An anti-extremism novel from 1937, and then revised and expanded in 1960 or so by the Italian writer Ignazio Silone. I came across this novel from the Collected Letters of Ralph Ellison as Ellison apparently met Silone in both of their capacities as literary attaches.
So the book, like I said, is anti-extremist, and mostly that means anti-Fascist, which it definitely is, but it’s also not a ringing endorsement of Stalinism/Communism as the results of that Ideology would mean about the same thing to the lead character as Mussolini’s Italy does. The story begins with an old priest and teacher meeting up with long graduated former students. One of these students is a Fascist now and rebukes the old priest for his ideas, his casualness, and for his refusal to take a stand on current politics. This transitions into a discussion on another former colleague, who we learn is in exile for his anti-Fascist views.
We move to this character who is in hiding as an elderly priest in disguise. The novel follows this exile/hiding as he moves to a rural apolitical small town. He falls in love, he meets a donkey, and he rejects his partisan stances as something that isn’t worth dying for.
The novel is written with clear purpose and language, and the ideas surrounding anti-extremism remind me a lot of the old Italian man in Catch-22 who tries to convince Nately to do anything he can to survive. A message I take to heart. A lot of times people mistake an idea worth killing for as an idea worth dying for.