This review is taken from Stand 229, 19(1) March - May 2021.

Giacomo Donis, The Empty Shield (Eyewear Publishing, 2020)

March 1972. An NYU Classics undergraduate is faced with a life-changing decision. A loud opponent of US interventionism, he has already been exempted from military service in Vietnam; yet, being a conscientious objector barely suffices: one day his tax money will finance new wars, and school will compel his children to pledge allegiance to a flag he does not believe in.

Hence, he may grow up to be an academic Marxist and exercise his dissent towards the system from within. Or he may embody the system’s antithesis, become an internal terrorist, blow up some bridge. Or else, he may go into voluntary exile. He studies Hegel, he knows that the system may very well be ‘a totality’ sans escape, yet a pacifying compromise would feel like defeat.

Now, the reader knows from the beginning what he will eventually decide. In the prologue of his ‘political autobiography’, The Empty Shield, the author has presented himself as an ‘almost 64-year-old’ man living in Venice and working as a translator (his is the rendering of Emanuele Severino’s The Essence of Nihilism). He has been naturalised as Italian, even changed his name to Giacomo. At the US Consulate in Milan, more than forty years after his grand decision, he filled the application to finally give up his US citizenship, even though, allegedly, it is ‘the most valuable thing in the world’. For the point is not which decision to take: it is something far more radical. As befits ...
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