Leo Longanesi

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Leo Longanesi
Longanesi in the early 1950s
Longanesi in the early 1950s
BornLeopoldo Longanesi
(1905-08-30)30 August 1905
Bagnacavallo, Italy
DiedNovember 27, 1957(1957-11-27) (aged 52)
Milan, Italy
OccupationJournalist, publisher, playwright
ResidenceBologna (1911–1932), Rome (1932–1943), Milan (1946–1957)
Alma materUniversity of Bologna (J.D.)
Period2th century
GenreBiography, drama, comedy, cartoon
SubjectItalian society and customs
Literary movementStrapaese
Years active1920–1957
Maria Spadini
(m. 1939; died 1957)
Children2 daughters, 1 son

Leopoldo Longanesi (30 August 1905 – 27 September 1957) was an Italian journalist, publicist, screenplayer, playwright, writer and publisher, famous in his country mostly for the satirical works on Italian society and people. He also founded the eponymous publishing house in Milan in 1946 and was a mentor-like figure for the most famous Indro Montanelli, journalist and historian, founder of Il Giornale, one of the Italian biggest newspaper.[1][2][3]

Between 1927 and 1950, he published several magazines including L'Italiano (1927), Omnibus (1937), and Il Borghese (1950), a cultural and satirical weekly, conservative-oriented.[4] A self-described "cultural anarchist",[5][6] after the Second World War Longanesi headed a right-wing popular sentiment[7] that embraced conservatism,[8][9] agrarian virtues,[10] anti-democracy and nostalgic post-fascism.[11][12][13]

Longanesi was also an elegant and refined cartoonist and wrote several books of memoirs, characterised by a ruthless streak and Fascist nostalgic accents (In piedi e seduti, Una vita, Ci salveranno le vecchie zie?).[14]


Early life and career[edit]

Born in Bagnacavallo, Leo was son of Paolo Longanesi, director of a gunpowder factory in Lugo, and Angela Marangoni, member of a wealthy landowner family of Bagnacavallo. In 1911, when Leo was aged 6, the Longanesi family moved to Bologna, where according to the family wealth, Leo attended the most prestigious schools and learned French language, studying at the Galvani High School. In 1920, Leo wrote his first printed sheet, Il Marchese, at the age of 15. Following he wrote the monthly magazine Zibaldone dei giovani (1921), Il Toro (1923) and Il Dominio (1924), arousing attention for his young age and the style of writing. After the high school, Longanesi attended the University of Bologna, gaining a bachelor's decree of law.

After University, Longanesi became member of the worldly elite of the city, attending social circles, literary cafés and nighthawk pubs, becoming friend to leading intellectual such as Galvano Della Volpe, Giorgio Morandi and Vincenzo Cardarelli, and young rising politicians like Leandro Arpinati, Dino Grandi and Italo Balbo, all future Fascist leading figures. During this time Longanesi became interested to politics, and in 1924 started a collaboration with L'Assalto ("The Assault"), a Fascist newspaper in Bologna. In the same year, he knew Mino Maccari, a famous painter, who introduced him in the socialite circles of Rome.[15] With Maccari and famous writer Curzio Malaparte, Longanesi started a cultural movement called Strapaese (literally "great country"), who saw the Italian Fascism as bearer of rural traditions and countrymen virtues.[10] Living between Rome and Bologna, Longanesi with the magazine Il Selvaggio ("The Savage") from 1925 to 1929, and founded the weekly magazine L'Italiano ("The Italian"), from 1926 to 1942, headsquartered in Bologna, along with Maccari, American playwright Henry Furst and writer Giovanni Comisso, former legionnaire of Fiume with Gabriele D'Annunzio. In this moment, Benito Mussolini was establishing his police state, banning the opposition parties and imposing a cult of personality based on his figure (The Duce, the leader)[16] and the National Fascist Party, now the only legal party. Longanesi and his collaborators grew near to the new regime, and started a cultural debate on the relationship between arts and fascism. In 1926, he wrote his first great work, the "Vade-mecum of the perfect Fascist". The book express, in the motto "Mussolini is always right" (Mussolini ha sempre ragione), a mix of adoration and caricature of Mussolini's dictatorship.[17] For all the dictatorship of Mussolini (1926–1943), Longanesi was both loyal to the Fascism but also a critical of it, being ironic about the Battle for Grain (marshes' recovery policy), the mistification of the Ancient Rome and the imperialist dreams on Africa.[18]

