Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I've always been fascinated by dictators, renegade commanders, and the warlords of lesser developed/historical nations. One that always peaked my interest was Mussolini. When I was in middle school my father had me read The Secret of Santa Vittoria; this is a fictional story about a town in Italy during Mussolini's reign that produces wine, it is pretty much their only source of revenue and the government demands a substantial portion of it. Without going into details I vaguely recall; the story talks about the tortures he inflicted upon dissenting citizens (whether these were invented by the author or not is irrelevant), these ranged from being buried in the snow naked up to their necks to electrocution. The torture itself doesn't fascinate me, it is the mind set of the torturer and those who order then to commit such acts. What struck me in this piece was how casually the author seems to mention the broken bottles in the wall and later how dramatically the Colonel strews the ears upon the table. I think these aspects of brutality say a lot about the character especially since they are juxtaposed by what otherwise seem to be normal behavior such as the details of his wife, daughter, son, and meal, as well as the casually referenced pistol on the cushion and relative normalcy of a situation that at the core is an act of intimidation. I feel I'm not being entirely clear in expressing myself so here's the short of it: I love how the author calmly tells a detailed tale of a horrendous experience, I thought it gave me insight into the mind of the Colonel, these atrocities are so incorporated into his life that he can dine in a room with torture devices in the wall and toast above a pile of ears. The question i'm left with is: how does someone become like that? If some have that capacity then don't we all? I'm reminded of a question posed by the Flaming Lips, with all your power what would you do?