Munari’s clever ploy in the 1937 “Almanacco antiLetterario”
In 1937 – or XV E.F. (that is, the 15th year of the ‘era fascista’, which had begun with the March on Rome in 1922) – the “Almanacco Letterario Bompiani” was published with a slightly different title: the prefix “anti”, in Italics, was added to the adjective “literary” to voice the critical view of the content edited by the Milanese publishing house since 1929.
The curators of that particular issue wanted to make a point: “a great country such as ours today”, they said – Italy had become an empire once again, with King Victor Emanuel III crowned Emperor of Ethiopia on May 9, 1936 – “[deserves] far better literature”.
Bruno Munari had started an increasingly engaging collaboration with “Almanacco Letterario” in 1930; the periodical’s main objective was to establish Bompiani’s standing as a modern company, by bringing trends and themes of contemporary art and literature to the attention of an expert audience.
For the 1937 “Almanacco antiLetterario”, the great Milanese designer created the photomontage of the insert titled “Udite! Udite!” (“Hear! Hear!”), in which he added captions quoting Mussolini’s speeches to pages with “spyglass” graphics focusing on the Duce’s face, making his “imperious” profile impossible to miss.
Munari himself confirmed his design was meant to be vaguely ironic, to deflate Mussolini’s rhetoric – or even to mock it implicitly – with a very clever, very “anti”, ploy.