Under Fascism[edit]

In 1927, Longanesi started his first publishing house, L'Italiano Editions (property of L'Italiano magazine, who directed), and published works of Fascist writers critical on the regime, such as Malaparte, Riccardo Bacchelli, Vincenzo Cardarelli and Antonio Baldini, Telesio Interlandi, who was later one of the major supporter of the racial laws (1938) against the Jews.[19] The follow year, he purchased by Malaparte the publishing house and magazine La Voce ("The Voice"), founded by the conservative journalist Giuseppe Prezzolini in 1919.[20] In 1929, Longanesi became a candidate for the general election (which presented only the Fascist Party), without being elected. On July of the same year, Longanesi is chosen to direct L'Assalto, who managed before 1931, when he resigned. The cause of his dismissal was strong and irriverent piece on Senator Giuseppe Tanari, financer of the squadrismo (literally "squadronism"), a radical tendency inside Fascism, which members attacked, assaulted and sometimes killed political dissidents. His article was motivated by a fact happened on May 1931: Longanesi attended an displaying of conductor Arturo Toscanini at the Bologna Communal Theatre, attended also by Galeazzo Ciano, son-in-law of Mussolini, and Arpinati, Longanesi's old friend. At the end of the piece, Ciano and Arpinati called Toscanini to play Giovinezza ("Youth"), a popular song among the Fascists. Due to Toscanini refusal, Ciano and Arpinati left the theatre disappointed, and at the exit Toscanini was assaulted and slapped by radical Fascists for his dissent. Erroneusly, Longanesi was believed to be the first slapper, mainly because one article against conductor's refusal the following day.[21][22]

On May 1932, Longanesi moved with his parents and grandparents in Rome, buying an elegant house in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. He also moved L'Italiano and Il Selvaggio magazines in the capital, nevertheless both magazines were in decline and Longanesi directed them almost alone. Despite his criticisms, Longanesi was chosen by the regime to organize a literary exhibition on Mussolini for the 10th anniversary of the March on Rome, opened on 28 October 1932. After the began of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War in 1935, Longanesi gained the role of chief of the propaganda. For his services to the Fascism, Longanesi requested the direction of any big newspaper, gaining a refuse by the regime, that feared that new magazines and papers, espacially under the direction of critics of the dictatorship, would undermined the Fascist's strict control over the press.[23] However, thanks to his connection with Mussolini's son Vittorio, Longanesi gained an employment for Cinema, a magazine of film criticism, on September 1936. After a month, however, Longanesi was fired for an unpleasanted photographical service on the regime.

On 3 April 1937, Longanesi created a new magazine: Omnibus, an illsutrated news magazine on literature and arts, later described as the "father of the Italian magazines", especially for his use of photographs and images.[24] The magazine was published by Angelo Rizzoli (for the first 6 months by Arnoldo Mondadori), and presented notable and rising journalists and artists such as Indro Montanelli, Alberto Moravia, Vitaliano Brancati, Ennio Flaiano, Mario Soldati, Mario Pannunzio, Arrigo Benedetti and Alberto Savinio. Despite the immediate success of the magazine, Omnibus was forced to close on 2 February 1939 by the Ministry of Popular Culture (Minculpop), apparently without reason but probably for the collaborations to the magazine by Jewish intellectuals like Moravia and anti-fascists like Pannunzio. However, thanks again to his high livel connections, in 1940 Longanesi was appointed by the Minculpop itself as its technical-artistic consultant.[25] In the same period he was also chosen by Rizzoli as director of a book series, Il sofà delle Muse ("The Muses' sofa"), publishing successful works like The Tartar Steppe (1940), Don Giovanni in Sicily (1941) and The Truth about Motta affair (1937, reedited in 1941).

