The Obsessions of General Garibaldi
Captivating micro-history / micro-biography of General Garibaldi and his thwarted attempt to divert the fetid Tiber from Rome.
In 1875, General Garibaldi, the legendary military hero of Italian unification, left his island retreat in the Mediterranean for Rome. His battle cry no longer required, he was pursuing a mission that would become an obsession in his old age: to divert the River Tiber from Rome.
Through this forgotten episode, Daniel Pick explores Garibaldi's passionate attachment to Rome and to Italy. In the bitter debate that ensued many myths were laid bare, and prevailing medical, social and political anxieties about the future of the state were exposed.
The flood-prone Tiber had caused havoc, disease and death throughout history. In the capital, the General sought to replace it with a Parisian-style boulevard that would be a wonder of the modern world. But behind his florid promise to revitalise 'Italy' lay a complex and shadowy history, including a traumatic event felt by Garibaldi as the defining tragedy of his life: the loss of his wife Anita. Despite himself, he became embroiled in the political labyrinth of Rome and a drama of thwarted ambition, grand illusion and disillusionment, whose significance was not lost on Garibaldi's later admirer, Benito Mussolini, another self-styled redeemer of the Eternal City and the fever-ridden marshes of Italy.
“Psycho-history meets eco-history in this stunningly original study of an old hero's struggle to make the eternal city last. Daniel Pick illuminates the mind of Garibaldi, the making of modern Italy and the history of cities, health and civil engineering. Rome will never look or smell the same to me after reading this book.”
“'Engrossing. It brings new meaning to the old legends of Rome and Garibaldi.'”
“'A pioneering investigation of the final dilemmas of General Garibaldi, exploring the still largely uncharted boundaries between history, biography and psychology.'”
Gareth Stedman Jones
“'Fascinating, original and problematic.'”
John Foot, Guardian
“'A fascinating exploration of the perplexing character of the humble fisherman's son from Nice who became one of the greatest military heroes and mythical figures of the 19th century.'”
Alexander Chancellor, Daily Telegraph
“'Daniel Pick tells the story of Garibaldi's failed Tiber venture with flair, mingling psychological speculation with biography and history.'”
Ian Thomson, Sunday Telegraph