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Mussolinis unge år

Denne beskrivelse af Mussolinis ungdomsår er hentet fra Denis Mack Smiths Mussolini-biografi.

 

Benito had difficulty in learning to speak. For long months his parents feared he might be altogether dumb and only with much patient attention did they manage to extract his first articulate sounds. He eventually became a bright child, but was so uncontrollable that they sent him away to a boarding school at Faenza run by a religious order. He regarded this as a punishment and it contributed to his sense of rejection: by his own admission, his character was already flawed, but the Salesian fathers made it incorrigible.

He particularly remembered having to eat at a special table for those who could not afford the full school fees. There was no speaking at mealtimes and absolute silence was enforced throughout the week before Easter, during which lessons were replaced by spiritual exercises and meditation. Hot baths were provided only in winter and chilblains made him lame. The children were woken at five o’clock in summer, six in winter, and daily mass was compulsory. He imagined he was specially singled out for beatings because of his father’s politics. In addition to these, he was sometimes punished by isolation for days at a time. He later recalled the reverend headmaster as a frightful ‘walking skeleton’ and his form master as someone who ‘diabolically poisoned the best years of my life’. Two years at this school helped to make him feel ‘like a wild flower in an orderly plantation’ and fuelled his resentment against society. He occasionally thought of running away. Yet in the holidays, the cramped life of Predappio left him almost as depressed and miserable. During one summer he helped his father with the first steam threshing-machine the area had ever seen; at other times he worked the bellows in the forge. But school had exacerbated a mischievous rebelliousness that made him ‘the desperation of my parents and a pest to the neighbours’. He was a boy who did not shed tears and rarely laughed who spoke little and liked his own company, who preferred reading to playing with others.

A number of stories were told later which suggest that the young Mussolini had a bad-tempered willfulness and a streak of brutality. A perhaps untrustworthy legend has it that he plucked live chickens and blinded captive birds. He was remembered for pinching people in church to make them cry. As a gang leader he used to bully others into joining his escapades, and a close disciple confirmed that he was always the one to start a fight. As he had a pronounced sense of vendetta, no insult was allowed to pass without his exacting vengeance, but he also ‘sought quarrels for their own sake and because he needed to dominate; if he won a bet he asked more than his due, if he lost he tried to avoid payment’. In later years he used to smile with pleasure at the thought that his schoolfellows would still carry the scars of wounds he had inflicted.

Back at boarding school for his second year in 1893, the ten-year-old Mussolini led a revolt against the quality of the food. He once refused to go to morning mass and had to be dragged there by force. Impatient of discipline, punished often and – as he thought – unjustly, this fiery-tempered boy exploded into violence. After he had drawn a knife on another boy and wounded him one evening at supper, the school decided that enough was enough. He was expelled and the Salesians had to sue his family for their fees. The facts about this stabbing and Mussolini’s consequent expulsion were played down or altogether suppressed by later fascist historians.

Benito spent some months home educating himself with his mother’s help but she clearly could not cope and he was eventually sent to a school at Forlimpopoli. She wrote to the authorities asking for a scholarship but was turned down and the family decided they could afford the payments on their own. The new school was not run by priests, and church attendance was voluntary. Mussolini thought it was like moving from hell to heaven – the food was better, the discipline more humane, and he could go home at weekends. However, he soon found himself in much the same trouble as before. Brawling and bullying led to a fight after which he was again asked to leave. This crisis passed, but on two other occasions he was suspended and sent home for ten days – once for impertinence and once for stabbing another pupil.

It says something for both Mussolini and the school that he was allowed back and completed six years at Forlimpopoli. He liked to describe himself as having been top of his class but the headmaster recollected him as a mediocre student displaying no promise of great things to come. Mussolini in turn described his chief teacher as a second-rate pedant who made the children learn everything by rote. Evidence from other pupils suggests that the boy Mussolini inspired fear and not much liking. But some, at least, of his gifts were recognized: he played the trombone in the school band; and at the age of seventeen was called upon to make a speech in the local theatre to commemorate Verdi.

His last years at school were spent studying for an educational diploma which he obtained in 1901. He enjoyed being a senior boy, though his boredom during the holidays in the dreary atmosphere of Predappio increased. He was temporarily expelled for a fourth time because of being absent for a night – he used to tell how some of the boarders used to climb down knotted sheets to go dancing in the town until daybreak.

Mussolini was not reticent about his love affairs except later in his life; he prided himself on being a Don Juan and chronicled a long list of casual encounters from the age of seventeen when he began to make the conventional visit each Sunday to the brothels of Forlì. He used the word fiancée for a number of girls, sometimes for more than one at the same time. One conquest he described thus in his autobiography:

I caught her on the stairs, throwing her into a corner behind a door, and made her mine. When she got up weeping and humiliated she insulted me by saying I had robbed her of her honour and it is not impossible she spoke the truth. But I ask you, what kind of honour can she have meant?

Mussolini used to admit in later life that he never had any male friends: indeed he liked to consider this unwillingness or inability to make friends as a necessary and even admirable side of his character. But he always had followers and often mistresses or girl-friends though few of his affairs lasted long. By the time he left Forlimpopoli he had the reputation of being someone who rarely left his house except occasionally after dark; he was known as a hermit and misanthrope.

 

Tekst 24 | Oversigten over kildetekster | Tekst 26

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