The Moro Affair by Leonardo Sciascia

The affair in question was the kidnapping of Moro in 1978. The Red Brigade tried him, in their own fashion, and sentenced him to death. Although they then offered a trade, thirteen of theirs in exchange, the ruling Christian Democrats refused. Actually, even the Pope refused. It must have been truly shocking for Moro to realise that his colleagues and friends, not to mention the head of the Church, had no intention of trying to save him.

And it shocked Sciascia: hence the book. In main part it looks at the letters Moro sent to his family, his colleagues, the Press and the Pope during the two months he was kept alive. And it examines them in a literary way, searching for clues in a way perhaps only Sciascia could. He brings in Borges, Cervantes, and Pirandello amongst others. He believed that Moro must have hidden hints as to his whereabouts in these letters. He talks of the incompetence of the police and the unChristian-like behaviour of the ruling party.

He talks of the indirect way Moro had of talking and how this played out. And I couldn’t help wondering if Sciascia was himself writing like Moro in this regard. I knew nothing of the story other than what I read in these pages. But it felt obvious to me from the start that the whoever was running the Christian Democrats was probably quite happy with how things were going. Not to mention it explained the way in which the police set about the task of finding him – or as seems actually to have been the case, set about the task of looking like they were trying to find him.

At one point in the letters he sent, Moro asks if his betrayal is actually something decided by the Americans. Since then, it transpires that yes, this is the case. From Wiki:

In 2005, Sergio Flamigni, a leftist politician and writer, who had served on a parliamentary inquiry on the Moro case, suggested the involvement of the Operation Gladio network directed by NATO. He asserted that Gladio had manipulated Moretti as a way to take over the Red Brigades in order to effect a strategy of tension aimed at creating popular demand for a new, right-wing law-and-order regime.[40][41]

In 2006, the Harvard and MIT educated American psychiatrist and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Management, Steve Pieczenik, was interviewed by Emmanuel Amara in his documentary film Les derniers jours d’Aldo Moro (“The Last Days of Aldo Moro”). In the interview, Pieczenik, an expert on international terrorism and negotiating strategies who had been brought to Italy as a consultant to Interior Minister Francesco Cossiga‘s Crisis Committee, stated that: “We had to sacrifice Aldo Moro to maintain the stability of Italy.”[42][43]

Pieczenik maintained that the U.S. had had to “instrumentalize the Red Brigades.” According to him, the decision to have Moro killed was taken during the fourth week of his detention, when Moro was thought to be revealing state secrets in his letters,[44] namely, the existence of Gladio.[43] In another interview former interior minister Cossiga revealed that the Crisis Committee had also leaked a false statement attributed to the Red Brigades that Moro was already dead. This was intended to communicate to the kidnappers that further negotiations would be useless, since the government had written Moro off.[45][46]

The kidnapping could scarcely have taken place under more dramatic circumstances as Moro had created a truly historic agreement to bring the Communists into the governing fold. Wiki continues:

The early-1978 proposition by Moro of a Christian Democracy-Italian Socialist Party cabinet supported also by the Italian Communist Party was strongly opposed by both super-powers. The United States feared that the collaboration of an Italian government with the Communists might have allowed these later to gain information on strategic NATO military plans and installations, and pass them to Soviet agents. Moreover, the participation in government of the Communists in a Western country would have represented a cultural failure for the USA. The Soviets considered potential participation by the Italian Communist Party in a cabinet a form of emancipation from Moscow and rapprochement to the Americans, therefore also opposing it.

I think that Sciascia part knew, part surmised, part imagined all this – it isn’t hard. Within Italy itself, like any comprise, many remained opposed. Was the Red Brigade at any time even doing its own bidding, or that of the Americans – or Russians – without even realising it?

How it must have hurt Moro that he was conveniently disposed of with the notion that he was no longer himself. To me the letters read like the philosophising of an ancient Greek, explaining to a recalcitrant audience, why it was right for these lives to be exchanged for his. He tragically changes the tenor of what he is writing as he realises they aren’t recalcitrant, but complicit.

A gripping literary excursion into an extraordinary situation. Highly recommended.

2 thoughts on “The Moro Affair by Leonardo Sciascia

  1. I have enjoyed the review. One more interesting book. I like the questions you raise towards the end. Tragic. Very informative post, thanks a lot.

    • Thank you. It left me feeling that more analysis of politics should be done by people with a fundamental understanding of literature. And also that I should know some more about Italian politics…..

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