14 December 2020

14 December

Errico Malatesta - anarchist

Middle-class boy who became notorious revolutionary

Errico Malatesta, one of the most prominent figures in the anarchist movement that flourished in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was born on this day in 1853 in the province of Caserta, in what is now Campania.  A committed revolutionary who was arrested for the first time at the age of 14, he spent more than 10 years of his life in prison and about 35 years in exile.  Apart from his activity in his own country, Malatesta helped organize anarchist revolutionary groups in several European countries, as well as in Egypt, and in North and South America, including Argentina, where he helped bakers form the country's first militant workers' union.  Born into a family of middle-class landowners in Santa Maria Capua Vetere in what was then the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Malatesta was arrested aged 14 for sending an "insolent and threatening letter" to King Victor Emmanuel II.  Although he would become closely associated with the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, Malatesta drew his first inspiration from Giuseppe Mazzini, the Italian revolutionary who was a driving force in the Risorgimento movement.  Read more…


Luciano Bianciardi - novelist and translator

Writer who brought contemporary American literature to Italian audiences

The journalist, novelist and translator Luciano Bianciardi, who was responsible for putting the work of most of the outstanding American authors of the 20th century into Italian, was born on this day in 1922 in Grosseto in Tuscany.  Bianciardi translated novels by such writers as Saul Bellow, Henry Miller, William Faulkner and Norman Mailer, who were read in the Italian language for the first time thanks to his understanding of the nuances of their style.  He also wrote novels of his own, the most successful of which was La vita agra (1962; published in English as It’s a Hard Life), which was made into a film, directed by Carlo Lizzani and starring Ugo Tognazzi.  Bianciardi, whose father, Atide, was a bank cashier, developed an appreciation for learning from his mother, Adele, who was an elementary school teacher.  At the same time he acquired a lifelong fascination with Garibaldi and the Risorgimento, after his father gave him a book by a local author, Giuseppe Bandi, about Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand.  Bianciardi’s university education was interrupted by the Second World War.   Read more…


Fabrizio Giovanardi – racing driver

Touring car specialist has won 10 titles

One of the most successful touring car racers in history, the former Alfa Romeo and Vauxhall driver Fabrizio Giovanardi, was born in Sassuolo, not far from Modena, on this day in 1966.  Giovanardi has won the European Championship twice, the European Cup twice, the British Championship twice, the Italian Championship three times and the Spanish touring car title once.  His best season in the World Championship came in 2005, when he finished third behind the British driver Andy Priaulx.  At the peak of his success, Giovanardi won a title each season for six consecutive years. Like many drivers across the motor racing spectrum, Giovanardi had his first experience of competition in karting, winning Italian and World titles in 125cc karts in 1986, before graduating to Formula Three and Formula 3000.  He was hoping from there to step up to Formula One but although he won a number of races the opportunity to drive competitively for an F1 team did not come about.  It was during the 1991 season that he tried his luck in touring cars and met with immediate success.  Read more…


Princess Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily

Sad, short life of a Neapolitan princess

The youngest daughter of Ferdinand, King of Naples and Sicily, Princess Maria Antonia, was born on this day in 1784 at the Royal Palace in Caserta.  Princess Maria Antonia was named after her aunt, Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, who was executed by guillotine in Paris in 1793.  Marie Antoinette was the favourite sister of the Princess’s mother, Maria Carolina of Austria, who became opposed to the military expansion of the new French republic as a result of her sister’s horrific death.  Princess Maria Antonia’s own fate was sealed when she became engaged to Infante Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias, who later became King Ferdinand VII of Spain.  She married him in Barcelona in 1802.  When she failed to provide Ferdinand with an heir, suffering two miscarriages, there were rumours that Maria Antonia, whose title was now Princess of Asturias, was plotting to poison both her mother in law, the Queen of Spain, and the Spanish Prime Minister. This was allegedly to avenge her aunt, Marie Antoinette, because Spain was becoming increasingly dominated by Napoleon.  Read more…


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