On Friendship and Freedom: The Correspondence of Ignazio Silone and Marcel Fleischmann

On Friendship and Freedom: The Correspondence of Ignazio Silone and Marcel Fleischmann

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By Maria Nicolai Paynter
Toronto Italian Studies
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
288 Pages 11 Images
ISBN 9781442649965
Published Jul 2016
Online discount: 25%
 $75.00    $56.25
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442621886
Published Aug 2016
Online discount: 25%
Full purchase $75.00

Ignazio Silone, the anti-fascist, Italian author and political activist, continues to intrigue readers and stimulate their minds nearly four decades after his death. On Friendship and Freedom contains the first published collection of correspondence between Silone and his longtime friend the philanthropist and art collector Marcel Fleischmann.

Maria Nicolai Paynter, a recognized authority on Silone and his work, deftly guides the reader through the years dominated by Fascism and Nazism as well as the decades leading up to Silone’s death in 1978. Of particular interest for its human value, the correspondence gathered in this volume is most inspiring in that it reveals how two men of different cultural and religious backgrounds join together and share true friendship against all odds.

Maria Nicolai Paynter is professor emerita of Italian Literature at Hunter College, CUNY






Four Remarkable People

Ignazio and Darina Silone

Marcel Fleischmann and Elsa Schiess


The Correspondence

The Swiss Years: 1934-1944

Bridging the Distance: 1945-1976





“This noteworthy body of correspondence limpidly returns the intense history of a normal and yet extraordinary friendship. The bond with Marcel Fleischmann is the essential biographical source of Silone's idea of friendship as the "only vital element in a landscape that is almost always arid and desolate." Paynter reconstructs the two figures through their dialogue and contextualizes the letters with critical acumen and wealth of information, while also noting the intellectual and moral relevance of  two remarkable women: Darina Silone and Elsa Schiess.”

Bruno Falcetto, Professor of Contemporary Italian Literature, University of Milan

“An independent intellectual, devoted equally to letters and politics, Silone viewed the essence of his writing as nothing if not a tribute to friendship and human solidarity: “I feel quite sure that the only thing that matters, that one never regrets, and that gives courage, is the sincere affection between friends.” During his most difficult years as a refugee, living in exile from Fascist Italy in Switzerland and for the next four decades, Silone had no greater friend than his Swiss “Maecenas,” Marcel Fleischmann. To have the Silone-Fleischmann correspondence in English constitutes a natural, useful corrective to recent negative portrayals of Silone and represents a major addition to our understanding of both his character and Fleischmann's philanthropic work.  Maria Paynter has produced a scrupulous, perspicacious and accurate study. The result is a genuine achievement that should be of great interest to all readers upon whom Silone’s writing has left an indelible mark.”

Michael McDonald, winner of the Silone International Prize, 2003 and author of Scrittori di fronte al male: Riflessioni su letteratura e politica

“Illuminating and delightful, this volume offers an intimate look at one of the most influential Italian writers as well as a record of an endearing friendship. Organized chronologically, On Friendship and Freedom is also a testimony to the wisdom and courage both men found in plumbing the depths of the human soul. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these letters is how they speak to us through life and how they provide, notwithstanding hardships and change, a meditation on acceptance and understanding. Readers of all kinds will appreciate this valuable book.”

Gaetana Marrone, Professor of Italian, Princeton University

“Much of Ignazio Silone's role in modern history has come to appear as a riddle and in recent times we have become aware of the ruptures and folds of his complicated life: the politically engage` intellectual boldly moving on the stage of world history; the subsequent novelistic demythologizer of Stalin's violence; the enigmatic, disoriented  figure of the exile from all ideologies. This volume by Maria Nicolai Paynter illuminates and explores the deeper, more intimate dimension of Silone's life: his friendship with Marcel Fleischmann. It narrows the focus of Silone's sense of freedom (as if it were only possible in the  bond of friendship) and, thus, it paradoxically expands the trajectory of Silone's inner history and moral choices. We finally get a clear answer to the lingering question "who is Silone?".  Thanks to his correspondence with his friend we discover that his moral world is much bigger than his missteps.”

Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor in the Humanities for Italian, Yale University and winner of the Silone International Prize in 2001.

“The correspondence in On Friendship and Freedom is beautifully presented and edited, and will be of great use to future Silone scholars and scholars of Swiss literary exile.”

Deborah Holmes, Senior Lecturer in German, University of Ken

On Friendship and Freedom is a valuable addition to the body of work on Ignazio Silone. This important and rich correspondence will be of interest to readers with different interests and expectations as well as improve our understanding of Silone as a literary and cultural figure.”

Francesca Billiani, Senior Lecturer in Italian, University of Manchester

‘This powerful and invaluable book contributes to an understanding not only of Silone and Fleischmann, but also of European intellectual history of the 20th century.’

C. De. Santi, Choice Magazine vol 54:06:2017

Premio Flaiano Prize in the category of Italian Studies (Italy) - Winner in 2017