西尔维奥·贝卢斯科尼从未指定其中右翼意大利力量党的继承人,这给总理乔治亚·梅洛尼联合政府的未来带来了不确定性。 Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The death of Silvio Berlusconi on Monday brought to an end one of the longest, most consequential and colorful eras in Italian politics, with both ardent admirers and die-hard critics marking a life of outsized influence as something that split contemporary Italian history into the before and after.
From his origins as a real estate and media mogul, Mr. Berlusconi, who was 86 when he died, became the most dominant personality on the theatrical Italian landscape. He revolutionized not only Italian politics, but also its sport, daily life, image of itself and popular culture — all through his privately owned television channels — leaving an imprint, or a bruise, on almost everything he touched.
“Goodbye Silvio,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a statement about her coalition partner, calling him “one of the most influential men in Italian history.” He will receive a state funeral in Milan’s Duomo on Wednesday.
Even in death, Mr. Berlusconi had the power to potentially destabilize the political universe and Ms. Meloni’s governing coalition, of which his party, Forza Italia, is a small but critical linchpin.
Mr. Berlusconi, who had an enormous opinion of himself, seemed to believe, along with much of Italy, that he would live in perpetuity. He recently gave his “biological age” as in his 50s, and never anointed an heir to his center-right Forza Italia party.
As a result, political analysts believe that either one of his children will step up to hold the party, and potentially the coalition, together, or it will disintegrate without him, putting Ms. Meloni’s government, at the beginning of a five-year term, in doubt.
Such an outcome would be only the last tremor Mr. Berlusconi sent through the political system. While his health and political influence diminished in recent years, everything around him could be argued to be products of his making, shaped in support of, or opposition to, the man widely known as “The Knight.”
That included the political allies who eclipsed him, like Ms. Meloni; the Machiavellian political operators who tried to co-opt him; even the anti-establishment opposition that tried — but never fully succeeded — to get rid of him.
His fans, who for years sang, “Thank Goodness There’s Silvio,” say he was a force of nature that modernized Italian politics, matured its democracy and added capitalist dynamism to a creaky economy overly reliant on government.
His detractors saw him as the very personification of the country’s political and cultural decline, a crooked businessman who entered politics to protect his business interests, a womanizing caricature of the Italian libertine who cozied up to despicable strongmen from Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya to Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

贝卢斯科尼与普京,摄于2015年。 Alexei Druzhinin/Ria Novosti

贝卢斯科尼与卡扎菲,摄于2010年。 Max Rossi/Reuters

He embodied multitudes of contradictory personas: The reformer who promised to liberalize the country, but then governed like a populist. The family man whose long list of young companions, especially at so-called Bunga Bunga bacchanals, both scandalized the country and endeared him to aspiring Lotharios. The committed ally and lover of America who became an apologist for Mr. Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. The candidate who, in a clear conflict of interest, used his television channels as a political cudgel.
他一人身兼多个相互矛盾的角色:一名承诺要使国家自由化的改革者,随后却像民粹主义者一样执政。这个顾家的男人有一长串的年轻伴侣,尤其是在被称为“蹦加蹦加”(Bunga Bunga)的酒会上,这既是让举国震动的丑闻,也让有同样追求的登徒子对他爱戴有加。他是美国坚定的盟友和情人,却又为普京及其乌克兰入侵辩护。在明显存在利益冲突的情况下,这位候选人将他的电视频道用作政治棍棒。
Whether he changed Italy for better or worse “was a very, very complicated question to answer,” said Giovanni Orsina, dean of the Luiss School of Government in Rome and the author of “Berlusconism and Italy: A Historical Interpretation.” It is likely to be debated for a period at least as long as the three decades that Mr. Berlusconi weighed on the Italian imagination. What is certain is that he changed Italy.
罗马路易斯政府学院院长、《贝卢斯科尼主义与意大利:历史解读》(Berlusconism and Italy: A Historical Interpretation)一书的作者乔瓦尼·奥尔西纳说,他让意大利变得更好还是更坏“是一个非常非常复杂的问题”。贝卢斯科尼对意大利人的想象力产生了30年的影响,这种争论可能至少也要持续这么久。可以肯定的是,他改变了意大利。
“The impact he had through television is much deeper than an electoral cycle,” said Christian Rocca, the editor of Linkiesta, an Italian news outlet. Mr. Rocca said Mr. Berlusconi transformed the staid Italian programming “that was in color but could have been in black and white,” bringing American sports, soap operas, movies and a new Italian style of variety show adorned with beautiful women.
That cultural shift to the spectacular and tawdry has not only remained on the airwaves, but critics have argued it has pervaded all of Italian society, transforming the way people look and the ambitions and dreams of a generation of Italians who hungered for the wealth and confidence that Mr. Berlusconi, transactional and aspirational and gaudy, stood for.

