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The Dark Heart of Italy


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About the Author

Tobias Jones studied at Jesus College, Oxford. He was on the staff of the London Review of Books and of The Independent on Sunday before moving, in 1999, to Parma, Italy.


With his first book, Jones must now be admitted to the company of writers such as Alexander Stille and Tim Parks who seem to understand Italy and the Italians better than the natives do themselves. Jones excels at writing about the passions aroused on the soccer field and the dirty machinations in the club offices in an entertaining chapter entitled "Penalties and Impunity." He realizes, though, that soccer is just a manifestation of a deeper, lurking cancer: Italy's dismal mediacracy. It all began in the wake of "Tangentopoli," the massive corruption scandal in the early 1990s that brought down a regime that included the eternally powerful Christian Democrats and their partners in a Faustian pact, the Socialists. Into this political vacuum stepped the irrepressible owner of the country's most successful soccer club, A.C. Milan, Silvio Berlusconi. He built a media empire that now touches every aspect of daily life in Italy; his presence hovers over Italians much as Big Brother hovers over 1984 and his visage looms over a typical Italian town on the book's cover. But Berlusconi, writes Jones, although on the political scene for a decade, is a relatively recent chapter in the sordid history of Italy. Jones does a fine job of explicating (as much as it can be explicated) the murky history of neo-fascist, right-wing and Mafia intrigues against the Italian Republic after WWII. On a lighter note, he playfully dissects the Italians' obsession with beauty and eroticism. Jones, who had been on the staff of the London Review of Books, moved to Parma in 1999 and has developed a sincere and profound love of Italy and the Italians. Agent, Georgina Capel. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Maybe it's best that tourists see Italy as a spectacularly beautiful country, filled with art treasures, walled cities, and some of the best scenery anywhere in the world. If they looked deeper into this remarkable country, they might see what Jones, who has lived there since 1999, has discovered about the "real" Italy. It will shock most readers that the most beautiful country in Europe is also its most corrupt; people disobey laws with impunity, politicians are sold to the highest bidder, World War II Fascist leaders still hold positions of power, and religion has an iron grip on society. There is little national patriotism in Italy; its old city-states may be gone geographically, but they still exist in the hearts of their residents. This book deserves to be read by anyone attempting to dig beneath the surface of what makes modern Italy run. Jones has done an excellent job in showing us that Italy is a country more pleasing for its aesthetics than for its ethics. Recommended for public and college libraries.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Incisive and intelligent, this is the book to take on your Italian holiday." --Conde Nast Traveller"[An] almost indispensable book ... written with style, sympathy and sangfroid. It should be packed in the travelling bags of all visitors to the Bel Paese." --The Independent on Sunday

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