Lauro de Bosis’ Gesture


From George Garrett’s “A Wreath for Garibaldi,” Kenyon Review 23 (1961) 487-88:

It is hard for me to know how I feel about Lauro di Bosis. I suffer from mixed feelings. He was a well-to-do, handsome, and sensitive young poet. His bust shows an intense, mustached, fine- featured face. He flew over Rome one day during the early days of Mussolini and scattered leaflets over the city, denouncing the Fascists. He was never heard of again. He is thought either to have been killed by the Fascists as soon as he landed or to have killed himself by flying out to sea and crashing his plane. He was, thus, an early and spectacular victim. And there is something so wonderfully romantic about it all. He really didn’t know how to fly. He had crashed on take off once before. Gossip had it (for gossip is the soul of Rome) that a famous American dancer of the time had paid for both the planes. It was absurd and dramatic. It is remembered and has been commemorated by a bust in a park and a square in the city which was renamed Piazzo Lauro di Bosis after the war.* Most Romans, even some postmen, know it by the old name.

Faced with a gesture like Di Bosis’, I find usually that my sentiments are closer to those of my sculptor friend [who, earlier in the essay, had declared such gestures to be “bullshit”]. The things that happened in police station basements were dirty, grubby, and most often anonymous. No poetry, no airplanes, no dancers. That is how the real routine of resistance goes on, and its strength is directly proportionate to the number of insignificant people who can let themselves be taken to pieces, piece by piece, without quitting. It is an ugly business and there are few, if any, wreaths for them. I keep thinking of a young woman I knew during the Occupation in Austria. She was from Prague. She had been picked up by the Russians, questioned in connection with some pamphlets, sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage. She escaped, crawled through the usual mine fields, under barbed wire, was shot at, swam a river, and we finally picked her up in Linz. She showed us what had happened to her. No airplanes, no Nathan Hale statements. Just no spot, not even a dimesize spot, on her whole body that wasn’t bruised, bruise on top of bruise, from beatings. I understand very well about Lauro di Bosis and how his action is symbolic. The trouble is that like many symbols it doesn’t seem a very realistic one.

*CMcD: It is a grim irony that the piazzo near the Olympic Stadium is dominated, still, by a large pillar reading “Mussolini Dux.”Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 1.46.21 PM

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Emblems, Italy, Military, Poetry, Rome, Statues & Monuments. Bookmark the permalink.

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