California Italian Studies
Making News: the Sonzogno Affair (1875) and the Print Networks in Liberal Italy
- Author(s): Valisa, Silvia
- et al.
In this essay I discuss the murder of journalist Raffaele Sonzogno, the director of the Rome-based daily La capitale, in February 1875, and the trial of his murderers which took place the same year. I explore how the events were presented in the press at the time, in particular the democratic newspaper Il secolo, and more broadly how the Sonzogno murder and his assassins’ trial can help us understand the print networks of the time. I offer two main readings, one ideological and one more material: on the one hand, I discuss the presence and shadow of Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Risorgimento legacy over these events (a rhetorical presence, but also a very literal one). On the other, I consider the role that the written-word networks (newspapers, books, periodicals) played in the construction of Raffaele Sonzogno as a democratic hero, a modern mediatized victim, and an object of commercial exploitation. Lastly, I consider the dynamics of the murder and the figure of Sonzogno’s material assassin, Pio Frezza, as he emerges from the trial depositions, to argue that his brief moment of political visibility does not enable him to intervene critically in Garibaldianism, and in the political discourse of Unified Italy. Rather, Frezza’s patriotism is exploited against him – forcing him to wordlessly, violently make his way into the printed world.