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International Reflective Writing


 Niccolò Degli Albizzi

Albizzi heraldic

Niccolò Degli Albizzi, 13th century Italian poet came from a Noble Florentine family.  Little is known of his life or of his work.  The verse below is one of the few works remaining from his writing.

Prolonged Sonnet

If you could see, fair brother, how dead beat
The fellows look who come through Rome today -
Black yellow smoke-dried visages - you'd say
They thought their haste at going all too fleet.
Their empty victual-wagons up the street 
Over the bridge dreadfully sound and sway; 
Their eyes, as hanged men's, turning the wrong way; 
And nothing on their backs, or heads, or feet. 
One sees the ribs and all the skeletons 
Of their gaunt horses; and a sorry sight 
Are the torn saddles, crammed with straw and stones. 
(Niccolò Degli Albizzi (fl. 13th century), Italian poet. Prolonged Sonnet: When the Troops Were Returning from Milan (l. 5-11). PoBA. Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation, The. Charles Tomlinson, ed. (1980) Oxford University Press.)

 Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso

Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso  (28 June 1808, Lombardy, Italy – 5 July 1871, near Milan) was an Italian noblewoman who played a prominent part in Italy's struggle for independence from Austria. She is also notable as a writer and journalist.

Cristina Trivulzio was the daughter of Jerome Trivulzio and the Marquises Gherardini. Her father died soon after her birth and her mother remarried to Alessandro Visconti of Aragon; she had a stepbrother and three stepsisters through this second marriage. By her own account "I was as a child melancholy, serious, introverted, quiet, so shy that I often happen to burst into tears in the living room of my mother because I realized that I was being looked at or that they wanted me to talk."

She married at 16, at the Church of St. Fedele in Milan on 24 September 1824. She was considered the richest heiress in Italy, with a dowry of 400,000 francs. Her libertine husband, Prince Emilo Barbiano di Belgioioso, caused a separation soon after. They did not divorce and remained on cordial terms throughout their lives.

She had began associating with Mazzinian revolutionaries through her art teacher Ernesta Bisi and stepfather Marquis Alessandro Visonte d'Aragona. This brought her to the attention of the Austrian authorities and she fled penniless to France. Her husband sent her money, and she bought at apartment close to the Madeleine, although she lived in relative poverty. Eventually more money was sent, and she moved house and set up a salon. During the 1830s and 1840s her Paris salon became a meeting place for Italian revolutionaries such as Vincenzo Gioberti, Niccolò Tommaseo, and Camillo Cavour. She also associated with the European artistic intelligentsia, including Alexis de Tocqueville, Honoré de Balzac, Alfred de Musset, Victor Hugo, Heinrich Heine, and Franz Liszt. Other acquaintances were the historians Augustin Thierry and Francois Mignet who would play a major role in her life. It was at her salon that she hosted the famous March 31, 1837 duel between Liszt and Sigismond Thalberg to determine who was the greater pianist. Belgiojoso’s judgment was, "Thalberg is the greatest pianist, but there is only one Liszt." 

In 1838, she had a daughter, Mary. The natural father was certainly not her estranged husband, It has been speculated that he may have been her friend Francois Mignet or her personal secretary Bolognini.

In the 1848 Italian revolutions, she organized and financed a troop of soldiers and fought in Milan against the Austrians for Italy's independence. After the insurrection failed, she returned to Paris and published articles in the influential magazine Revue des Deux Mondes describing the struggle in Italy.

In 1849 she returned to Italy to support the Roman Republic formed in the Papal States by Mazzini and others. She became a hospital director during the brief life of the republic until it was suppressed by French troops.

Cristina fled, accompanied by her daughter, first to Malta and then to Constantinople, from where she published an account of the republic and its fall in the French magazine Le National in 1850.[3] She brought land in the remote Ciaq-Maq-Oglou area and then traveled to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Cristina published accounts of her experiences in the orient and found the condition of women there particularly disturbing. She published Of Women's Condition and of their Future (1866) in which she argues that deprived of education, women come to accept the oppressive conditions in which they find themselves.

She lived in exile in Turkey for eight years before returning to Italy in 1856 and working with the statesman Camillo Benso Cavour for Italian unification which was achieved in 1861.

In 1858 her estranged husband Emilio still legally her spouse died. A few years later she was finally able to legitimize her daughter, Mary.

Her final years were spent in retirement between Milan and Lake Como in the company of her daughter and son-in-law, Marquis Ludovico and her English governess Miss Parker, and her Turkish servant, a freed slave. During this period she continued to write and publish until her death at age 63.