Second World War[edit]

On 10 June 1940, Italy declared war to France and United Kingdom, in alliance with Nazi Germany and other Fascist-inspired nations of the Axis Powers. Longanesi was skeptical, despite the initial popular enthusiasm, of the Italian entrance in the Second World War, thought that will be the ruin of Italy.[26] Despite his personal beliefs, and faithful to his controversial and ecleptic nature, Longanesi chose to stay loyal to the Fascist regime, also working for Primato magazine, directed by former Public Education Minister Giuseppe Bottai, and inventing war slogan such as "Taci! Il nemico ti ascolta" (Shut up! Enemy is listening you), "La patria si serve anche facendo la sentinella ad un bidone di benzina" (The fatherland could be served also keeping watch on an petrol barrel) and "Una pistola puntata contro l'Italia" (A gun aimed on Italy). After the failure of the Greco-Italian War in 1941 and Tunisian Campaign in 1942, Italy fell in crisis and grew always more subjected to Germany. On 25 July 1943, a coup d'état against Mussolini overthrow the Fascism, and Longanesi, along with Pannunzio and Benedetti wrote a piece that celebrate the apparent return of freedom and hope for the Italian retreat from war. However, the new Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio secretly sign the armistice of Cassibile with Allied Powers on 3 September 1943, while all Italy is under German direct military influences, and on 8 September with a proclamation, announce the switch of side from Axis to Allies, after which he fled to Brindisi with the royal family and the government, left military and public authorities without orders. Like Italy broke up in a German-occupied north and an Allied-occupied south, on 16 September Longanesi fled from Rome to south, with his friends Mario Soldati, Steno and Riccardo Freda, arriving in the Molisian town of Vinchiaturo on 29 September.[27] On 1 October, Longanesi moved to Naples, where along with Steno and Soldati, collaborated with Allied authorities with an anti-fascist propaganda radio FM named White Star. However, also in this case, Longanesi rapidly grew critical on the new anti-fascist political class, composed by old opportunists and new ambitious figures, united in a climate of political chameleontism.[26] On 5 June 1944, Rome was finally liberated, and Longanesi moved again to the capital on 1 July, writing the comedy Il suo cavallo ("His horse"), a mockery of Mussolini depicted similar to Shakepseare's Richard III.

Post-war, political activism and death[edit]

On January 1946, with the end of the war, Longanesi moved to Milan with his family, while his parents moved to Imola, in the native Romagna. Shortly after, Longanesi accepted the offer of the industrialist Giovanni Monti, and founded the publishing house Longanesi & C.. on 1 February 1946. Simultaneously, he started the publishing of Il Libraio ("The Bookseller"), a bibliographic magazine, active from 1946 to 1949. Politically, Longanesi became a prominent opponent to the new republican democracy that substituted the Fascism, stating that:

Italy is a democracy in which one third of the citizens sigh for the past dictatorship, another wait for the Soviet one, and the last are conforming with the next of the Christian Democrats.[28]

In his pieces, he jokes on both anti-fascists ("There is who believe to be an anti-fascist only because Fascism never noticed him") and ex-fascists reused in the new system ("There is a question that we must never do: 'Where we have met before?'").[29] Longanesi was also a staunch anti-communist. During the 1948 election, fearing a victor of the Soviet-sponsored Popular Democratic Front, Longanesi and his favourite Indro Montanelli campaigned for the "less worse" Christian Democracy (DC), printing and publishing pamphlets, fliers, posters and hosting Radio Garibaldi, an illegal FM in Milan.[2][3] After the defeat of the Front, Longanesi left Il Libraio, and in 1950 Longanesi founded the magazine Il Borghese, collaborating with Montanelli, Giovanni Ansaldo, Giuseppe Prezzolini, Giovanni Spadolini, Alberto Savinio, Mario Tedeschi, Ennio Flaiano, Colette Rosselli, Irene Brin, Goffredo Parise, Mario Missiroli and Piero Buscaroli. In the mind of Longanesi, Il Borghese should will be expression of a new right-wing anti-communist movement, who he named "Brothers of Italy's League", organizing political circles in several cities. The movement rapidly grew, attracting both unsatisfied electors and excluded ones (especially farmers) by the 1950s economic miracle. Longanesi and his followers thought that the new media culture and consumerism would destroying the traditions, disfiguring Italian landscapes and barbarising culture, also criticized the nullification of classes.[30] He was hardly critical on the government, calling him unable to balance old traditions and modernity, and on democratic policy of universal suffrage, stating:

The danger of democracies is the universal suffrage, so the masses. Leave liberty to the masses means lose liberty.

