La mascherata is a novel by Alberto Moravia, published in 1941, during Italian fascist era. It is set in an imaginary dictatorship in Latin America. It is clearly a book against dictatorship. This fact certainly did not go unnoticed by the Italian fascist censorship. What were their reactions?

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In 1954, Moravia was interviewed by two journalists from The Paris Review. With the usual caveats concerning personal reminiscences, he gave a quite detailed account of the censors' response to La Mascherata, which was actually of surprising timidity (he characterised the censors as being mainly "underpaid grammar school teachers" unwilling to make difficult decisions), until Mussolini himself initially authorised the book to be published before changing his mind and banning it.

The full interview is available at this blog. Towards the end of the interviewer, the reporters ask about La Mascherata, and how it managed to get past the censors. Moravia replies:

[I]n 1940, I went to Capri and wrote it. What happened afterward — you asked about the censors — is an amusing story. At least it seems amusing now. It was 1940. We were in the full flood of war, Fascism, censorship, et cetera, et cetera. The manuscript, once ready, like all manuscripts, had to be submitted to the Ministry of Popular Culture for approval. This Ministry, let me explain, was overrun by grammar-school teachers who received three hundred lire, about six or seven thousand now, for each book they read. And, of course, to preserve their sinecures, whenever possible they turned in negative judgments. Well, I submitted the manuscript. But whoever read it, not wishing to take any position on the book, passed it to the Under Secretary; the Under Secretary, with similar qualms, passed it to the Secretary; the Secretary to the Minister; and the Minister, finally—to Mussolini.

On being asked "I suppose, then, you were called on the carpet?", Moravia replied:

Not at all. Mussolini ordered the book to be published... And it was. A month later, however, I received an unsigned communication notifying me that the book was being withdrawn. And that was that. The book didn’t appear again till after the Liberation.

In Spain, another fascist regime at the time, the response was much more forthright - translation of the book was immediately forbidden.

  • @Charo Are there any further aspects you would like to see commented on? Commented May 7 at 7:59

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