An excerpt from a major book written about Christina Belgiojoso follows.  The text in its entirety is available on-line at:







PRINCESS BELGIOJOSO left no private or personal record of her eventful life. Her very considerable literary baggage, dealing almost exclusively with political and sociologicalproblems, affords but rare and fleeting glimpses of the author's inner self; while of her private correspondence very little is accessible. Her biographer consequently finds himself constrained to draw upon the (fortunately) numerous memoirs of French and Italian contemporaries, most of whom, however, confine themselves to casual mention of her eccentricities or expressions of unbounded admiration of her ardent patriotism.The voluminous correspondence of the secret agents of the Austrian Government, who for many years minutely chronicled her words and actions, are of course not without their value; but it should be borne in mind that these reports were the work of spies whose means of livelihood depended on their skill in fostering and stimulating the suspicions of their employers. Few of the actors who flit across the stage of Italy's great drama of National Independence equal the Princess Belgiojoso, in romantic interest none surpass her. Although her role was a minor one, yet, ever and anon, she advanced to the footlights, mingling with the "stars," and forcibly arrested the attention of the audience, exciting not only curiosity, but creating the impression that hers was a figure of no mean significance in the development of plot and action.Furthermore, for well-nigh half a century her name was a familiar one not alone in Italian political and patriotic circles, but to the ears of intellectual Europe. "Femina sexu, ingenio vir," quotes Monselet in a contemporary sketch. Within certain limits the aphorism is an acceptable definition of a temperament at once peculiarly feminine yet on which are grafted attributes supposedly distinctive of masculine genius alone. Womanlike, her reason was almost invariably subjective to sentiment and to transient emotion: she never stopped to determine of what stuff her dreams were made, and when disillusion outran optimism she readily reverted to the prerogatives of hersex. Full of contradictory elements; lacking equilibrium, yet keenly sensitive to logical appreciations; above and beyond all, stubbornly tenacious of an abstract ideal, the mental processes of this essentially paradoxical nature baffle deductive analysis. Veiled in a haze of mystery, the halo of martyrdom poised over her lovely head, the personality of this strange woman remarkable both despite and on account of her vagaries and extravagances is of yet further interest as, in a sense, typical of the singular admixture of practical and visionary ideals prevailing during the evolutionary period of Italy's national regeneration.Notwithstanding her eccentricities and exaggerations, this frail epileptic Milanese patrician, the daughter of one of the proudest aristocracies of Europe, undoubtedly wielded in her time an intellectual fascination as effective as it was far reaching. At once a social heroine and apolitical martyr, her hold over a popular imagination gradually unfolding to the realization of the patriotic ideals of which she was readilyaccepted as the incarnation, was, for a space at least, considerable. Her influence with the sterner minds which guided and shaped the revolutionary movements in Italy was by the very reason of her impetuosity more restricted, but all, at one time or another, experienced the magnetism of her enthusiasm. Liberally endowed with the histrionic temperament, an audience was as essential to Christina Belgiojoso as the air she breathed. Yet when this has been confessed the worst stands revealed. The purityof her patriotism is but little affected by the egotism of her personal vanity, oftenest discernible under the guise of that harmless dramatic posturing which some of her detractors pretend is never dissociated from even the most signal of her achievements as a propagandist of political liberties.Continually shocking the susceptibilities and outraging the conventionalities of an epoch not particularly conspicuous for good taste, this erratic social and political free-lance never forfeited the consideration due to her birth. Sincerely democratic in the best Italian interpretation of the term, all through her many metamorphoses, whether as a Mazzinian conspirator and Republican, an Albertist Liberal, or an independent Revolutionist, she jealously retained her title to the inherent privileges of a great lady. Even the "citizen" Belgiojoso scorned to forswear the aristocrat, and never omitted from her signature the prefix which was hers by "right divine."Nor would this lapse from the tenets of the creed she embraced appear to have been in any way resented by her political co-religionaries. With the rank and file of revolutionary patriots, dazzled by the sublime audacity of her anti-Austrian intrigues and her open defiance of the mandates from Vienna, the sincerity of her democracy was unquestioned. But the Princess was not content to cast her spell over any one element of the great national movement she sought to inspire. The charm and brilliancy of her conversation, the attraction of an intelligence ever on the alert, together with the originality and piquancy of her wit, caused her to be surrounded at home and abroad by all that was foremost in the world of fashion, politics, literature, and art.Among the wives and daughters of the Lombard patriots who risked life, liberty, andfortune to free their country from the yoke of the foreigner, her exalted social position, her exceptional beauty, her wealth, hardly less than, the compelling magnetism of her fierce enthusiasm and singular independence of character, combined to assign to the Princess Belgiojoso conspicuous prominence. Feminine participation in the conspiracies and political intrigues of the early and middle years of the last century was by no means uncommon in Italy, especially in Lombardy, where the heel of the Austrian usurper ground hardest. But few rivaled this strenuous champion in the intensity of the hatred vouchsafed the foreign despotism which sought to enslave the intellectual and moral life of northern Italians, as it had bounded their political liberties.

