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Lelio Lagorio
, L'ora di Austerlitz - 1980: la svolta che mut� l'Italia. Quando il nostro paese sal� alla ribalta internazionale e le forze armate ridestarono l'orgoglio nazionale. Prefazione di Enzo Bettiza. "Il rapporto Lagorio". Edizioni Polistampa, Firenze, 2005, pp. 416 con 38 documenti e 104 illustrazioni.

L'ora di Austerlitz � un tempo, il tempo in cui l'Italia conquista un posto di primo piano nella politica mondiale e riscopre l'orgoglio nazionale. Sono i primi Anni Ottanta e l'Autore ne rievoca i momenti pi� rilevanti con una impostazione totalmente nuova. In questo "rapporto Lagorio", infatti, le forze armate appaiono in una luce del tutto insolita per la pubblicistica italiana; gli uomini della Difesa sono qui protagonisti attivi della svolta che mut� il Paese alla vigilia del tramonto della Prima Repubblica. Questa � dunque una storia - eccezionale perch� mai raccontata in questo modo - di alcuni anni cruciali della nostra vita nazionale visti e vissuti da una postazione di rilievo straordinario. Il libro si conclude con un avviso ammonitore alla politica di oggi. Molte cose sono cadute - scrive l'Autore - ma Austerlitz � sempre possibile, non � soltanto una vittoria del passato. L'illustre scrittore Enzo Bettiza, dopo aver letto il manoscritto di Lagorio, ha voluto dettarne la prefazione. E' uno spaccato - scrive - di anni di fuoco, crisi, ristrutturazioni e revisioni; � un rapporto che ci fa capire quanto l'Italia con la sua politica indipendentista ma radicata nell'Occidente abbia contato quale protagonista di prima fila in un momento risolutivo della storia del mondo.

In copertina. Giacomo Balla, Bandiere all'altare della patria (1915).

La rivista "Forum Italicum. Journal of Italian Studies" pubblicata dalla State University of New York at Stony Brook, nel suo numero della Primavera 2007, ha dedicato a "L'Ora di Austerlitz" una lunga recensione a firma della prof. Letizia Argenteri della Universit� San Diego Mesa College in California.

If it is not unusual for former politicians to write their memoirs, it is less usual to do so with such a candid heart and mind as this author did. Lelio Lagorio, Secretary of Defense from 1980 to 1983, the first socialist ever to cover that role, has a long history of public offices in the Italian arena. In 1965 he was mayor of Florence; from 1970 to 1978, president of the Tuscan Region; from 1979 to 1990, deputy of the Parliament, and from 1989 to 1994, deputy of the European Parliament. In November, 1990, he received a Ph.D. Honoris Causa in International Relations from UCSD (University of California in San Diego). A very eclectic writer, he is at ease with many subjects and various approaches: the history of a small Tuscan town, Volterra, modeled on the French Annals School; the story of a colorful anarchist group of primitive rebels who charm the readers; and, the controversial issue of the dissolution of the PSI (Italian Socialist Party) in the 1980s, just to name some.

L�ora di Austerlitz is an impressive book that justifies an impressive title, evoking Napoleon�s smashing victory over the combined armies of Austria and Russia on December 2, 1805. (For one of those ironies of history, the author himself was born on November 9, or, 18 Brumaire, thereby linking his fate twice to Napoleon.)

Built on the solid bases of primary sources, and around quite complex issues, the book finds its balance between text and documents, including a rich iconographic body. Lagorio considers the organization of the army as a challenging mandate. The military � he believes � is a vital aspect of national politics. Thus, it should be incorporated in national politics; it cannot live outside of them, and must play an active role in the life of the nation, which includes making the army less stagnant and more visible in the popular media, as well. All this required a totally pristine approach. First of all, it was necessary to debunk the belief that the ideals of socialism and nation are incompatible, since socialism was seen as a party of opposition, not of unity. A very perceptive man, at this juncture, Lagorio, who is vocal but never opinionated, coined the successful formula �tricolor socialism,� a brand-new concept with which to keep intact the mystique de la Patrie. Patriotism has neither color nor affiliation. Therefore, it is not the monopoly of one party or one group.

Fully aware of the huge gap existing between the military and the political worlds, the author did not give up on a dialogue, from which both camps would draw benefit. In this he was supported by a political giant, Sandro Pertini, the president of the Republic, and former resistance partisan with an indomitable sense of duty.

