one of the most obscure and spontaneous cults that had grown up in the Catholic Church in Sicily at a certain time: never officially encouraged, perhaps, but certainly widely tolerated. Tolerance for the souls of the beheaded had reached the point that the word "holy" had slipped in, and the cult of the souls in purgatory had merged with that of the souls of the beheaded- "the holy souls of the beheaded," an expression not admitted and not seen in writing, but predominant in common speech and common worship. Indeed, in the village where he was born, and to which he returned on holidays, the judge remernbered the little Church of the Holy Souls, very much like the one in the woodcut. It must have been built for the holy souls in purgatory-all the inhabitants of the village through the centuries, since nobody would admit that even the most distant of his forebears could be anywhere in the hereafter but in purgatory; but at some point the souls of the beheaded had begun to take possession, so that the little church, at the end of the inhabited world, inspired those who approached it after dark with terrifying visions of beheaded (head in hand) all hanged men, and the fact that these specters were guardian spirits, preserving passersby to whom they appeared from all violence, did not prevent their causing such terror as to make the hair stand on end or even turn white.
The movement toward such a cult must have started in the second half of the sixteenth century, when the White Company was formed to comfort the condemned, praying with them to the last, then continuing to intercede for their with prayers and masses. Considering that the coned were at first denied any religious consolation, the history of religion had taken a step forward. As had the history of Reason, since one Palermo writer, like Guicciardini Wiving "memoirs" to his children, particularly recommended a son who was entering upon a legal career not to prescribe torture or flogging, and never to condemn to death "for whatsoever."
And now the judge had gone searching in the disorder his many books for the little volume of Christian Admonitions by Argisto Giuffredi, written five or six years before his tragic death in 1591. He found the passage at once, as folded down the corner of the page about ten years "I know full well," said Giuffredi, "that this will seem to you an extravagant opinion"; and it certainly must e seemed so, two centuries before Beccaria. How had Giuffredi arrived at that "extravagant" idea? Speaking of most common torture of the time, the rope, he states his
n quite clearly: "for that, apart from the danger a man
put in, by confessing, of dying, he is also put in danger of breaking his neck, by, as I have sometimes seen, the breaking rope or the beam to which it is attached: and be advised that today this use of the rope has come to such a pass that, where formerly it was not applied unless with those evidences or testimonies which today, as if certain proofs, incur the ultimate penalty: the rope is now ordered for such shallow evidences that it is a disgrace . . ." Giuffredi evidently feared the effects of torture on the innocent: perhaps because he, too, had been an innocent victim of torture, we do not know on what accusation, and had been on the point of confessing guilt; and as for the disgrace of resorting to it too freely, the judge thought- "just like today, in the squads of the polizia giudiziaria and it is a disgrace for us judges." And Giuffredi's radical aversion to capital punishment followed naturally upon his aversion to torture and flogging, but perhaps there was another reason, private and more an. guished: the condemning to death, perhaps innocently, of a beautiful lady who held a sort of literary salon in the town, and with whom Giuffredi, as a young man, may have been in love (if not, why had the other Palermo poets dedicated to him the verses they wrote upon the death of the beautiful lady?).
He left his reading of Giuffredi to look for another book he had suddenly remembered: by Pitrè, on the cult of the souls of the beheaded. He had always loved to unravel a thread of spontaneous curiosity through his books and in his thoughts, ever since he had had dealings with books: which was why his brothers, whose relations with books required will power and effort, thought him a time-waster. But he knew how much he had gained from those wasted hours and days; and anyway, he had always taken pleasure in it.
Here was the Pitrè: twenty pages, all about that cult. But
he gave no answer to the questions why. Why in Sicily, why in
that century, why the contradiction of flocking to the so-called
judgments as if to festivals, then conferring sanctity on the
condemned? He began to answer his own questions: but we leave it
to each reader to seek his own answers.
A few Years before, a grand celebration in honor of great Sicilians had been ordained by the regime: one of those contradictions forced upon fascism by its need in some respect to come to terms with the reality, the history, and the habits of the Italians. They were opposed to regionalism, but so that certain regions should not feel forgotten-as indeed they were-they set about exalting the men who were born there and who in spite of being born great and less great alike, bad been blissfully indifferent to the birthplace or had held a distinctly low opinion of it. Sicily had not realized she had so many great sons: visiting academics from mainland Italy came to remind her. But she continued in ignorance of Argiswto Giuffredi, whose greatness consisted chiefly in a private "memoir" against torture, public corporal punishment, and the death penalty: a "memoir" that had emerged in 1896 from an archive manuscript, but
that must certainly not be remembered at a time when Italy was full of such pernicious nonsense as this by an idealist philosopher: "even death may be considered not in vain, if
given or restored to the guilty man one hour, one moment, of that contact with the infinite that he had lost." A stupendous notion, that might perhaps have suggested to a tyTant like Falaride (see Diodoro Siculo) the murderous whim of putting that philosopher in contact with infinity right away; but Mussolini's tyranny consisted of less murderous, quite modest caprices. It is worth remembering the pun on Plato and platoon by the sculptor and wit Marino Mazzacurati, when he dubbed an idealist philosopher who had gone over to Marxism (without ever, I suspect, losing sight of his contact with the infinite) Il Platone d'esecuzione. And he, alas, was not the only Plato turned executioner, nor could one say the line of such philosophers has ended.