 Luigi Pirandello: War

Luigi Pirandello was born in 1867 in Girgenti (now Agrigento) on the island of Sicily. Luigi's father was a fairly prosperous sulphur dealer and intended that his son should follow in his footsteps, but the boy demonstrated a studious bent early on, and as a result, he was provided with a literary schooling. He entered the University of Rome in 1887, but later transferred to Bonn University where he completed his doctoral thesis, a study of his native Sicilian dialect.

Pirandello's sense of disillusionment was burned into his psyche early on by a very personal tragedy. In 1894, at the age of 27, he married a young woman whom he had never met. The marriage had been arranged by his parents according to custom. His young bride, Antonietta Portulano, was the daughter of his father's business partner. The girl's mother had died in childbirth because her father was so insanely jealous that he would not allow a doctor to be present during the birth. For a time, the young couple found happiness, but after the birth of their third child and the loss of the family fortune in a flood, Antonietta suffered a mental breakdown. She became so violent that she should have been institutionalized, but Pirandello chose instead to keep her at home for seventeen years while she spat her venom at the young writer and his three children. Their daughter was so disturbed by her mother's illness that she tried to take her own life. Fortunately, her instrument of choice, a revolver, was so old as to be of no use. The illness had a profound effect on Pirandello's writing as well, leading him to explorations of madness, illusion, and isolation. It was not until his plays finally began to prove profitable around 1919 that he was able to send Antonietta to a private sanitarium.

Pirandello wrote his first widely acclaimed novel, The Late Mattia Pascal, in 1904. By the time the First World War broke out ten years later, he had published two other novels and numerous short stories. It was not until 1916, however, that he turned his attention to the theatre. He quickly became enthralled by this new medium, and became quite prolific, turning out as many as nine plays in one year. His first three plays, Better Think Twice About It!, Liolà, and It is So!, If You Think So, were each written in less than a week. His first notable critical success came in 1920 with As Before, Better than Before. Then, within a five week period in 1921, he wrote two masterpieces: Six Characters in Search of an Author, and Henry IV. Six Characters had a successful but scandalous opening in Rome and, soon after, another successful--but less scandalous--opening in Milan. Almost overnight, the play was being directed by Komisarjevsky in London, Brock Pemberton in New York, and Max Reinhardt in Germany. 1922 saw the successful opening of two more plays, Henry IV and Naked.

Between 1922 and 1924, Pirandello became a major public figure. In Paris, he received the Legion of Honor, and in 1925, with the help of Mussolini who had publicly announced his admiration for the playwright, Pirandello opened his own Art Theatre in Rome. Pirandello's relationship with Mussolini has been the subject of much debate. Some scholars have suggested that the playwright's enthusiastic adoption of fascism was simply a matter of practicality, a strategic ploy to advance his career. Had he opposed the fascist regime, it would have meant serious difficulties for him and for his art. Acceptance, on the other hand, meant subsidies and publicity. His statement that "I am a Fascist because I am an Italian." has often been called on to support this theory, and one of his later plays, The Giants of the Mountain, has often been interpreted as showing the author's growing realization that the fascist giants were hostile to culture. And yet, during his last appearance in New York, Pirandello voluntarily distributed a statement announcing his support of Italy's annexation of Abyssinia. He even gave his Nobel medal over to the Italian government to be melted down for the Abyssinian campaign. However, Pirandello was a complex creature, and all that can be certain is that nothing is certain.

Pirandello was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1934, and continued to experience a great deal of critical success until the time of his death in 1936.

