Let’s not beat around the bush: we are experiencing the rise of a far right neo-fascist wave throughout Europe as well as globally. What does that have to do with books and why am I suddenly getting all political? Well, because books help us investigate and understand the world we live in, and because if you don’t do politics, politics will do you.
Istruzioni per diventare fascisti (literally: Instructions on how to become a fascist) penned by Michela Murgia and published by Einaudi Editore is a short little book, slightly longer than a pamphlet, and it does exactly what it says on the tin: it gives the reader instructions on how to become a fascist. The aim is quite obviously satirical. By giving instructions, it actually explains how fascist ideologies and political movements come to life, how the gain a following and momentum and what makes them so widespread in times of crisis.
More than anything this book is a mirror, as it shows a clear and analytical reflection of society and it gives the reader a framework to interpret reality with. After I finished the book, reading the news became an almost surreal experience for me, as I could see exactly what I had just read in the book unfold before my eyes.
As well as providing a wider social criticism, this book also serves as a tool to analyse oneself, to see oneself clearly in the picture: what consequences do my thoughts and actions have in the current political situation? (As a raging lefty I can tell you, you don’t need to be right-wing to see yourself in this book!) This self analysis is epitomised by the final chapter of the book, which is a Fascistometer where every reader can rate themselves (from Aspiring Fascist to Patriot) based on whether they agree or disagree with a list of statements. I dare anyone to say they have never thought at least one of those things ever in their lives.
The book’s key selling point is definitely its relevance in today’s social and political landscape. It’s clearly targeted at a quite progressive audience who might feel outraged by current news and unable to understand and come to terms with how this situation came to be. For this reason, I believe the book would be a great success among English-speaking readers, both in the UK and in the US, albeit for different reasons.
Moreover, Michela Murgia is already quite established internationally as a writer: her novel Accabadora has been published in 12 territories including the UK (MacLehose Press, 2014) and rights to Istruzioni per diventare fascisti have already been sold in 2 territories: Germany (Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, 2019) and Spain (Editorial Empúries, 2019).
In short, Istruzioni per diventare fascisti is an irreverent and pungent essay on politics, society and identity. The ideas expressed in this book have such a wide reach that I think the book could easily appeal to British and American readers. As well as being a necessary read, it is also a very relevant one at present, so it would be great to see it published for an English-speaking audience.
This is M signing out for now! ✨
[Disclaimer: after finishing this article I found out UK rights for Istruzioni per diventare fascisti had already been sold to Pushkin Press, and the translation (by Alex Valente) will be published next year with the title How to be a Fascist. I decided to still publish the article because, well, I might as well. Go and read the book when it comes out in January 2020!]