But to return to the judge: the day after the anonymous gift of the woodcut, as he was donning his robe and the jurors their tricolor sashes, he asked the farmer in an absentminded way: "Do you know Giuffredi's Christian Admonitions?" Looking slightly embarrassed ana confused, the juror said he did. And to make the signal more explicit, the judge added"I reread some passages yesterday, and then a chapter Oi Pitrè's Customs and Usages. - The juror nodded, as if approving his reading matter.
That morning there was to be some excitement in the courtroom. As we have seen, the Public Prosecutor's Office had insisted that the police produce the picture of Matteotti found in the defendant's house. But now that they had it, the very fact of their insistence upon having it put them in the thorny position of having to confront the defendant with it. And he was perhaps more frightened of this than of the impending penalty for three murders confessed in all their 64envisaging": clearly, and with the most damning effect, he could think of nothing better than to lie.
The minutes on the interrogation had already been closed, but the prosecutor, who bad vacillated about it, obviously decided at the last minute to go ahead, which meant that the clerk, after writing "read, confirmed, and signed," had added: "and before the signing, the defendant stated in er to a question: 'It is true there may have been a photograph
Giacomo Matteotti in my house. It was passed on to me by Bruno long after the Matteotti episode was closed. Infact, this is how it came into my hands: from time to time he used to give me all the magazines and papers he no longer needed, which might include anything sent to his office: adI vertisements for hotels, invitations to conferences, etc. One day this photo of Matteotti was in the bundle. I took them home and forgot all about it.' " The prosecutor did not pursue the matter; he had achieved his objective: that the politicians should not say he had failed to understand the gravity of keeping a picture of Matteotti in the house, and those still attached to legality should not say he had failed to underfalmd the law. As if to say: I have taken note of the matter but cannot turn it into a charge; the superior court judges can deal with it as they choose, or as best they can. Just two links in the chain of transferring and off-loading responsibility, which, for people whose lives are entangled in the Italian judicial system, tends to be an endless one, coming to resemble, in some cases, the idealist philosopher's contact with infinity.
The superior court dealt with it according to the law; the
of Matteotti could not be considered criminal evidence; moreover, the fact that the defendant kept it at home not even been mentioned as a crime in the case for the prosecution. It was as if the prosecutor had asked for it out of some personal, private curiosity. That it added a further count of grave and offensive amorality against the defendant was an opportunity the prosecution did not let slip. But judges, lawyers on both sides, and spectators at the trial alike had no doubt about the truth of the matter: in his mania for joining, belonging, siding with anything that was, or might shortly become, powerful, the defendant, like the keen lotto player he was, had played the number of fascism on the wane and socialism on the rebound; and in his mania for hoarding, he had kept the picture of Matteotti when it had become not only a losing card but dangerous enough to ruin a man and cost him his freedom and his job. Political exile; instant dismissal by the state authorities, without gratuity or pension. The judge remembered a case very close to him: a distant relative who had lost his job as an elementary school master and had been unable to get another because he gave a lira toward the Matteotti monument in the summer Of 1924 and had been given that photo as a sort of receipt. A man of fifty, he would drift silently around the house, and only the name of Mussolini would provoke, as a conditioned reflex, the exclamation: "That murderer has ruined me."
All the jurors wore the Fascist badge in their buttonholes, but if you had asked any one of them in confidence if he felt he was a Fascist, he would have answered with a hesitant yes; and if you had asked again, even more confidentially, among friends, and added "really," it is likely that one of them would have given an outright no, while the others would have avoided a yes: not out of caution but in all sincerity. They had never faced up to the problem of judging fascism as a whole, just as they had never judged Catholicism. They had been baptized and confirmed, had arrange baptisms and confirmations, had got married in church (those that were married), and had sent for the priest for dying relatives, And they carried a Fascist card and wore a Fascist badge. But there were Plenty of things they disapproveodlicos -in the Catholic Church. And plenty in fascism. Catholics, Fascists. But while the Catholic Church stood there, massive and firm as a rock, so that they could always call themselves Catholics in the same way, fascism did not: it was always in a state of flux, changing, and changing their-ever-decreasing-sense of being Fascists. It was happening all over Italy for most Italians. Acceptance of the Fascist regime, which had been solid for at least ten years, was beginning to crack and weaken. The conquest of Ethiopia was all very well: though they couldn't understand how on earth aconquered empire meant, for the conquerors, a growing shortage of things that had been plentiful, at least for those who could afford them. And then why on earth had Mussolini got involved in the Spanish war and in an ever-closer friendship with Hitler? Although they went on repeating, more and
more wearily, the hyperbole about sleeping with open doors, was the open door of the Brenner Pass that was beginning them: even if armies were not about to pour through it, looting and laying waste, it seemed as if veritable flocks of ill omen were already sweeping through. The fact was, things were going from bad to worse. And the "quiet life" to which people had anxiously aspired for centuries was beginning to appear ever more remote and unattainable. The Fascist party was becoming more and more obliging to insiders and harsher to outsiders. And this impatience, widespread throughout Italy at different levels of awareness, was active at different levels in the six jurors, too, although it had little to do with the trial, except, somewhat tenuously, for the fact that it was required in this case, for this man, not only because his crimes....