Race and Victimhood in Postwar Representations of Sexual Violence in Occupied Italy

Once Adriana and Amdu get over the initial strangeness and foreignness of each other, they become friends and a kind of platonic love develops between the two. Adriana brings the hungry Amdu food and nurses him back to health when he falls ill. But, their love is, in the end, impossible. Eventually, Amdu will pay with his life for the crimes of his fellow soldiers. He is killed by a bomb that was planted on his regiment’s ship by the citizens of Elba as retribution for the violence committed by the French colonial soldiers.

Liberation is a story about young love but it is also a story about the horrors of war and about the meaning of the word ‘liberation’. The liberation, in Scott’s novel, brought new threats to Elba, though the most prevalent of all was rape:

From the start, it is clear that Scott intends the word ‘liberation’ to be fraught with irony. The rape by the Moroccans, who are also Allied soldiers, provides a focus for this theme, its horrible details accumulating throughout the book. As she takes on the absurdity of war, Scott makes it increasingly obvious that for most of the local population being liberated is often not much better than being occupied. (Freed 2005)

Still, unlike Moravia’s novel and Andrea Z.’s testimony where there is no love and only rape during the liberation of Italy, Scott’s novel is not about ‘a rape’ – although there is rape – but about love amidst much violence.

From the publication of Moravia’s La Ciociara to the uses and abuses of the film by De Sica in Italian political discourseto Joanna Scott’s recent Liberation, a hegemonic narrative of sexual violence in World War Two Italy emerges. It is the sexual violence committed by the French colonial troops that appears to be the most thoroughly etched in the memories of Italian civilians – especially those who lived in the South – and to have been most frequently represented in literature and political discourse. As Helena Janeczek wrote of the rapes in her novel Le rondini di Montecassino: “Questo resta il solo ricordo dei francesi in Italia” (Janeczek 2010: 334). While the development of this narrative is partially explainable by the fact that the Moroccan troops seem to have been statistically the most violent of the occupying troops, it also seems to have been shaped by the way this violence has been perceived, that is, by the association of the colonial troops with sexual danger both during and after the war. The representation of these rapes in civilian memories, political discourse, and in literature not only paints a view of the liberation of Southern Italy that is fraught with sexual trauma but it also obscures the complicated history of sexual relationships and sexual violence between Italian civilians and the other occupying troops.

Permalink: https://www.lettereaperte.net/artikel/ausgabe-2-2015/158

Bildnachweis: Mulberry Street (ca. 1900), Library of Congress (cc), https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8e/NYC_Mulberry_Street_3g04637u.jpg/1200px-NYC_Mulberry_Street_3g04637u.jpg