The Fiume Incident

The beginnings of Goldenbird the comic can be traced to a dark and rainy autumn in 2005, when I was working on my Ph.D. thesis in Helsinki, collecting source material at the cosy, neo-classicist National Library. As I was scrolling microfilmed newspapers from the fateful years of 1920 and 1921, some small notices caught my eye.

Fiume conquered.
D'Annunzio wounded.
Rome, Dec. 28th (Havas to S.T.T.) According to received information, general Caviglia with his troops has marched into Fiume.
Rome, Dec. 28th (Havas to S.T.T.) Quarnero's government confirms the report on D'Annunzio's injury. In the hall, where the war council was holding its meetings, a projectile exploded, a splitter of which dealt a head wound to D'Annunzio.
Suomen Sosialidemokraatti 29.12.1920 (p. 4)

Havas is a French press agency, STT is the leading Finnish equivalent. "Quarnero", also known as Carnaro or Kvarner, refers to the bay in the Adriatic where Fiume (today Rijeka) is located. After taking charge of the city, il comandante Gabriele d'Annunzio and his collaborators declared the "regency of Carnaro" - that means, they would stay in charge until the King of Italy would assume his "rightful" role as the city's ruler. The regency's most notable product was its constitution, the Carta del Carnaro, which mixed influences from Plato's ideal state, futurist aesthetics, anarcho-syndicalism, proto-fascist corporativism, and aristocratic romanticism...

To the left, the banner of the regency of Carnaro. Pretty, isn't it? The worm Ouroboros, the Great Bear, and the motto: QVIS CONTRA NOS? "Who is against us?" - something for semioticians to mull on. The snake that devours its own tail could mean the cycle of life. In alchemy, it signifies that All is One - or
a mystical treasure that has to be destroyed to be known. It reminds me of an early quote by Bakunin: "the passion for destruction is also a creative passion". Or the dark side of 1789, 1848 and 1917: the revolution devours its own children, in effect, devours itself.

This little renegade state, which lived on piracy and high spirits from Sept. 19, 1919 to Dec. 24-30, 1920, sounded like the perfect setting for some light-hearted Jazz age adventure-mystery-comedy story, I thought. However - I did NOT want to be historically correct. As a Ph.D. candidate, I'm already a slave to the sources - as a cartoonist, I want to create a story that won't educate the reader about Fiume or d'Annunzio, but that will be cute and a little bit nerdy entertainment. But if you want to know more about the murky depths of Goldenbird's historical background, you're welcome to this blog!

I've written more about d'Annunzio on the Goldenbird blog, the biographical essay Per Non Dormire and the bibliographical overview Dannunziana.

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