The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and The Rise of Fascism in Europe

David I. Kertzer. Random, $32 (576p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9346-2
The 2002 public release of the archives of Pius XI’s papacy revealed a trove of historical treasures that Brown University professor Kertzer (The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara) found “irresistible.” He brings to life an intriguing and unlikely alliance of two powerful individuals, using extensive primary sources from both sides. Whether or not it was truly a partnership is suspect, but they undoubtedly needed each other’s cooperation. The reader is taken inside the papacy in incredible detail, exposing the Vatican’s inner workings, from the Pope’s schedule to what he kept on his desk, to the knife’s-edge particulars of dealing with Mussolini. The insidious way that Il Duce was able to create his dictatorship predates the rise of Hitler in Germany, though their stories possess remarkable parallels. Mussolini’s numerous love affairs offer interesting asides as the myriad intricacies of world-historical events like the Lateran Accords—which ended decades of antagonism between Italy and the Vatican, while establishing the latter’s sovereignty—play out. Kertzer unravels the relationship between two of 20th-century Europe’s most important political figures and does so in an accessible style that makes for a fast-paced must-read. 2 maps, 40 photos. Agent: Wendy Strothman, WJS LLC. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/21/2013
Release date: 01/28/2014
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