ABOUT THIS BOOK
Recasting the birth of fascism, nationalism, and the fall of empire after World War I, Dominique Kirchner Reill recounts how the people of Fiume tried to recreate empire in the guise of the nation.
The Fiume Crisis recasts what we know about the birth of fascism, the rise of nationalism, and the fall of empire after World War I by telling the story of the three-year period when the Adriatic city of Fiume (today Rijeka, in Croatia) generated an international crisis.
In 1919 the multicultural former Habsburg city was occupied by the paramilitary forces of the flamboyant poet-soldier Gabriele D’Annunzio, who aimed to annex the territory to Italy and became an inspiration to Mussolini. Many local Italians supported the effort, nurturing a standard tale of nationalist fanaticism. However, Dominique Kirchner Reill shows that practical realities, not nationalist ideals, were in the driver’s seat. Support for annexation was largely a result of the daily frustrations of life in a “ghost state” set adrift by the fall of the empire. D’Annunzio’s ideology and proto-fascist charisma notwithstanding, what the people of Fiume wanted was prosperity, which they associated with the autonomy they had enjoyed under Habsburg sovereignty. In these twilight years between the world that was and the world that would be, many across the former empire sought to restore the familiar forms of governance that once supported them. To the extent that they turned to nation-states, it was not out of zeal for nationalist self-determination but in the hope that these states would restore the benefits of cosmopolitan empire.
Against the too-smooth narrative of postwar nationalism, The Fiume Crisis demonstrates the endurance of the imperial imagination and carves out an essential place for history from below.
[An] excellent example of how modern historians are adding texture to our understanding of 20th-century Europe…The colorful story of Fiume has indeed been told before, but never with so many fresh and fascinating insights as Reill provides.
-- Tony Barber Financial Times
Reill’s depiction of the local, enriched by massive research in Rijeka’s archives (and some at the Vittoriale [degli Italiani]), is a delight…One of the pleasures of Reill’s work is its inclusion of period photographs…Throughout the book, Reill paints deft portraits of people and events.
-- R. J. B. Bosworth Literary Review
So important…By looking at the ways in which the grandiose D’Annunizian rhetorical flourishes were translated into pragmatic everyday life solutions, Reill opens up an important conversation on What Is History and Who Gets to Write It…With the rigor of a scholar and the artistry of a bard, she finds not just a story to represent the complexities of speaking local problems into a larger global conversation. She finds the story, the case study, the Martin Guerre who articulates a worldview.
-- Aliza Wong Los Angeles Review of Books
An important addition to a hitherto neglected area of Habsburg studies, by helping to disrupt the common wisdom…Brilliantly written…A path-breaking contribution in reconsidering the imperial transitions in twentieth-century Europe.
-- Marco Bresciani H-Net Reviews
As this impeccably researched and engagingly written book demonstrates, the Habsburg monarchy’s afterlife is often as interesting as its proper history.
-- Ian D. Armour History Today
A superb book, smartly conceived and beautifully written. With a genius for unearthing fascinating stories of local people, then using them to illuminate larger issues, Reill forces us to reconsider in profound ways how we conceive the history of the immediate postwar period in Europe. This history from below questions stale nationalist certainties and depicts vividly how communities worked to create their own options in a challenging postwar world.
-- Pieter Judson, author of The Habsburg Empire: A New History
The Fiume Crisis offers a fundamentally new way of thinking about war and postwar rebuilding. By zooming in to a specific city at the crossroads of many different pasts and multiple possible futures, Reill provides a fresh perspective on who makes history happen—bilingual cabbage sellers and young schoolteachers, emigré lawyers and seductive dockworkers—all those who tried to create a city that could escape the ravages of war and economic devastation. Their creativity and vision, triumphs and failures come alive in this breathtaking story.
-- Alison Frank Johnson, author of Oil Empire: Visions of Prosperity in Austrian Galicia
In this fascinating and important book Reill transforms our understanding of both the Fiume crisis and the whole geopolitical metamorphosis of Europe that followed World War I. She shows that the struggle over the city between Italy and Yugoslavia reflected a much deeper and more complex history of Adriatic identities in a Habsburg and post-Habsburg context.
-- Larry Wolff, author of Woodrow Wilson and the Reimagining of Eastern Europe
A magisterial account of everyday life in the multi-ethnic city of Fiume after the end of the Great War. Moving well beyond the familiar story of the soldier-poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and his occupation of Fiume, Reill succeeds in telling the fascinating story of how a city of considerable cultural complexity dealt with the challenges of being a small successor state in a post-imperial world.
-- Robert Gerwarth, author of November 1918: The German Revolution
A brilliant reevaluation of the nationalist myths and legends that have grown up around the history of Fiume under Gabriele D’Annunzio. Shifting our gaze away from his charismatic personality to the experiences of the citizens of Fiume, Reill demonstrates the persistence of imperial loyalties underpinning their quest for greater autonomy. This book forces us to question what we think we know about the relationship between nationalism and empire in the aftermath of the First World War.
-- Tara Zahra, author of The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World
In this gem of a book, Reill peels away the sensational stories that made Fiume notorious as both a diplomatic thorn in Woodrow Wilson’s peacemaking and the prancing ground of proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio, revealing a more thrilling, politically meaningful history. In the plucky polyglot city’s colliding authorities, crazy quilt laws, and contradictory wants, Reill vividly captures the human comedy as well as the shoals on which hopes for the Great Peace to follow the Great War foundered.
-- Victoria de Grazia, author of The Perfect Fascist: A Story of Love, Power, and Morality in Mussolini’s Italy
Reill offers a new interpretation of Fiume…Will surely be one of the most, if not the most influential monograph on Fiume in years to come…Impressive in its thoroughness.
-- Ágnes Ordasi Hungarian Historical Review
Reill seeks to show how ordinary Fiumians navigated this period of crisis in the history of their city…Her research reveals their pragmatism as they tried to make the best of their new position as an isolated city-state in the age of nations.
-- Liam Hoare Metropole
[A] crucial new study…A thorough and convincing portrait of a city striving to come to terms with the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian empire and find its way in an evolving political landscape…Reill has produced a compelling analysis of how fundamental day-to-day issues such as currency, legal codes, citizenship, and school curriculums were dealt with in the city. This is a scrupulous, sober, history from below that is essential in a context such as d’Annunzio’s Fiume, which was all about imposing an image from above.
-- Aidan O’Malley Dublin Review of Books
Engaging…Readers will finish this book enthusiastic about Fiume. But they will also come away with new insights into the creative ways that Europeans tackled the aftermath of World War I on the ground…Reill highlights the importance of considering both the imperial and the local if we want to understand the end of World War I or the mapping of interwar Europe.
-- Caitlin E. Murdock Canadian-American Slavic Studies
Particularly relevant to historians of Habsburg Europe, while challenging standard accounts of modern Italian history. The history of interwar Fiume is much more than an Italian story, more than the prehistory of Italian Fascism. Extremely erudite, well-written, and illustrated with many astonishing photographs.
-- Axel Körner Austrian History Yearbook