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Torino, 1923. At the D'Azeglio Lyceum, a group of seventeen year old students coalesces, inspired by the teachings and examples of anti-Fascist teachers the likes of Augusto Monti and Umberto Cosmo. Their names are Cesare Pavese, Norberto Bobbio, Massimo Mila, Giulio Einaudi, Franco Antonicelli, Vittorio Foa, Giorgio Agosti. Amongst them, a young, Odessa born Russian Jew stands out for maturity and charisma: Leone Ginzburg.
Confronted by the triumphant phase of the Fascist era, in the following years each of them struggles against the rhetoric and obscurantism of the regime by means of political activism (in particular the Rosselli brothers' movement, denominated Giustizia e Libertà - Justice and Liberty) as well as by means of cultural dissemination (the publishing house Einaudi, founded in 1933). But among them all, only Leone Ginzburg will follow the most radical course...
To deal with the years between 1922 and 1943 (in particular 1935-1943), I would like to start from the portrait of a man, whose journey is exemplary both for his commitment and for his radicalism. Differently from some of his friends or colleagues – like Cesare Pavese, and in some aspects even Giulio Einaudi – he makes no concessions to the regime. He refuses to sign up to the party, he states his opinions with no possible ambivalence. As a Jew, following the racial laws, he will end up losing his Italian nationality.
Ginzburg was born in Russia, but was an adopted Italian. Committed, sentimental, idealist, he lives a permanent action of official and illegal resistance.
His whole life is dedicated to the defence of freedom and to the battle for an idea of democracy. In his last letter to his beloved wife Natalia, Leone writes “One of this things which makes me grieve the most is the ease with which people around me lose the dimension for the general problem when faced with a personal threat”.
It is through the prism offered by Leone’s intelligence that I would like to look at the Italy of the time, evoking, through his letters and writings, a muffled and wintery Turin, an infinite scale of sweet tones of gray, made of walks under the city’s porticos and of thin fogs that rise from the river to the hills, in sharp contrast to the official archives of the time, in a brilliant black and white with no shades, dry and inflated with rhetoric; around these, the words of the experts, captured in a soft proximity. They will be Carlo Ginzburg, Giovanni De Luna, Paola Agosti, Roberto Cerati, Domenico Scarpa, all in different intimate ways connected to him, evoking for me the figure of Leone.