Dario Fo, the Nobel prize winner in 1997, is something of a phenomenon: the brilliant, absurdist, ultra-leftist, anti-fascist Italian playwright, known (along with his wife, Franca Rame, who was kidnapped and raped by Neofascist thugs associated with the carabinieri, police, in 1973) for farce, absurdist comedy, and for wild slapstick one-man improvisational shows.
This Methuen edition is quite good. It contains a detailed biographical chronology, a long scholarly essay on Fo’s use of farce (and how it differs, as genre, from comedy), his reliance on the old oral traditional storytellers (the fabulatori) of Northern Italy, and contains a thorough discussion of the strange political situation in the 1970’s “Italy of the mysteries”, the years of PD2 and Operation Gladio, in which CIA-funded Italian Neofascists vied with Red terrorists to undermine democratic (actually, Christian Democratic) governments in Rome. Finally, there are a set of contextual notes to the English translation, and a bibliography. All round, an excellent reader’s edition.
One thing that is interesting is that Fo did not consider himself avant-garde (like Ionescu or Beckett), but sought instead to connect himself with the popular culture of the Italian countryside – a culture of rude comedic farce, puppet shows, impersonations, fabulatori, etc., which he then connected with powerful and uncompromising political broadsides. In this way, he sought to rehabilitate the non-elitist culture of the ‘people’ in a Gramscian way.
Anyway – interesting material.