Saturday, January 9, 2021

Half Past D'Annunzio

After the events of this week, Sconfittaback Saturday very much would like to return, at least for a few minutes, to a supposedly simpler time a century ago.

"D'Annunzio, der Uners├Ąttlische" by Theodor Leisser in Ulk, Berlin, Dec. 17, 1920
Before we move on to 1921, there are just a few odds and ends left over from the final days of 1920 to take care of. Italy had joined the Entente powers in World War I with the expectation of being awarded some Italian-populated regions of Austria-Hungary along the Adriatic. The Treaty of Versailles gave Italy less than some had expected, particularly one Gabriele D'Annunzio.

"No Mere Flight of Fancy This Time" by Dorman H. Smith for NEA, Dec. 1920/Jan. 1921

Prior to the war, D'Annunzio was a famed poet and playwright, so most of the cartoons here make at least passing reference to his poetry. Keenly interested in flight from the earliest successes of the Wright Brothers on, he dropped propaganda leaflets over Vienna in what became known as "The Flight Over Vienna" ("il Volo su Vienna"). This act of derring-do was more symbolic than it was effective; his poetry on the leaflets didn't translate into German particularly well. But it was ballsy enough to make him a hero in some quarters and to burnish his delusions of grandeur.

"At the End of His Rope" by Edward Gale in Los Angeles Times, Dec. 1920/Jan. 1921

After the war, as American, British and French occupying forces prepared to hand the city of Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) over to what was then the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, D'Annunzio led an uprising of 2,000-2,600 irregulars to seize the city. The population of the urban center at the time was majority Italian, but surrounded by Slavic peoples.

"Back to Earth" by Bob Satterfield for NEA, Dec. 1920/Jan. 1921

D'Annunzio expected the Italian government of Giovanni Giolitti to annex Fiume; but instead, Italy blockaded the city to pressure his surrender. D'Annunzio then declared independence for "The Italian Regency of Carnaro," publishing a charter that presaged the fascism of the next decade. Meanwhile, Giolitti negotiated the Treaty of Rapallo with what would later become Yugoslavia, establishing "The Free State of Fiume." Failing to win foreign allies to his cause, and pummeled by shelling by the Italian Navy, D'Annunzio and his Italian Regency surrendered in December, 1920.

"The Theatre of War" by Paul Plaschke in Louisville Times, Dec. 1920/Jan. 1921

Many of the American cartoons upon D'Annunzio's defeat play off Roman mythology and classical themes. (I'm not sure why Bob Satterfield felt it necessary to label Pegasus, but I especially like Gale's "Literary License" plate on the flying horse.) Plaschke is inspired by a considerably lower class of theatre; "Punch and Judy" derives from the Venetian "Pulcinella."

"Stranded" by Rollin Kirby" in New York World, Dec. 1920/Jan. 1921

In Paul Plaschke's Punch and Judy cartoon, the "Italian Government" is represented by a caricature of King Vittorio Emanuele, who would be more recognizable to American readers than would Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti. So here is an Italian cartoon of Giolitti, who was Prime Minister five times between 1892 and 1921.

"Questione Fiumana" by Gabriele "Rata Langa" Galanta in L'Asino, Rome, December 12, 1920

Giolitti's fifth government lasted from June, 1920 to June, 1921, during which time he tolerated the increasing strength of the armed Fascist squadrici and welcomed their support, out of fear of the Italian Socialist Party. Giolitti was not a Fascist himself, but continued to believe that Benito Mussolini and his party would moderate over time once they participated in governance. He lived long enough to learn how mistaken he was.

"A Fiume" by Gabriele "Rata Langa" Galanta in l'Asino, Rome, January 9, 1921

This last cartoon highlights cartoonist Gabriele Galanta's socialist outlook, here in spite of his anti-fascist and anti-war stance. But hey, why let a little thing like Antifa pacificsm interfere with one's perfectly healthy irredentism?

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