Luigi Pirandello left instructions for his funeral, saying, "When I am dead, do not clothe me. Wrap me naked in a sheet. No flowers on the bed and no lighted candle. A pauper's cart. Naked. And let no one accompany me, neither relatives nor friends. The cart, the horse, the coachmen, e basta. Burn me." But the church did not believe in cremation and the Fascist party did not want a world-famous fascist to slip away naked, without his black shirt. Thus, against his wishes, Pirandello was given a state funeral.

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The passengers who had left Rome by the night express had had to stop until dawn at the small station of Fabriano in order to continue their journey by the small old-fashioned local joining the main line with Sulmona.

At dawn, in a stuffy and smoky second-class carriage in which five people had already spent the night, a bulky woman in deep mourning was hosted in—almost like a shapeless bundle. Behind her—puffing and moaning, followed her husband—a tiny man; thin and weakly, his face death-white, his eyes small and bright and looking shy and uneasy.

Having at last taken a seat he politely thanked the passengers who had helped his wife and who had made room for her; then he turned round to the woman trying to pull down the collar of her coat and politely inquired:

"Are you all right, dear?"

The wife, instead of answering, pulled up her collar again to her eyes, so as to hide her face.

"Nasty world," muttered the husband with a sad smile.

And he felt it his duty to explain to his traveling companions that the poor woman was to be pitied for the war was taking away from her her only son, a boy of twenty to whom both had devoted their entire life, even breaking up their home at Sulmona to follow him to Rome, where he had to go as a student, then allowing him to volunteer for war with an assurance, however, that at least six months he would not be sent to the front and now, all of a sudden, receiving a wire saying that he was due to leave in three days' time and asking them to go and see him off.

The woman under the big coat was twisting and wriggling, at times growling like a wild animal, feeling certain that all those explanations would not have aroused even a shadow of sympathy from those people who—most likely—were in the same plight as herself. One of them, who had been listening with particular attention, said:

"You should thank God that your son is only leaving now for the front. Mine has been sent there the first day of the war. He has already come back twice wounded and been sent back again to the front."

"What about me? I have two sons and three nephews at the front," said another passenger.

"Maybe, but in our case it is our only son," ventured the husband.

"What difference can it make? You may spoil your only son by excessive attentions, but you cannot love him more than you would all your other children if you had any. Parental love is not like bread that can be broken to pieces and split amongst the children in equal shares. A father gives all his love to each one of his children without discrimination, whether it be one or ten, and if I am suffering now for my two sons, I am not suffering half for each of them but double..."

"True...true..." sighed the embarrassed husband, "but suppose (of course we all hope it will never be your case) a father has two sons at the front and he loses one of them, there is still one left to console him...while..."

"Yes," answered the other, getting cross, "a son left to console him but also a son left for whom he must survive, while in the case of the father of an only son if the son dies the father can die too and put an end to his distress. Which of the two positions is worse? Don't you see how my case would be worse than yours?"

"Nonsense," interrupted another traveler, a fat, red-faced man with bloodshot eyes of the palest gray.

He was panting. From his bulging eyes seemed to spurt inner violence of an uncontrolled vitality which his weakened body could hardly contain.

"Nonsense, "he repeated, trying to cover his mouth with his hand so as to hide the two missing front teeth. "Nonsense. Do we give life to our own children for our own benefit?"

The other travelers stared at him in distress. The one who had had his son at the front since the first day of the war sighed: "You are right. Our children do not belong to us, they belong to the country..."

"Bosh," retorted the fat traveler. "Do we think of the country when we give life to our children? Our sons are born because...well, because they must be born and when they come to life they take our own life with them. This is the truth. We belong to them but they never belong to us. And when they reach twenty they are exactly what we were at their age. We too had a father and mother, but there were so many other things as well...girls, cigarettes, illusions, new ties...and the Country, of course, whose call we would have answered—when we were twenty—even if father and mother had said no. Now, at our age, the love of our Country is still great, of course, but stronger than it is the love of our children. Is there any one of us here who wouldn't gladly take his son's place at the front if he could?"

There was a silence all round, everybody nodding as to approve.

"Why then," continued the fat man, "should we consider the feelings of our children when they are twenty? Isn't it natural that at their age they should consider the love for their Country (I am speaking of decent boys, of course) even greater than the love for us? Isn't it natural that it should be so, as after all they must look upon us as upon old boys who cannot move any more and must sit at home? If Country is a natural necessity like bread of which each of us must eat in order not to die of hunger, somebody must go to defend it. And our sons go, when they are twenty, and they don't want tears, because if they die, they die inflamed and happy (I am speaking, of course, of decent boys). Now, if one dies young and happy, without having the ugly sides of life, the boredom of it, the pettiness, the bitterness of disillusion...what more can we ask for him? Everyone should stop crying; everyone should laugh, as I do...or at least thank God—as I do—because my son, before dying, sent me a message saying that he was dying satisfied at having ended his life in the best way he could have wished. That is why, as you see, I do not even wear mourning..."

