GARIBALDI by Jasper Ridley


Email this review


A full-scale biography of Garibaldi has not appeared in several years; Dennis Mack Smith's scholarly Garibaldi and His Enemies (1970) is the best source we have, but it's largely confined to the Risorgimento. Ridley, a British biographer, covers the whole flamboyant, soldierly life; fully half his outsized book is devoted to the campaigns in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay--where ""the Italian pirate"" was for some years the fighting arm of the Montevideo liberals. But at no point does it go beyond the traditional, by now hackneyed view of Garibaldi--his heart was in the right place and big as all outdoors but politically he was naive and credulous, a pawn of Cavour and less scrupulous politicians. Ridley recognizes the unique cosmopolitan, fraternal impulse of Italian nationalism, but fails to probe deeply the mentality of the international freedom fighter who stands comparison with Che Guevara for selfless dedication to the causes of the oppressed peoples. He tries hard to avoid the overly romanticized portraits of Garibaldi which have been appearing at least since Alexandre Dumas' version of his Memoirs, but he doesn't fully succeed. His final verdict, ""there have been wiser politicians and greater generals than Garibaldi; but none has been more lovable or more loved,"" is true enough--but not very illuminating, politically or psychologically.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1976
Publisher: Viking