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"Italy - The Unfinished Revolution" provides a fascinating, surprising and sometimes shocking insight into Italian history, politics and culture, particularly that of the early 1990's. It is a study which goes deep into the general life of the Italian citizen; into what it really means to be Italian in the eyes of the author, Matt Frei, a long-standing BBC correspondent for Italy. Frei opens our eyes to a country that is a world apart from the carefree, beautiful Italy presented on the holiday programmes, and it is hard to draw oneself away from what he has to say. At the very crux of the work is the crucial Italian dilemma of being a "very old culture and a very new country", and of holding the seat of the Catholic Church. Tradition is a vital part of Italian life, and yet Italy has not been a country for very long so the customs vary greatly from region to region and industrial productivity often varies alongside that. Frei presents a country that is fragmented geographically due to its youth as a united entity; and also socially, due to the unwritten, protectionist powers of the family network. He suggests that the family cushions every individual member, which on the one hand strengthens Italian society as a whole, yet which on the other can prove to be the greatest social weakness because, if taken to the extreme, its nature is to exclude; to the extent of becoming a mafia, notably in Sicily, but to a lesser extent all over Italy.
Frei covers the subject of the mafia, the role of the family and political corruption in great detail. It shocked me to discover that one third of all Italian MPs were on trial for corruption in the early 1990's.
It shocked me even more to realise that as individuals they rarely considered themselves guilty, even after accepting charges as such, for they blamed the State or the system to an overwhelming extent, which Frei intriguingly links to the Catholic Church and to confession; to the lack of need to face your responsibilities if you can constantly demand forgiveness, as is the case in the Catholic Church.
As a result of his own personal and professional experience, Frei enlightens foreigners to Italy in a way that a native Italian would not be able to. His relatively neutral stance allows him to take a distance from what he sees and to judge it impartially, whilst being extremely knowledgeable about the country. Having grown up elsewhere, he is also aware of what is unusual in Italy, or rather; the most striking differences between Italy and Britain and the reasons for these differences, be they political, social or historical.
Excellent book which provides a wealth of knowledge into the Italian psyche ,political system,judiciary and corruption problems. The book was very well researched and written beautifully. I found it to be totally absorbing!