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296 S Epilogue By 1947 “Aethiopia: Notes for a Little Song,” the jocular annotations Flaiano had penned during the Ethiopian war, had become a novel whose title (Tempo di uccidere/A Time to Kill) expressed the problems of memory Fascism’s empire now presented. Its protagonist, an Italian officer in service in East Africa, is haunted by a crime he committed. Having accidentally wounded an Af­ri­can woman he had sex with, he kills her rather than get her medical assistance, so as to avoid discovery of his transgression of the racial laws. Although his crime is never discovered, he is unable to escape from his thoughts and becomes obsessed with the traces of his guilt that he finds everywhere: a cut on his hand that will not heal(asignoftheleprosyhethinkshehascontractedfromher),aletteraddressed to him that appears in the desert. His guilt plagues him even after he leaves Africa; his “time of killing” remains alive inside of him.1 Flaiano won Italy’s first Premio Strega for this work, but it remained an anomaly in its direct engagement with Italian crimes in the former colonies. Shame over Italy’s defeat and the desire to avoid an accounting with its violence made Fascist imperialism an uncomfortable subject. In the late 1940s, the Mediterranean was a sea of regrets for Italians, but also a barrier against colonial phantoms—albeit an unreliable one. In the tellingly titled Vivere in pace/To Live in Peace (Luigi Zampa, 1947), which relives World War II from the point of view of an Italian village, one such phantom disturbs the peace of an old peasant. When a black Ameri­can soldier enters his home, 297 Epilogue he screams, “An askaro!” clearly frightened at this apparition that evokes his time in Africa. This wish to bury memories of Africa coexisted with longings to return there—which films of the immediate postwar period could and did not address. Some of the more than four hundred thousand Italians who “repatriated” had never set foot in Italy before, and they were at times regarded with suspicion in a democratizing Italy. These ex-­ settlers took hope from the intense lobbying by Italian politicians of every po­ liti­ cal party (except the communists, but in­clud­ing the anti-­Fascists Benedetto Croce and Carlo Sforza) with the Allies for Italy to keep its colonies acquired during the liberal period. At stake here was the enduring dream of Mediterranean influence, as well as “the legitimate amor proprio of a great people,” in Sforza’s words. The 1947 Paris Peace Treaty dashed these hopes. It finalized Italy’s loss of its North and East Africa territories and gave the Dodecanese Islands back to Greece and the Istrian and Dalmatian territory to Yugoslavia, leaving Italy with only the promise of an eventual trusteeship of Somalia (1950–1960). The Paris Peace Treaty left Italians a terra in another sense as well: its Article 64 established a limit of 350 national aircraft, devastating a sector that had enjoyed a favorable balance of trade and international acclaim for a half century. The release of an aviation-­ themed occupation drama with a nostalgic title (Ultimo amore/The Last Love, Luigi Chiarini, 1947) only underscored the loss of this emblem of Italian prestige.2 The hardships of the immediate postwar period and the perception of the loss of the colonies as an offense to Italian national pride did not encourage a reckoning with Fascist abuses and criminality. Goals of national unity led Italian Communist Party chief Palmiro Togliatti, as minister of justice, to amnesty Fascist criminals in 1946. The Allies fully supported this measure. Their worries about social unrest had earlier favored a minimalist approach to sanctions for Fascist violence—­wherever it had been committed—and no action was taken on the charges the Ethiopian , French, Greek, and Yugoslav governments filed with the United Nations War Crimes Commission against Italians for atrocities committed during Fascist occupations. The Italians lost their colonies, but they also avoided official censure for what they did there. As in Flaiano’s 298 Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema Tempo di uccidere, their imperial crimes remained unresolved as well as unsolved.3 A decade earlier, Pavolini had warned his compatriots of the untamable relationship between Italian memory and Africa. Writing on the eve of his return to Italy, his Ethiopian war military service at an end, he asked, What is this mal d’Africa: a spiritual amoeba that will make us suffer for many years in the future, making...


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