9781859848692 / 1859848699

The Judge and the Historian: Marginal Notes on a Late-Twentieth-Century Miscarriage of Justice





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About the book:

The importance of some books cannot be understated: They help place ourselves in the world, ask the right questions, and maintain useful, strategic credulity in the face of brutal empiricism. Sometimes they shed light on those facts, contextualize them, interrogate them, and so hold them up as empty, mendacious, vicious. The Judge and the Historian does this. As well as a concise and persuasive meditation on the convergence and divergence of the roles of its eponymous professionals, the book offers us a path through the tortuous proceedings that led to what the author portrays as a dreadful miscarriage of justice in a modern European state.

Italy has always had a particularly active political Left and in the late '60s and early '70s an extraparliamentary faction that descended into propagandist violence. In the so-called Hot Autumn of 1969, a bomb exploded in the Agricultural Bank in Milan, killing 16 people. An anarchist railway man, Giuseppe Pinelli, was taken in for questioning by the police. Three days later, Pinelli (immortalized in Dario Fo's play The Accidental Death of an Anarchist) fell to his death from the window of the police commissioner Luigi Calabresi's office. The police claimed suicide but the Left accused them of murder. In 1972 Calabresi was shot dead in front of his home. The far-left Lotta Continua claimed it was an act of proletarian justice but many think right-wing extremists were involved. After almost 16 years of silence, an ex-militant of Lotta, riven with guilt, gave himself up, claiming responsibility for the murder. Leonardo Marino then implicated the leadership of Lotta in the affair.

Carlo Ginzburg, a noted and respected historian, draws on his work on witchcraft trials in the 16th and 17th centuries to dissect the state's case in this late-20th-century show trial. He has written a provocative and passionate book that casts a detailed look at the facts of the case, facts that when presented here cast serious doubt on the judgments reached in Italy early in 1999. Justice is inevitably contextual, and we should consider ourselves lucky to have someone as skilled as Ginzburg in deconstructing its various questionable manifestations. --Mark Thwaite,

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