The history of the south of Italy, as seen from those who were “liberated” by the north
Pino Aprile’s “Terroni: All that was done to ensure that the Italians of the south would become meridionali (southerners)”, published by Edizioni Piemme, is one of those books that could cause a revolution, albeit a peaceful one, if read by enough people at the same time. It could become “the spark that starts the fire” by igniting a sentiment of unity among southern Italians, who are discovering that something is missing in mainstream history books informing how Italy was united 150 years ago. Aprile explains, through a series of anecdotes and historical events, how the south of Italy has ended up becoming the “minority” of the country, relegated to a backward condition with respect to the north of the nation and to the rest of Europe, when 150 years earlier, Naples was, in Aprile’s account, behind only Paris and London on many counts. The book’s title is a political statement. He uses the word “terroni”, which is a derogatory term used by northern Italians to describe those from the south, and its root is “terra”, that is, land. It can be translated generally to mean peasant, with a negative connotation. In the subtitle Aprile uses the Italian word “meridionali”, which can be translated literally as “southerners”, and it also has a pejorative connotation, rather than a geographical one.
Aprile very ably connects the events of 150 years ago to today, either in terms of similarity between those of the past and today’s events, or showing the actual causal relationship between yesterday’s events and today’s. He recounts how the Piedmontese government had set up the first concentration camps in 1860 and 1861, where thousands of Neapolitan and other southern Italian soldiers and irregular combatants were deported and left to die within a few years, preceding by approximately 80 years the notorious Nazi concentration camps in Europe. The comparison between the Nazis and the Piedmontese soldiers is continued also when Aprile describes how the towns of Pontelandolfo and Casalduni were destroyed by the Bersaglieri infantry troops in August 1861, in the same way that the Nazis destroyed Marzabotto in September 1944. In both cases, the civilian population was massacred in response to the action of irregular combatants against occupation troops. Aprile also draws a comparison between the torture used by the American military in Abu Grahid and what the Piedmontese did in the years following the unification of Italy. His analogies between past events and today’s allow the reader to immediately relate to events that took place 150 years ago. Read the whole article