He shook his light fawn coat as to show it; his livid lip over his missing teeth was trembling, his eyes were watery and motionless, and soon after he ended with a shrill laugh which might well have been a sob.

"Quite so...quite so..." agreed the others.

The woman who, bundled in a corner under her coat, had been sitting and listening had—for the last three months—tried to find in the words of her husband and her friends something to console her in her deep sorrow, something that might show her how a mother should resign herself to send her son not even to death but to a probable danger of life. Yet not a word had she found amongst the many that had been said...and her grief had been greater in seeing that nobody—as she thought—could share her feelings.

But now the words of the traveler amazed and almost stunned her. She suddenly realized that it wasn't the others who were wrong and could not understand her but herself who could not rise up to the same height of those fathers and mothers willing to resign themselves, without crying, not only to the departure of their sons but even to their death.

She lifted her head, she bent over from her corner trying to listen with great attention to the details which the fat man was giving to his companions about the way his son had fallen as a hero, for his King and his Country, happy and without regrets. It seemed to her that she had stumbled into a world she had never dreamt of, a world so far unknown to her, and she was so pleased to hear everyone joining in congratulating that brave father who could so stoically speak of his child's death.
Then suddenly, just as if she had heard nothing of what had been said and almost as if waking up from a dream, she turned to the old man, asking him:

" your son really dead?"

Everyone stared at her. The old man, too, turned to look at her, fixing his great, bulging, horribly watery light gray eyes, deep in her face. For some time he tried to answer, but words failed him. He looked and looked at her, almost as if only then—at that silly, incongruous question—he had suddenly realized at last that his son was really dead—gone for ever—for ever. His face contracted, became horribly distorted, then he snatched in haste a handkerchief from his pocket and, to the amazement of everyone, broke into harrowing, heart-breaking, uncontrollable sobs.


Maria Montessori

Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy. At an early age, Montessori enrolled in classes at an all-boys technical school, with hopes of becoming an engineer. She soon had a change of heart and began medical school at the Sapienza University of Rome, where she graduated with honors in 1896. Her educational method is in use today in many public and private schools globally.

Thoughts on Peace and Education

By Maria Montessori
Edited and Adapted by Mark Shepard

Let us look at a phenomenon parallel to war—war’s reflection, as it were, on the physiological level. I am speaking of the plague, that scourge capable of decimating or even wiping out a whole population, which remained for centuries dreadful and invincible—the plague, propagated by ignorance and conquered only when scientifically studied in its most hidden causes.
The plague, as we know, appeared at long intervals, just like war. It disappeared each time spontaneously, and society—which did not know its causes—could not hasten its disappearance. Seen in those days as a horrendous chastisement, it caused ravages of historic proportions, like war.

Indeed, the plague had a greater number of victims than war, and caused many more economic disasters. In the fourteenth century, a plague in China claimed ten million victims. That same devastating wave swept over Russia, Asia Minor, Egypt, and reached Europe, threatening with destruction almost all humankind. The total of those deaths has been estimated at over 25 million—hence the ravages of the plague were worse than those of any war, even the World War.

Each appearance of this scourge caused a general stoppage of labor, ushering in periods of deep misery. Famine followed plague, and so did insanity, as a notable proportion of survivors were unbalanced. These conditions made a return to normalcy much more difficult and for long halted the constructive work of civilization.

It is interesting to examine the explanations given for this scourge, and to look at the attempts to protect against it. From Homer and Livy to the Latin chronicles of the Middle Ages, we find always the same explanation: The plague is caused by wicked people who spread poison.

Describing the plague of 189 A.D., Dion Cassius relates that throughout the Roman Empire evil men were enlisted and paid to throw about poisoned needles. In the days of Pope Clement VI, the spread of disease was blamed on the Jews, who were massacred. When during the siege of Naples the plague destroyed 400,000—nearly the whole city population and almost three-quarters of the besieging troops—the Neapolitans believed themselves poisoned by the French, and the French by the Neapolitans.

