“Attilo Teruzzi was at the Cova on April 10, 1924, when he saw Lilliana sitting down with her parents to dine. She had just come back from Egypt. He dropped by their table to say hello. More than three months had passed since they met on the train to Rome, and as he stood there, passersby wished him well, called him ‘Your Excellency,’ squeezed his hand, and patted him on the back. Her admirer was no longer just a ‘big boss of the Milan Fascio.’ He was an elected deputy to the national parliament.”
We Meet THE PERFECT FASCIST of the Book’s Title
The Perfect Fascist in question is Attilo Teruzzi, a war veteran deeply dedicated to his Duce, as we come to understand in this historical account by Victoria de Grazia. Though Teruzzi aims to present himself as a regimented military man, he is known behind closed doors to be a philanderer. Yet what could have been a traditional history book about Fascist Italy becomes so much more when Teruzzi meets his future wife Lilliana. A headstrong American woman, she was less interested in becoming a housewife than an opera diva. The collision of these two personalities makes up the core of the book, and serves as a framing device to inform us of the historical context. We follow them on their upwards trajectory to marriage, and witness as it all comes crashing down three years later, when Teruzzi (ironically) falsely accuses Lilliana of adultery.
What was once a blossoming relationship becomes a battlefield, as Teruzzi’s efforts to divorce her involve the Church and higher powers in a battle that would last for many years.
And yet, it is around this point when, at least for this writer, the book loses its grasp on what initially made it so engaging. Tales of Lilliana’s life become somewhat stagnant as her dreams of becoming an opera diva fall to the wayside. Teruzzi’s life becomes largely entrenched in the political as opposed to the personal. How welcome the book’s end is, when we are treated to a return to form with the introduction of Teruzzi’s new partner, Yvette, and his experience of the fall of Fascist Italy.
The book’s deep entrenchment in the historical context of Fascist Italy means that this novel is not for everyone. Those who struggle with the language of academia or seek a purely personal story should look elsewhere. With that in mind, for those with a particular interest in the World War II era and viewing it from varied perspectives, this book should satisfy and enlighten.
For more information and to purchase a copy visit the Harvard University Press page about THE PERFECT FASCIST
Images courtesy of THE PERFECT FASCIST
About the Author:
Connor Grehan is a History and Film student at Vassar College. A longtime music student, he plays the French Horn, participating in the school orchestra and even a whistling a capella group. He likes to read books and play video games in his spare time, organizing tournaments and other events at school.