“Reveals how ideology corrupts the truth, how untrammeled ambition destroys the soul, and how the vanity of white male supremacy distorts emotion, making even love a matter of state.”—Sonia Purnell, author of A Woman of No Importance
“The brilliance of de Grazia’s book lies in the way that she has made a page-turner of Teruzzi’s chaotic life, while providing a scholarly and engrossing portrait of the two decades of Fascist rule.”—Caroline Moorhead, Wall Street Journal
“Extraordinary…illuminates the ways in which the all-consuming nature of fascism distorted Italian society and destroyed the lives of individuals. I could not put it down.”—Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919
“Original and important…De Grazia’s attention to Teruzzi’s private life, his behavior as suitor and husband, deepens and enriches our understanding of the nature of leadership in Mussolini’s regime and of masculinity, virility, and honor in Italian fascist culture.”—Robert O. Paxton, author of The Anatomy of Fascism
“Original, thoughtful, and timely…Its two entwined narratives—one political and public, the other personal and private—perfectly complement one another and help us understand why the personal is political for those who insist on reshaping people and society.”—Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
When Attilio Teruzzi, Mussolini’s handsome political enforcer, married a rising young American opera star, his good fortune seemed settled. The wedding was a carefully stage-managed affair, capped with a blessing by Mussolini himself. Yet only three years later, after being promoted to commander of the Black Shirts, Teruzzi renounced his wife. In fascist Italy, a Catholic country with no divorce law, he could only dissolve the marriage by filing for an annulment through the medieval procedures of the Church Court. The proceedings took an ominous turn when Mussolini joined Hitler: Lilliana Teruzzi was Jewish, and fascist Italy would soon introduce its first race laws.
The Perfect Fascist pivots from the intimate story of a tempestuous seduction and inconvenient marriage—brilliantly reconstructed through family letters and court records—to a riveting account of Mussolini’s rise and fall. It invites us to see in the vain, loyal, lecherous, and impetuous Attilio Teruzzi, a decorated military officer, an exemplar of fascism’s New Man. Why did he abruptly discard the woman he had so eagerly courted? And why, when the time came to find another partner, did he choose another Jewish woman as his would-be wife? In Victoria de Grazia’s engrossing account, we see him vacillating between the will of his Duce and the dictates of his heart.
De Grazia’s landmark history captures the seductive appeal of fascism and shows us how, in his moral pieties and intimate betrayals, his violence and opportunism, Teruzzi is a forefather of the illiberal politicians of today.