Still more interesting is the trial of two presumed poisoners accused of starting the famous plague of Milan—proceedings that resulted in their executions. It is hard to imagine that a disaster so patently pathological could be attributed to an illegal act and should lead to the trial of men utterly powerless to cause it. With our knowledge today of the plague, this seems absurd. But do we not, in the case of the World War, seek to foist the responsibility upon an individual—the Kaiser, the Czarina, the priest Rasputin, or the assassin at Sarajevo?

Another phenomenon, arising from the instinct of self-preservation, was observed during the most celebrated outbreaks of the plague: the flocking together of those not yet struck down. Crowds assembled in public squares, filled the churches, and formed processions in the streets to chant prayers and carry banners, sacred images, and relics. These gatherings helped spread the disease rapidly among those who might have escaped it.

Does not this remind us of alliances among nations? Those alliances made before the World War were meant to avoid just such a war by establishing a balance of power. It is plain now that it was precisely this system that caused the stupendous disaster, because many nations were drawn into the conflict merely from being bound to others.

Finally, each time after the scourge of plague ceased abruptly, the hearts of the survivors swelled with that hope that never dies. They were convinced that humankind had just undergone a necessary trial—perhaps the last one.

At the end of the World War, did not people continue to hope, imagining that this war—surely the last—had been necessary for the final establishment of peace?

It was scientific research in the realm of the invisible that alone succeeded in discovering the direct causes of the plague: specific microorganisms and their unsuspected disseminators, the rats. Once these factors were known, the plague became recognized as one of countless infectious diseases that continually threaten the health of humankind and that find in a vitiated environment a permanent ground of infection.

Now, in the Middle Ages, people lived indifferent and ignorant amidst unsanitary conditions—coming and going through filth in the streets, lacking water in their houses, choosing to sleep in dark, stuffy rooms, fearing the sunshine. This created a favorable breeding ground not only for the dreaded plague but for countless sicknesses less conspicuous from not disrupting the general workings of society.

Hence, when people fought successfully against the plague, their campaign necessarily aimed at all diseases caused by germs. This was an energetic campaign of public and private cleansing, undertaken both throughout a city and inside every home. And that was the first chapter of the glorious history of humankind’s defense against the last and smallest creatures still threatening its existence.

But personal hygiene—the ultimate attainment of that long fight—has another aspect. It bestowed on health itself a new importance—because a perfectly healthy person, well-grown and strong, can risk exposure to disease without becoming infected. Perfect health, then, became a new ideal, a new goal to strive for.

Now, when humankind started this new quest, the perfectly healthy individual was simply not to be found. Underfed or overfed, people were always filled with poisons—we may even say they deliberately poisoned themselves. But the ideal of personal hygiene reversed those old values, replacing the pleasures of the race to death with the pleasures of the race to life.

By contrast, in the inner realm, we have not yet taken one step forward—we are as backward as the people of the Middle Ages. We live in a state of psychic degeneracy, within a dark and stuffy moral environment. A healthy person from the psychical point of view is as rare today as a physically healthy one before.

If a person were to grow up with a healthy soul, enjoying the full development of a strong character and a clear intellect, they could not endure to uphold two kinds of justice—the one protecting life and the other destroying it. Nor would they consent to cultivate in their heart both love and hate. Neither could they tolerate two disciplines—the one aimed at building, and the other at tearing down what has been built.

Better humans than we are would use their intellects and the attainments of civilization to end the fury of war. War would not be a problem for them at all. They would see it simply as a barbarous state, opposed to civilization—an absurd and incomprehensible phenomenon, as expendable and defeatable as the plague.

A Note from Mark Shepard:

This is a portion of “Peace and Education,” an address by Maria Montessori for the International Bureau of Education in Geneva in 1932, translated and published by the bureau that year as a booklet of the same name. (A facsimile edition is available from UMI Books on Demand, which can be found linked from A more recent translation is in the Montessori anthology Education and Peace ,translated by Helen R. Lane, published by Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1972. Though Lane’s translation is far superior, I have drawn this abridged excerpt from the uncopyrighted 1932 edition, then edited the translation for clarity and accuracy. I have also adjusted the language to be gender neutral—as I assume Montessori would have wanted it today. Many thanks to Hank Maiden for introducing me to the piece.—Mark Shepard



Sibilla Alermo

Sibilla Alermo (1876-1960) was an Italian poet, writer and feminist who was raped as a young woman and forced to marry her rapist because she was pregnant by him. She suffered the yoke of a domestic war. Courageously, she ran away in 1902 to Rome. there, a woman alone, she wrote and published the first feminist novel of Italian literature, Una Donna, describing the imprisonment of a wife by her husband's violent will. The novel became an international success. Alermo worked hard to alleviate the labor conditions of Roman workers. She wrote several more novels and in 1921 began to publish poetry.

