Talk of the Devil: Orizio, Riccardo

Talk of the Devil: Confronting Fascism’s Legacy in Modern Italy

History’s memory is selective. Moments and figures deemed glorious become hallowed and rituals surrounding their memory ossified, while inconvenient truths and shameful chapters are relegated to silence or revisionist reinterpretation. This paradox plays out vividly in Riccardo Orizio’s Talk of the Devil, which chronicles the author’s journey uncovering his family’s hidden ties to Italian fascism and Benito Mussolini’s regime. Through personal stories and interviews with his relatives who lived under Mussolini’s rule, Orizio seeks to start an honest conversation about fascism’s dark legacy within his own family and Italian society at large.

Orizio takes his title from a book titled Talk of the Devil published during fascism’s zenith that popularized Mussolini’s maxim “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” Orizio traces how this propaganda seeped into the collective imagination, shaping a selective memory of the Mussolini era that glorifies fascism’s accomplishments but glosses over its repressive authoritarianism and violence. Many of Orizio’s relatives, including those who directly benefited from fascist rule, romanticize Mussolini as the stalwart leader who “made the trains run on time” and restored Italy’s pride after the failure of democracy, often glossing over or justifying his regime’s brutality.

Orizio aims to break through this mythologizing by speaking frankly about fascism with reluctant elderly Italians. In one revealing interview, an uncle admits that, as a teenager, he joined the fascist youth brigade and collaborated with Mussolini’s secret police because of ambition and opportunism, not ideological zeal, and saw Mussolini’s racism and human rights abuses as merely“the price you pay.” This reveals how many Italians supported fascism out of self-interest rather than conviction, a dynamic that persists in society’s selective remembrance that prioritizes fascism’s successes over its moral failings.

Through his family history, Orizio illustrates how fascism persists today through the fractured and contradictory ways Italians remember Mussolini’s rule. For many older relatives, Mussolini remains a polarizing figure—revered by some for restoring prosperity and order but despised by others who suffered under his racist laws. Yet even among those who resented fascism, shame and fear kept Mussolini’s abuses silent for decades. By confronting this silence and fractured memories, Orizio forces his own family to reckon with their complicity in fascism’s legacy and the moral obligations of remembrance.

In seeking to break the “talk of the devil” that glorifies Mussolini and fascism, Orizio clarifies what is truly devilish about Mussolini’s rule: the authoritarian oppression, human rights abuses, militarism, and racism that fascism always entails. Yet by interviewing even reluctant fascism sympathizers with empathy, Orizio also complicates nostalgia for Mussolini’s era, revealing how memories are shaped by economic hardship, national humiliation and the appeal of order—dynamics that drive support for authoritarianism today. In this way, his conversations lay bare the psychological, political and economic conditions that enable fascism to persist long after its brutal realities should discredit it for good.

Through exploring the contested memories surrounding his own fascist grandfather and uncle, Orizio comes to understand how complicated reckoning with the past can be—sometimes requiring difficult conversations with complicit relatives, other times driven by silences born of pain and solidarity. In opening a space where such conversations can begin within his own fractured family, Orizio demonstrates how historical memory is shaped not just by national myths but personal stories—and how those stories, told honestly and empathetically, offer the best chance of countering the false “talk of the devil” that shelters fascism from its past. If modern Italy is to finally lay Mussolini’s ghost to rest and learn from fascism’s horrors, Orizio suggests it must begin by acknowledging those horrors openly within families and communities, and passing that honest reckoning on as shared memory.

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