Fontamara [fontaˈmaːra] is a 1933 novel by the Italian author Ignazio Silone, written when he was a refugee from the Fascist Police in Davos, Switzerland.It is Silone's first novel and is regarded as his most famous work. It received worldwide acclaim and sold more than a million and a half copies in twenty-seven languages. It was first published as a German translation in Zurich, Switzerland in 1933 and was published in English by Penguin Books in September 1934. Fontamara is derived from the Italian 'Fonte Amara' (Bitter Stream), which Victor Wolfson used as the title for his 1936 stage adaptation of the book, presented in New York at the Civic Repertory Theatre. The novel was also adapted for cinema by director Carlo Lizzani and the film Fontamara was released in 1977. Appearing on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, and published just a few months after Hitler came to power, when the world was beginning to take sides for or against fascism, the novel had a galvanising effect on public opinion. Fontamara 'became the very symbol of resistance' and ‘is widely agreed to have played a major role as a document of anti-Fascist propaganda outside Italy in the late 1930s’ as it criticises the immorality and deceit of the Fascist party and its followers. Fontamara is a fictional small rural village in Marsica in the Abruzzo region. The people (the Fontamaresi) are poor and the village is so remote that the citizens are unaware of major social upheavals such as the rise of Fascism. There is a tremendous gap between the ‘’cafoni’’ (peasants) who populate ‘’Fontamara’’ and those who live in the city. The Fontamaresi work the earth to survive, turn to emigration as a means of economic improvement and are ignorant of events happening outside of their town. They are cut off from the rest of Italy and untouched by modernity and new technology. The Impresario, in stark contrast to the Fontamaresi, who have laboured for centuries to little avail, has quickly become the richest man in the region and embodies the power, authority and immorality of the Fascists. The Fontamaresi are exploited due to their naïvety and ignorance, the women are raped by the squadristi (a group of Fascists), Berardo Viola makes the ultimate sacrifice to allow the continued distribution of clandestine texts that spread the word about socialism and encourage rebellion against Fascism, and at the end the majority of the population are killed at the hands of the Government. As with many rural novels, Fontamara discusses the various seasons, and seasonal duties, such as the grape harvest in the vineyards. It is a choral novel that focuses on the lives and points of view of the peasants of Fontamara, deprived of hope yet persistent and determined. It depicts solidarity amongst the peasants and the inequality of wealth between the agricultural workers and the professional classes in the city.
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original title: Fontamara
language: Italian
date of publication: 1933
genre: novel


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