In 1908, she met Cordula "Lina" Poletti at a women's congress, and their one-year lesbian relationship formed the basis for the novel Il passaggio. Poletti was described as being beautiful and rebellious, and was prone to wear men's clothing. She is sometimes credited with being one of the first women in Italy to openly flaunt her lesbianism. Poletti would later become involved with actress Eleanora Duse.

Sibilla Aleramo would go on to be one of Italy's leading feminists. Her personal writings to Poletti have, in more recent years, been studied due to their open minded views toward homosexual relationships. While Aleramo was involved with Poletti she was also in love with a man, Giovanni Cena. Aleramo expresses in her letters to Poletti that she never felt guilt for having loved both of them at the same time.

In later life Aleramo toured the continent and was active in Communist politics after World War II. The 2002 film Un Viaggio Chiamato Amore depicts Aleramo's affair with writer Dino Campana.

Sources: Women on War, edited by Daniela Gioseffi and Wikipedia:

Yes, to the Earth

So shines the Earth in certain mornings' light
with its roses and cypresses
or with its grain and its olives,
so sunddenly does it shine on the soul
and isolates it and makes it forget everything
even if an instant earlier the soul
was suffering to the quick or meditating, bitter,
so shines the Earth in certain mornings' light
and in its silence reveals itself,
a marvelous lump spinning from the skies,
and, beautiful in its tragic solitude, so laughs
that the soul, although not asked,
answers, "Yes,' "Yes," to the Earth,
to the indifferent Earth, "Yes,"
even if in an instant the skies and the roses
and the cypresses should turn dark,
or the labor of living be made more burdensome
and breathing yet more heroic.
"Yes," the subjegated sould answers the Earth,
so does it shine in certain mornings' light,
beautiful over all things and human hope.

Translated by Murel Kittel


Vittorio Giardino

Vittorio Giardino is one of Italy's most important comics artists, known for his Clear Line inspired series like 'Max Fridman' and 'Jonas Fink'. The Italian electrical engineer Vittorio Giardino was already in his thirties when he entered the comics scene in 1978. After creating his first comics for La Città Futura, he created the character 'Sam Pezzo', a private investigator whose adventures appeared in Sam Pezzoand Orient-Express.

In 1982 Giardino created a new character: Sam Pezzoand Orient-Express, an ex-secret agent involved in the political struggle in 1930's Europe. His first adventure, Hungarian Rhapsody was serialized in the first four issues of Orient Express and brought Giardino in the limelight of the international comic scene. Max Fridman adventures have been published in 18 countries, and are universally recognised as comic book classics.

Starting in 1984, Giardino produced a number of short stories for the Italian magazine Comic Art, where he introduced Little Ego, a young and sexy girl inspired by Winsor McKay's Little Nemo who stars in one-page dreamy erotic stories.

In 1991 Giardino created a new character, Jonas Fink for the Il Grifo magazine. Jonas is a young Jew in 1950's Prague whose father is arrested by the communist police. He and his mother have to cope with the discrimination and oppression of Stalin's regime. The book won the Angoulème Alfred prize for best foreign work in 1995 as well as an Harvey at San Diego in 1999.

Giardino's maniacal attention to details in both his art and his stories has made him a star even outside the comics community. Unfortunately, it is also the reason of his proverbial slowness: his fans have to wait for years to read the conclusion of his books. Giardino art style recalls the French ligne claire, while his writing owes a lot to famous hard boiled and spy story authors like Dashiell Hammett and John le Carré.

From 1986, he was present in L'Espresso with short stories, and began working as an illustrator for L'Unità, Glamour International, La Repubblica and Je Bouquine. Giardino's work also found its way to France, and his three main series appeared in the pages of Circus.

His short stories for L'Espresso where collected in the book 'Vacances Fatales' by Casterman upon their reprints in À Suivre. For the same magazine, he made 'Piero, les Rêves, le Temps', an hommage to Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca, in 1992. A year later, he began the series 'Jonas Fink' in the Il Griffo journal, a series set in former Czechoslovakia during the Communist regime.


