Thinking Aloud: “The Italians”

Aug. 9, 2015 by Darius 

I recently read The Italians by John Hooper, a British journalist who has been based in Italy and southern Europe for decades.  The Italians is a charming portrait of one of Europe’s most distinctive cultures.

As Hooper shows them, Italians are often a people of contradictions: divided by region and language yet united in national pride, garrulous yet obsessed with privacy, corrupt in politics yet staunchly conservative in private life, boasting a formerly strong Communist party yet protective of the Catholic Church’s place in society.

Hooper meticulously dissects the geography, history, religion, and language of all of Italy’s surprisingly diverse regions.  Italy’s flaws are not glossed over: Hooper devotes several sections to Italy’s various organized crime syndicates, from the Camorra of Naples to the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria.  Moreover, he turns a withering gaze on Italy’s glacially slow justice system and the corruption that plagues Italian politics.

From football to food, Hooper offers a window onto Italy and Italians.  It’s a good choice for anyone interested in European politics or planning a trip to Italy.


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