Everest is a one-act mythic drama written in 1928 and staged for the first time at Teatro Margherita, Rome, on 5th June 1930, by Compagnia del Teatro dei Giovani, directed by Pirandello’s son Stefano Landi. The play is set in the year 3900 in a utopic town on the Mount Everest, located 6000 m above the earth. A group of people has settled there, looking for a mysterious object carved by an artist on the top of the mountain; the object turns out to be a gigantic head of Mussolini, a legendary leader who lived two thousand years earlier, but whose influence is still profound. Piave is a four-act drama whose protagonist, lieutenant Giovanni Dini, is a deserter, who returns home to his family after the defeat of Caporetto (1917). Giovanni is bewildered by the absurdity of the war and oppressed by existential doubt, but finally decides to go back to the front. His doubts and conflicts are solved by the encounter with Sergeant Benito Mussolini.
The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts
Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths
Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity
The two plays Everest and Piave belong to the most constructive years in the relationship between the regime and the arts, and more specifically in the attitude of Vitaliano Brancati towards Fascism. During the first phase of his artistic production, before 1934, the playwright was a convinced supporter of Fascism, which for him, as for many other artists and intellectuals, embodied the hope for the advent of a new, better world. This belief is reflected in both plays, which posit Fascism as a regenerative and transformative force.
In Everest, reality is transfigured into a visionary world, which epitomizes the political symbolism of a new, happy society, beyond time and space, whose inhabitants are immersed in the mystical ardour produced by a strong ideal. The community settled on the Mount Everest leads a fully peaceful and content existence, based on the virtues of strength, courage, perseverance, and honesty – all virtues that were associated with the Fascist ideal. In Piave, the protagonist feels lost and dismayed and for this reason abandons his duties. He only recovers the meaning of his life and of his actions through the encounter with Sergeant Mussolini, whose entrance on the scene restores the positive value of fighting and doing one’s duty. The victorious outcome of this epiphany will contribute to the advent of a new humanity.
Both plays, marked by propaganda purposes, can be related to the most ambitious goal of Mussolini’s political action, which is to say an anthropological transformation of the Italian population, directed at generating a ‘New Man’. The overbearing physical presence of the figure of the dictator on the scene, in particular when the highest mountain of the world is transformed into a bust of Mussolini, produce a visual equivalent of the symbolic role ascribed to the Duce, as the creator of new values, a new awareness, and ultimately a new society. This imposing presence is also instrumental to the creation of a mystique of action, strength and power. Brancati, therefore, also expressed in these plays his belief in the value of action and activism, which he saw as embodied by fascism and chiefly by the figure of the Duce.
In 1931, Everest was praised by Telesio Interlandi, who is well-known for founding and directing the notorious journal La difesa della razza (1938-1943), in the following terms: 'Everest è il primo felice tentativo di rendere drammaticamente il senso eroico dell’azione mussoliniana. Una società umana dell’avvenire vive nel clima ideale creato dagli “italiani di Mussolini”; ha le sue radici morali in quel lontano tempo e tende […] a una cima, su cui si scoprirà il segno del Condottiero' ‘Everest is the first successful attempt at expressing in dramatic terms the heroic sense of Mussolini’s action. A human society of the future lives in the ideal spirit created by the "Italians of Mussolini". It has its moral roots in that distant era and tends towards a peak, in which the mark of the Condottiero will be discovered’.
Ferretti, Gian Carlo. 1998. L’infelicità della ragione nella vita e nell’opera di Vitaliano Brancati. Milan: Guerini e Associati.
Parisi, Luciano. 2006. ‘Le incertezze di Brancati.’ Italian Studies 61 (1): 50-63.
Perrone, Domenica. 2003. Vitaliano Brancati. Le avventure morali e i ‘piaceri’ della scrittura. Caltanissetta: Sciascia.
Schilirò, Massimo. 2001. Narciso in Sicilia. Lo spazio autobiografico nell’opera di Vitaliano Brancati. Naples: Liguori.
Spera, Francesco. 1981. Vitaliano Brancati. Milan: Mursia.