Giardino's Graphic War Novels

Orient Gateway (Catalan Communications, 1986)
Hungarian Rhapsody (Catalan Communications, 1987)
Sam Pezzo, P.I. (Catalan Communications, 1987)
Little Ego (Catalan Communications, 1990)
Deadly Dalliance (Catalan Communications, 1990)
A Jew in Communist Prague: 1. Loss of Innocence (N.B.M., 1997)
A Jew in Communist Prague: 2. Adolescence (N.B.M., 1997)
A Jew in Communist Prague: 3. Rebellion (N.B.M., 1998)
¡No pasarán!: Vol. 1 (N.B.M., 2002)
¡No pasarán!: Vol. 2 (N.B.M., 2003)

Sources: and The Beret Project:


Gino Severini

Gino Severini (7 April 1883–26 February 1966), was an Italian painter and a leading member of the Futurist movement. For much of his life he divided his time between Paris and Rome. He was associated with neo-classicism and the "return to order" in the decade after the First World War. During his career he worked in a variety of media, including mosaic and fresco. He showed his work at major exhibitions, including the Rome Quadrennial, and won art prizes from major institutions.

He was invited by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Boccioni to join the Futurist movement and was a co-signatory, with Balla, Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Luigi Russolo, of the Manifesto of the Futurist Painters in February 1910 and the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting in April the same year. He was an important link between artists in France and Italy and came into contact with Cubism before his Futurist colleagues. Following a visit to Paris in 1911, the Italian Futurists adopted a sort of Cubism, which gave them a means of analysing energy in paintings and expressing dynamism. Severini helped to organize the first Futurist exhibition outside Italy at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, in February 1912 and participated in subsequent Futurist shows in Europe and the United States. In 1913, he had solo exhibitions at the Marlborough Gallery, London, and Der Sturm, Berlin.

In his autobiography, written many years later, he records that the Futurists were pleased with the response to the exhibition at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, but that influential critics, notably Apollinaire, mocked them for their pretentions, their ignorance of the main currents of modern art and their provincialism. Severini later came to agree with Apollinaire.

Severini was less attracted to the subject of the machine than his fellow Futurists and frequently chose the form of the dancer to express Futurist theories of dynamism in art. He was particularly adept at rendering lively urban scenes, for example in Dynamic Hieroglyph of the Bal Tabarin (1912) and The Boulevard (1913). During the First World War he produced some of the finest Futurist war art, notably his Italian Lancers at a Gallop (1915) and Armoured Train (1915).

Adapted from:


On: Plastic Synthesis of the Idea of War, 1915, oil on canvas. Severini did not take part in the fighting but, in 1914 and 1915, he attempted to paint it from the experiences of the French Cubists and the Italian Futurists, of which he was a leading exponent. To description, he preferred the composition of large symbolic ensembles using the juxtaposition of details and words according to the logic of Cubist collage established as of 1912 by Picasso and Braque. Thus the war is defined by adding together the general mobilisation order, a ship's anchor, an artillery gun carriage, range-finding instruments, an aircraft wing bearing the red, white and blue roundel, a factory chimney and the date of the declaration of war. Significantly, Severini does not introduce, or even allude to, any human presence, preferring to use the working drawings of engineers as the building blocks of his pictorial language. The association between industrial modernity and artistic modernity is obvious. Severini called his aesthetics "ideist realism."



On: Armored Train creates a sense of chaos and disorder; also a very modern aesthetic.  It uses the cubist style to rebel against the norm, making a clean break from renaissance techniques. All the angles and geometry mimic manufactured aesthetic and reflects interest in modern technology and progress. As this train speeds through the country side, the fractured foliage and nature also creates a sense of speed.



On: Gun in Action, 1915, oil on canvas. There remains one difficulty for the painter to overcome if possible: to add the great noise to the picture and give as complete a rendering of the feeling as he can. In the terms of Cubist "papiers collés", Severini introduces words and onomatopoeia, edging towards a poem painting. Some of his methods may appear pretty crude, like the "booom" of the blast.

Others attempt to specify the technique itself, "arithmetical perfection", "geometrical rhythm", "gradual earthward curve". The picture is to be read as much as it is to be looked at, especially as the figures of the artillerymen are only sketched in and the gun itself is not shown in any great detail. In 1916, shortly after painting and exhibiting his war pictures, Severini moved away from warlike subjects and what he called "ideist realism", painting Cubist still lifes instead. One can't help feeling that this move can be explained, if only partly, in terms of the conviction that painting cannot safely tackle themes that are beyond it. None can suggest the "acrid stench" of the "centrifugal heaviness", and tracing words on the canvas is not a satisfactory solution either.



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