I’d Rather Not: The Story of the Twelve Professors Who Opposed Mussolini

by Riccardo Mini

Preferirei di no is the story of the twelve professors who, in 1931, said no to Mussolini. When the Fascist dictator demanded an oath of loyalty from university professors, out of 1200 tenured and non-tenured teachers, only twelve refused to comply with the duce’s orders, losing their posts and being subjected, in an Italy firmly in the regime’s grip, to a chilling isolation, excluded from all academies and associations in the kingdom. They were intellectuals of different origin, character, ways of thinking and background. That fall they gave the most masterly of lessons, teaching that to say no can be a duty, first of all to ourselves. The imposition of the oath was a blow to all freedom of conscience, to which the twelve responded with the singular force of their refusal. Their gesture, free of bombast, was the result of an individual deviation from the models of uniformity and regimentation of the intelligentsia that had begun to be imposed in those years and that were a constant feature of the twenty years of Fascist rule. The play retraces the life stories of these twelve isolated travelers who, despite the diversity of their sociocultural backgrounds, political ideas and religious convictions, made a stringent individual choice.