When Lagorio took the position of Secretary of Defense in 1980, the issues were many and all important � the role of women in the military, the soldiers� unions, the opening of barracks to the public, the abolishment of the death penalty in the penal military code, the role of the Gladio, that is, paramilitary groups introduced during the coldest period of the cold war, but scarcely reconcilable with the Italian Constitution. A few strategies had to be reconsidered and altered, since they addressed the vital problem of security. But the basic issues were the modernization of the army and its redefinition in the changing political identity. Moreover, the introduction of Euro-missiles placed Italy in a strategic position, which was unthinkable until then.

The part of the book dealing with the diplomatic corps and various leaders (such as the colorful Dom Mintoff, from Malta) is quite interesting. We are briefed on the role kept by Italy vis-�-vis its allies. Regarding NATO, Lagorio�s statement is clear: of the two faces, desperation and hope, Italy was always attuned to the latter, since �peace is a precious item.� Relations with the U.S. appear fragile at times; the American military tends to be didactic-oriented, almost paternalistic, even ready to surpass the political world for a military beau geste. Quite different are the European allies, France and Germany, while Great Britain was still an empire in spirit � a declining empire perhaps, but still one.

Sometimes the military forces are severely tested by nature (the earthquake
in southern Italy in November, 1980, for example), or challenged by a political scandal, the P2. The Ustica case, a drama never solved, will explode later in all its dramatic reality.

The Lebanon expedition, in the summer and fall of 1982, was by far the jewel in the crown of the Italian army. One can detect a well deserved pride in the author�s words. The expedition succeeded in giving Italy a new role in international affairs, and in raising the self-esteem of the army, which had been often mocked by a vicious campaign in the English press. However, this condescending attitude would soon change, because the very same press later had to recognize the merit of the Italian army.

The second part of the book consists of primary sources: speeches, articles and correspondence. Lagorio�s human side here comes alive. His words are always appropriate, to the point, and never superfluous nor rhetorical. He talks in terms of �shared memory,� or �ferocious Nazi cruelty,� always aware of the duality of memory and history. The heroes are identified as �silent guardians of a free Italy.�

Sometimes he is sober, as the topic requires a certain gravitas. Thus, at the Ardeatine Caves, he states that: �in front of the great shadows of the dead, all the Italians, regardless of age, rank or ideology, still bow with reverence.� He reminds the newly drafted men that: �Italy is not an abstract concept, and that its improvement depends solely on us.�

L�ora di Austerlitz is a well crafted book, replete with information and ideas, and can be a point of reference for scholars, as well as for the general public. From the very beginning, the reader has the impression that for Lagorio the reorganization of the army was not just a �job,� or a �duty,� but a vital part of his life � the best legacy a minister can leave to his country.

The book was awarded the Fiorino d�oro, whose monetary prize the author graciously allocated to the fund for the families of the Italian soldiers killed by terrorists in Nassirya, in November, 2003, a noble gesture that closes a career of public service with great dignity.

A Lelio Lagorio per "L'Ora di Austerlitz" � stato assegnato il "Fiorino d'Oro", Primo Premio per la saggistica (XXIV Edizione del Premio Letterario "Firenze" - Firenze, Palazzo della Signoria, 2 dicembre 2006). L'Autore ha devoluto l'assegno del Premio al fondo nazionale per le famiglie dei soldati italiani caduti a Nassiriya.


Scritto in una prosa sobria e misurata, il volume da un lato costituisce, in quanto testimonianza di un ex ministro della Difesa, una fonte primaria sulla storia della prima Repubblica, dall'altro sviluppa una tesi originale. In base ad essa, nell'Italia dei primi anni Ottanta, sarebbe maturata una svolta sia della vita nazionale, con la riscoperta dell'orgoglio patriottico in coincidenza della missione militare in Libano, sia delle relazioni internazionali, con l'installazione degli euromissili che favor� il processo di implosione dell'Unione Sovietica. Oltre a rendere omaggio al ministro della Difesa socialista che ebbe il coraggio di onorare i "leoni di El Alamein", la Giuria del Premio Firenze ha inteso premiare un contribuito imprescindibile per l'interpretazione di una stagione della storia italiana - quella del "socialismo tricolore" e della crisi del compromesso storico - ancora in attesa di un sereno giudizio critico.

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