44 I CHRONICLESnconclude from this episode that thenTimes appreciates flaky ideas onlynwhen people aren’t facetious aboutnthem. Keep that in mind the next timenyou read what is unfortunately ournnation’s most influential newspaper.n]ohn Shelton Reed is a sociologist atnthe University of North Carolina,nChapel Hill, recently appointed tonthe National Council on thenHumanities.nLetter From Albionnby Andrei NavrozovnAn Episode in ChiantinStill sealed in the gray velvet envelopenof night, early morning in the Florentinencountryside offers the June insomniacnstray, loud cars, merciless crickets,nand doomsday frogs. Thesensupplant the earlier nightingales,nthrashing a capella, as if lured by thenglowworms whose light illuminates annequally desperate vanity. By daybreak,na storm begins; not the atmospheric,ntemperamental, barrels-down-thestairsnkind one gets just about anywhere;nbut the circumspect, snobbishnkind that rumbles interrogatively, puttingnto the cypress, it seems, Farinata’sneternal question, Chi fuor li maggiorntui?—Who were your ancestors? Andnthe cypress, following the other Tuscan’snexample, conceals nothing andnmakes all matters plain.nThe window from which I lean outnoverlooks the gnarled olive trees ofnL’Ulivello, the Strada in Chianti estatenthat once belonged to Guglielmo Ferrero,nthe great historian and politicalnthinker best known for his five-volumenaccount of the self-destruction of thenRoman republic and the settlement ofnAugustus, The Greatness and Declinenof Rome (1902-1906). His grandson,nmy host, belongs to the small andnever-diminishing minority of Americannacademics who, in his own words,n”moonlight as thinkers”; he had givennme Ferrero’s Ancient Rome and ModernnAmerica (1914) to read, and insomnianwas the inevitable consequence.nOver breakfast, there is no reason tontalk about decline. Leo’s wife, Larissa,nis one of the world’s leading Etruscannscholars, but the coffee is incrediblyndelicious. We do not venture out, notneven to Florence, during our stay: letnwell enough alone, really. The food isnsimple, a rest after the gastronomicnexcesses of Rome’s Via Panisperna,nwhere this journey had begun, but thenolive oil is heavy, fragrant, and green,nthe wine not so young, and the breadnfreshly baked.nIn the evening, exhausted by thensunlight, Leo and I talk of this andnthat, smoke, sit outside. My mind stillnteems with impressions of Rome, revisitednafter an absence of some 15nyears. How secret that city is! Everythingngoes on behind closed doors; Younstand before a magnificent set of giantndouble doors in the middle of a crumbling,ndirty wall and see a crumbling,ndirty staircase leading to another set ofndoors, beyond which, if you are lucky,nyou may get a glimpse of some floweringnbit of somebody’s private paradise.nLarissa says it’s to fool the tax man, butnit seems more fundamental than that.nIt’s definitely to fool someone, though.nThe glowworms remind me of anbook I’d read before leaving England,nLeonardo’s Sciascia’s The Moro Affair.nLeo informs me that Sciascia, a Sicilian,nused to move in very left-wingncircles and is now a spokesman for thenfashionable Radical Party, which hadnjust had a professional stripper electednto parliament. I liked the book, and Intell my hosts about it.nLike any art, history abhors thenmiddle ground, and Sciascia understandsnthis. The Moro Affair is nothingnless than a history of Italy, from Marchn16, 1978, when Aldo Moro, presidentnof the National Council of ChristiannDemocrats and architect of a politicalncoalition of unprecedented breadth,nwas kidnapped by the Red Brigades, tonhis execution on May 9. Yet the intensitynof Sciascia’s obsession with hisnsubject has littie in common with thenpedantry of an academic who devotesnhalf a lifetime to the study of a singlenyear in the history of a vanished kingdom;nthis book is controversial, whichnis why it’s still fresh in my mind. Tonenlarge the metaphor with which Sciascia’snmusings about his nation begin,nhis is a glowworm’s eye view of history.nWhat that eye has observed, abovenall, is the delicate pattern of democracy’snimpotence. The eye discerns everynsuccessive hypocrisy, evasion, and fab­nnnrication which covered up the tragicnessence of Moro’s abduction and murder,nregistering in minute detail thenstory of his abandonment by those whonhad hailed him as a Great Statesmannuntil he asked for help like a merenmortal. In the words of the Socialistnleader Pietro Nenni, “The ItaliannState is strong with the weak and weaknwith the strong,” and it is totalitarianism—nas represented by thenCzechoslovakia-trained and BulgariaarmednRed Brigades—that serves tonremind us that democracy, in Italy ornanywhere else, is worth the fight. Thenplain truth of The Moro Affair is thatnmany democracies are not equippednfor this or any other fight, and it is farneasier for their elected leaders to fabricatenself-serving myths of omnipotencenand omniscience than to face thatntruth.nIn the 55 days of Moro’s ordeal, thenItalian police put up 72,460 roadblocks,nsearched 37,702 residences,nchecked 3.3 mihion vehicles and 6.4nmillion individuals. As Sciascia demonstratesnby his anatomic dissection ofnthe police effort, it was all a farce. Thenpolice wanted to locate Moro and hisnkidnappers as little as the Italian governmentndid: They did not want hisnreturn because they felt they could notnsecure it, and they could not secure itnbecause, in the final analysis, nobodynwanted it. The government stayed behindnclosed doors; the people stayednbehind closed doors; Moro’s familynstayed behind closed doors; the RednBrigades stayed behind closed doors,ntoo.nSciascia does not mention Lear, butnthe similarity is striking. Like Lear,nonce Moro was separated from power,nhe became a liability to his politicalnfamily. Their cruelty, duplicity, andnindifference compel Sciascia to speaknof “the two Stalinisms”: theirs and thenRed Brigades’. In his last letters fromncaptivity, the man condemned by onen”Stalinism” to die at the hands of thenother, the real one, asked that only hisnfamily, his natural family, be presentnat his funeral. That was the last wish ofna mere man, but all members of thengovernment turned out for the funeralnservice: As a mere man, Moro wasn”not himself,” and these Great Statesmennfelt it appropriate to divide amongnthemselves the garments of his reluctantnmartyrdom.n