Guest post by Davide Marino
Rai 3, a state-owned Italian TV channel (traditionally considered the most left-leaning channel of Italian public television) broadcast a 35-minute program on Julius Evola on 30 March 2022. The episode, which can be seen here (in Italian), belonged to a series entitled “Passato e Presente” (Past and Present), a daily show in which the host, the political journalist Paolo Mieli, discusses with a guest historian (and three history students) a historical event or figure. The guest on the show was Alessandra Tarquini, Associate Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Rome Sapienza and author of a good Storia della cultura fascista (History of Fascist Culture).
The episode was divided into three parts, mainly following the periodization used by Evola himself in his autobiography Il cammino del cinabro (The Path of Cinnabar). Part 1 described Evola’s artistic period, his juvenile enthusiasm for Futurism and Dadaism, and his relationship with important exponents of the Italian culture of his time. Part 2 discussed his relationship with the Fascist and Nazi regimes and his Sintesi di dottrina della razza (Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race), presented as different from Rosenberg’s “biological racism.” Part 3 followed Evola in post-war Italy where, after being accused (and later acquitted) of being the inspiration for a neofascist bombing attempt, he became an influential figure for the extra-parliamentary Right.
None of the participants is a sympathizer of Evola’s ideas, and Mieli introduced him as “ultra-fascist, more than fascist, anti-Semitic without a doubt, [...] and appreciated by Mussolini.” However the discussion remained calm and factual, and Evola was described as “an original philosopher, useful for understanding the twentieth century”. Even when discussing Evola’s racism, Mieli argued that Sintesi di dottrina della razza contains “horrible theories but formulated in an original manner,” more sophisticated than other contemporary racist authors.
Not everyone in Italy appreciated this approach, which was considered by some as an attempt to whitewash Evola. In Italy, the public discourse remains extremely polarized and Evola is normally either celebrated as a master by Far-Right circles or, in the famous formulation of Furio Jesi, considered “a racist so dirty that it is repugnant to touch him with one’s own fingers.”
The scope of the episode was, however, limited. With the exception of the Romanian Dadaist Tristan Tzara, Hegel and Nietzsche, there is no mention of the European culture that really influenced Evola. Bachofen is never mentioned and, most importantly, nobody explained that Evola’s “Traditionalism” was influenced by Guénon, not even when discussing Evola’s Rivolta contro il mondo moderno (Revolt Against the Modern World). Also, Mieli correctly noted that Evola’s “tradition” was “invented”, but not that his “Orient” (today quite influential in Italy) was constructed among similar lines (as recently demonstrated by Filippo Pedretti, see article here). Similarly, there was no mention of the enormous influence that Evola had, and still has, outside Italy, and the presenters ended the program by stating that “there are no Evolians,” which is hardly the case.
At the end of each episode, the guest historian normally recommends three books about the topic discussed, normally one primary source and two books of critical literature. However, in this case, Alessandra Tarquini simply pointed to three of Evola’s own books (Imperialismo pagano, Rivolta contro il mondo moderno, and Il cammino del cinabro), saying that “given the complexity of this author, the best thing to do is to start reading him”. This is hardly true. Complex and controversial authors need more critical literature, not less. The truth is that, to date, not much serious academic work on Evola has been published in Italian, and those who study Evola prefer to publish in English, a language inaccessible to a large part of Rai 3’s audience.