In early 1950s, Longanesi tried to transform his movement in a large right-wing party, formed by former Fascists, monarchists, Catholics, liberals and conservatives.[31] He also visited the mayor of Naples Achille Lauro, exponent of the monarchist PNM, to convince him to join and finance the movement, but his refusal and the lack of political ambitions of Longanesi caused the failure of the project.[32] However, Longanesi still supported the idea of national party, and in 1955 he organized a conference with the title "What is the right[-wing] in Italy?". Soon, his criticisms both on government and neo-fascists caused his isolation. In 1956, his patron Giovanni Monti purposed a separation between Il Borghese and Longanesi & Co., and the refusal of Longanesi was used a justification for oust him out the administration council. Thanks to some unknown connection in Confindustria, as reported by his friend Giovanni Ansaldo, Longanesi was able to maintain Il Borghese for himself paying ₤5,000,000. Always Ansaldo later told that Monti's operation was forced by governative pressures, especially from President Giovanni Gronchi, a left-leaning Christian Democrat who personally disdained Longanesi and Il Borghese, and hoped that without money it will be closed and Longanesi ruined.[33][34]

On 27 September 1957, while in his office, Longanesi suffered a heart attack. It was reported that his last words were:

That is, exactly as I always hoped: quickly and among my things.[35]

Transported to clinic, he died here soon after. His death was griefed by his few living friends, including Arrigo Benedetti (director of L'Espresso),[36] Indro Montanelli, future founder of Il Giornale,[37] and Giovanni Spadolini, future first non-Christian Democrat Prime Minister of the Italian Republic.[38]

Personal life[edit]

On 18 February 1939, few days after the closure of Omnibus, Longanesi married Maria Spadini, daughter of the painter Armando Spadini, knew thanks to the common friend Vincenzo Cardarelli, former journalist for L'Italiano. By the marriage Longanesi had three children: Virginia (born 19 December 1939), Caterina (born 25 December 1941) and Paolo (born 6 April 1945).

While at home, Longanesi performed his painting passion, causing some arguments with the wife for the style of his works, characterized by surrealism. He also believed in traditional and superstitious cures, such as using rabbit skin to handle sciatica. He also owned a collections of guns, passion inherited by his father, who was director of a gunpowder factory.[39] He loved Risorgimento history and, in spite of his conservative trend, libertarian-like figures like 17th century pirates and 19th century Carbonari.[5]



  • Vade-mecum del perfetto fascista seguito da dieci assiomi per il milite ovvero Avvisi ideali (1926)
  • Cinque anni di rivoluzione (1927)
  • L'Almanacco di Strapaese, with Gino Maccari (1928)
  • Vecchio Sport (extract) (1935)
  • Piccolo dizionario borghese, with Vitaliano Brancati (1941)
  • Parliamo dell'elefante : frammenti di un diario (1947)
  • In piedi e seduti (1919-1943) (1948)
  • Il mondo cambia. Storia di cinquant'anni (1949)
  • Una vita. Romanzo (1949)
  • Il destino ha cambiato cavallo (1951)
  • Un morto fra noi (1952)
  • Ci salveranno le vecchie zie? (1953)
  • L'onesto Signor Bianchi (1953)
  • Lettera alla figlia del tipografo (1957)
  • La sua signora. Taccuino di Leo Longanesi (1957)
  • Me ne vado. Ottantun incisioni in legno (1957)
  • L'italiano in guerra, 1915-1918 (1965, posthumous)
  • I Borghesi Stanchi (1973, posthumous)
  • Il Generale Stivalone (2007, posthumous)
  • Faust a Bologna (2013, posthumous)
  • Morte dell'Imperatore (2016, posthumous)


  • Due Servi, with Mino Maccari (1924)
  • Una conferenza (1942)
  • Il commendatore (1942)
  • Il suo cavallo (1944)
  • La colpa è dell'anticamera (1946)





