Pushing Past the Night: Coming to Terms With Italy's Terrorist Past


December 15, 1969, was the most important day of Mario Calabresi's life, although he would not be born for another year. On that date, the anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli fell to his death from a window at the Milan police headquarters, where he was being questioned about his role in the Piazza Fontana massacre, the most infamous episode of domestic terrorism in Italy.
Police Inspector Luigi Calabresi, Mario's father, was in the building, though not in the room, at the time of the ...

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Pushing Past the Night: Coming to Terms with Italy's Terrorist Past

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December 15, 1969, was the most important day of Mario Calabresi's life, although he would not be born for another year. On that date, the anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli fell to his death from a window at the Milan police headquarters, where he was being questioned about his role in the Piazza Fontana massacre, the most infamous episode of domestic terrorism in Italy.
Police Inspector Luigi Calabresi, Mario's father, was in the building, though not in the room, at the time of the accident. This didn't stop the rumors that Pinelli had been killed by Calabresi. These suspicions kicked off "a ferocious lynching, albeit in slow motion"—as the Italian paper La Repubblica characterized it—that culminated in the murder of Luigi Calabresi outside his home one morning in 1972. Calabresi left behind his pregnant wife and two young sons.
In this memoir, Mario Calabresi explores the personal and political fallout of Italy's era of domestic terrorism in a poignant and very personal account. His grief at the murder of his father is balanced by a desire to overcome the divisions that still scar Italy today. This powerful book calls not only for accountability but also for redemption. As Mario Calabresi's mother always told him, you have to look to the future, stake your bets on life, and refuse to be a prisoner of hatred.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“They killed Mario Calabresi’s policeman father when he was only two years old, and growing up he found in this tragedy the force to write. In trying to understand his own grief, he comprehends the grief of an entire country.”—Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah

“With a remarkably beautiful translation into English by Michael F. Moore, Calabresi weaves back and forth between the 1970s and the present day, illustrating the lack of justice for Italy's criminals and the falsehoods in the national consciousness surrounding the death of his father. To debunk the claims made by leftists that his father was guilty of a crime, Calabresi carefully and scientifically has many experts recreate the events of the death of Giusseppe Pinelli, leading to the solid conclusion that Luigi Calabresi is innocent of all wrongdoing…What I appreciate so much about this work is Calabresi’s ability to create such rich emotion while retaining his own values and morals.”—Stephen Robert Morse, Mother Jones

“Fair and deeply moving.”—Le Monde

"Mario Calabresi has written, for all the victims, a worthy book.”—Télérama

“Sincere without being vindictive, Mario Calabresi . . . struggles against ignorance and conformity.”—Nouvel Observateur

Publishers Weekly
On May 17, 1972, at the height of Italy's decade-long political turmoil known as the Years of Lead, author Calabresi's father Luigi was assassinated in front of his home, leaving behind his pregnant wife and sons, including a two-year old Mario. Calabresi's assassination was the result of political speculation surrounding the aftermath of Milan's 1969 domestic-terrorist attack known as the Fontana Square Massacre, when three days later one of the suspects, Giuseppe Pinelli, fell to his death from a fourth-floor office window belonging to Luigi Calabresi. Several political factions-foremost Lotta Continua-loudly and violently protested the government's response to the bombing, blaming Police Commissioner Luigi Calabresi for Pinelli's death. In this odd blend of history and memoir, Calabresi seeks healing and his own kind of justice by recreating his father's life from his mother's stories, trying to come to terms with the violence that caused his father's death and his own subsequent rage. Better as a long article than as a book, Mario's repetitious writing offers more insights into the various Italian political factions of the past thirty years than it does into his own heart.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590513002
  • Publisher: Other Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 1,266,847
  • Product dimensions: 8.16 (w) x 5.46 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Mario Calabresi

Mario Calabresi has worked for Italian news agency ANSA and for the Roman daily La Stampa. He has served as managing editor of the Italian daily La Repubblica and currently works as their New York correspondent.

Michael F. Moore

Michael F. Moore is the translator of the novels Three Horses (Other Press, 2005) and God’s Mountain by Erri De Luca, The Silence of the Body by Guido Ceronetti, the poetry of Alfredo Giuliani, and essays by Pier Paolo Pasolini. He is currently working on a new translation of the classic nineteenth-century novel The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni.

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Read an Excerpt

There was nothing normal about the day he was killed. But no day had been normal for quite a while, so his murder wasn’t entirely unexpected. Ominous signs, panic attacks, anxiety, and even tears had become my parents’ constant companions. No one could say exactly when it started. Or maybe they could. Perhaps it was the evening that my father came home, shaken, and announced, “Gemma, Pinelli is dead.” Or the day that graffiti calling my father “Commissario Assassino”–Inspector Murder–started to appear on walls throughout the city. Or the morning that the ferocious press campaign began, filled with violence, sarcasm, threats, promises, and taunts. And then there were the political cartoons. Not long after I was born, the newspaper for the militant left, Lotta Continua, printed one in which my father is holding me in his arms, intent on teaching me how to use a toy guillotine to decapitate a doll representing an anarchist.
The details that I have collected over the years and filed away in my memory have transformed an ordinary day into a fateful one. Foretold. Almost expected.
You could say that my parents had been preparing for the tragedy to explode for some time. Unconsciously. Almost irrationally. When I try to imagine those moments today, those days of wavering between composure and despair, I find it hard to breathe. I struggle to understand how we were able to survive. First together, as a family. And then my mother, by herself.

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Table of Contents

Introduction IX

translator's note XV

1 the premonition 1

2 piazza del popolo 9

3 a photograph 16

4 the blue fiat 500 26

5 graffiti 36

6 the interview 44

7 capsized 51

8 we have to say good-bye 57

9 the chamber of deputies 64

10 a left-wing painter 73

11 we shall love again 80

12 lost opportunities 87

13 the rules of the kitchen 93

14 apologies 103

15 breathe 116

acknowledgments 123

index 125

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