Hitler, Mussolini, and Me
A long-ago week in 1938 spent touring Italy in the company of two of history’s most notorious dictators comes back to bite former Assistant Curator and Art Historian, Colgan, in the rear when his daughter finds an old newspaper clipping of dear old dad hobnobbing with the two icons under the damning headline: The Man Who Saved Hitler and Mussolini. In an attempt to stave off his offspring’s rage and disgust, Colgan embarks on an oral history of the now infamous week, cleverly unpacking the pitiful flaws of each man, describing the unsettling personas that made up their personal entourages, and doing his best to describe the events that led to the distasteful headline.
In disassembling the internal personalities of two of history’s most evil men, Davis manages to heighten the reader’s feelings of disgust rather than quiet them, and in portraying the dictators in ordinary terms, he renders them even more terrifying. The character of Colgan may be fictitious, but his recounting of events is built on real-life documentation, including the journal of Ranuccio Bandinelli, who was the actual art historian who accompanied the dictators in 1938. A clever and entertaining portrayal of damned men in ordinary terms.