  • Montanelli, Indro; Staglieno, Marcello (1984). Rizzoli (ed.). Leo Longanesi.
  • Appella, Giuseppe; Longanesi, Paolo; Vallora, Marco (1996). Longanesi (ed.). Leo Longanesi: 1905-1957 : editore, scrittore, artista.
  • Albonetti, Piero; Fanti, Corrado (1997). Edit Faenza (ed.). Longanesi e italiani.
  • Liucci, Raffele (2002). Marsilio (ed.). L'Italia borghese di Longanesi.
  • Ungari, Andrea (2007). Le Lettere (ed.). Un conservatore scomodo: Leo Longanesi dal fascismo alla Repubblica.
  • Giubilei, Francesco (2015). Odoya (ed.). Leo Longanesi: il borghese conservatore.
  • Liucci, Raffaele (2016). Carocci (ed.). Leo Longanesi. Un borghese corsaro tra fascismo e Repubblica.
  • Mazzuca, Alberto (2017). Minerva (ed.). Penne al vetriolo. I grandi giornalisti raccontano la Prima Repubblica.


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  2. ^ a b Merlo, Salvatore (1 March 2016). "E Longanesi creò Montanelli". Il Foglio.
  3. ^ a b "Longanesi e Montanelli: due mondi a confronto". L'Intelelttuale Dissidente. 3 January 2017.
  4. ^ Marrone, Gaetana (2007). Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies: A-J. Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. p. 980.
  5. ^ a b Lanna, Luciano (1 November 2016). "Ma chi l'ha detto che Longanesi fosse conservatore?". Il Dubbio.
  6. ^ Pannullo, Antonio (27 December 2017). "Longanesi, l'anarchico che coniò il motto: Mussolini ha sempre ragione". Secolo d'Italia.
  7. ^ Mascheroni, Luigi (27 July 2015). "Ironico gigante tra nani conformisti". il Giornale.
  8. ^ Giubilei, Francesco (2015). Odoya (ed.). Leo Longanesi: il borghese conservatore.
  9. ^ Liucci, Raffaele (2016). Carocci (ed.). Leo Longanesi: un borghese corsaro tra fascismo e Repubblica.
  10. ^ a b Barbirati, Luca (30 May 2014). "Strapaese. Ovvero la terra contro la modernità". L'Intellettuale Dissidente.
  11. ^ Ajello, Nello (23 December 1984). "Leo Longanesi, uomo del No". la Repubblica.
  12. ^ Terranova, Annalisa (3 September 2017). "Leo Longanesi, l'inafferrabile intellettuale anarchico". Lettera 43.
  13. ^ Grasso, Annalisa (2 October 2017). "Leo Longanesi, un genio anticonformista italiano che fu tutto e il suo contrario". '900 Letterario.
  14. ^ Caruso, Martina (2016). Italian Humanist Photography from Fascism to the Cold War. Bloomsbury. p. 34.
  15. ^ Cimmino, Alessandra (2005). Treccani (ed.). Longanesi, Leo. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. 65.
  16. ^ Gundle, Stephen; Duggan, Chistopher (2013). Manchester University Press (ed.). "The cult of the Duce: Mussolini and the Italians". JSTOR j.ctt18mvkcv.
  17. ^ Longanesi, Leo (1926). "Mussolini ha sempre ragione". L'Italiano n. 3. p. 4.
  18. ^ Longanesi, Leo (1947). Longanesi (ed.). Parliamo dell'elefante: Frammenti di un diario.
  19. ^ Bosworth, R.J.B. (2009). Oxford University Press (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Fascism. p. 308.
  20. ^ Prezzolini, Giuseppe (2003). Robin (ed.). Codice della vita italiana. p. 65.
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  22. ^ Festa, Fabrizio (16 May 1991). "Toscanini, la verità sul famoso schiaffo". la Repubblica.
  23. ^ Granata, Ivano (2015). FrancoAngeli (ed.). L'«Omnibus» di Leo Longanesi. Politica e cultura (aprile 1937-gennaio 1939). p. 14.
  24. ^ Poma, Stefano (22 November 2017). "Omnibus, il settimanale che cambiò il giornalismo italiano". l'Universale. Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
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  26. ^ a b "Leo Longanesi: la fabbrica del dissenso". Internet Culturale. 2011.
  27. ^ a b Castellani, Massimiliano (29 April 2017). "Nel luglio del 1943 Longanesi si cimentò nel cinema girando "Dieci minuti di vita". Pellicola politica incompiuta e di cui restano scampoli da riscoprire". cinquantamila.it.
  28. ^ Sorgi, Marcello (27 September 2017). "I 70 anni di Longanesi nell'antologia di Buttafuoco". La Stampa.
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