对许多意大利人来说,观看贝卢斯科尼一直是种消遣。他爱搞戏剧化的表演和下流的言论,这些言论逗乐了很多人,也激怒了很多人。 Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After the fall of Communism, which had been the chief dividing line for Italian politics for a half-century, Mr. Berlusconi capitalized on the collapse of the political establishment in a bribery scandal to “enter the field” of politics, as he famously put it. In doing so, Mr. Berlusconi became Italy’s new dividing line.
“This was his great innovation,” said Mr. Rocca, “you were in favor or against, you couldn’t be indifferent.”
Mr. Berlusconi’s polarizing style not only has remained in Italy, but it has become a global trend, seen most clearly in Donald J. Trump in the United States, who in many ways echoes his bombast.
Mr. Berlusconi “modernized the instruments of politics, that is to say, leadership, television, communication,” said Mr. Orsina. “He changed the political language.”
And he started doing that, said Enrico Letta, the former Italian prime minister and center-left opponent of Mr. Berlusconi, by changing “the Italians’ daily life with commercial television,” giving them greater choice. In return those viewers provided Mr. Berlusconi with “a huge reserve of votes.”
He also changed the way Italian politicians sounded. He projected optimism, capitalized on over-the-top demonization by his critics and perfected victimization. He painted all his critics red as Communists, ushering in a combative campaigning style and delegitimization of institutions that would be distilled to the poisonous messages that his enemies and acolytes flooded social media with in the last decade.
But even as Italian politicians across the spectrum paid homage to Mr. Berlusconi on Monday, they began plotting next steps.
In recent months, Mr. Berlusconi’s loyalists have jousted to take the helm. They included Italy’s current foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, as well as Licia Ronzulli, a senator, who acted as Mr. Berlusconi’s de facto nurse and Marta Fascina, a girlfriend more than 50 years his junior whom he celebrated a wedding with but did not officially marry.

分析人士称,意大利政府的稳定性可能取决于贝卢斯科尼的女儿玛丽娜的决定。 Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA, via Shutterstock

“We have the duty, as Forza Italia, to go ahead, even though we are wounded,” Mr. Tajani said, adding that Mr. Berlusconi wanted the party to stay compact and in the government. “To honor him and continue his project we must look to the future. Forza Italia will be there.”
The former center-left prime minister, Matteo Renzi, whom Mr. Berlusconi apparently once saw as a potential successor before double-crossing (after Mr. Renzi double-crossed him), has sought to regain relevance by positioning himself as the heir of the moderate Italian center that Mr. Berlusconi once controlled.
Many consider it an impossible mission. But Mr. Renzi, a consummate political operator, has licked his chops at the chance of vacuuming up Mr. Berlusconi’s parliament members and once again controlling enough support to become vital in Italian politics, either to prop up or take down Ms. Meloni’s government.
Ms. Meloni said in a recent interview that Mr. Berlusconi put her in a difficult situation with his reputation for womanizing when she was a young minister in one of his governments. And Mr. Berlusconi’s clear backing of Mr. Putin in the war in Ukraine emerged as a political headache for her. (“For me, Silvio was a dear person, a true friend,” Mr. Putin said in a statement Monday.)
But now Ms. Meloni, who honored his memory, needed to keep his supporters in the fold.

去年,贝卢斯科尼和意大利现任总理乔治亚·梅洛尼。 Yara Nardi/Reuters

The stability of the Italian government, analysts said, may depend on the decisions of Mr. Berlusconi’s daughter, Marina, widely considered to be the sharpest in a family that has had its own succession feuds.
“The question is will Marina Berlusconi step in?” said Roberto D’Alimonte, a political scientist at Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome. “The party will disband without the Berlusconi brand.”
“If she steps in,” he said, or makes it clear she is running things behind the scenes, “the party has a chance to survive and the Meloni government won’t be particularly affected,” as the two are understood to be in sync. If Ms. Berlusconi, an executive in her father’s empire who apparently does not love politics, stays away, he said, “the repercussions will be greater.”
Her father did little without repercussions.
Mr. Rocca said that one story about Mr. Berlusconi summed him up.
When he was starting out as a real estate tycoon in Milan, he said, Mr. Berlusconi wanted to build a suburban-like housing complex and market it as an oasis of peace and quiet.
But planes flying in and out of the nearby airport made that a hard sell. To reroute the planes, Mr. Berlusconi built a hospital, over which they could not fly, greasing more than a few palms in the process. The hospital, San Raffaele, became a center of excellence, and it was where he died on Monday morning.
“That’s Berlusconi — entrepreneur, outlaw, politician,” he said. “But somehow in the end, it was a good thing.”

Elisabetta Povoledo和Gaia Pianigiani对本文有报道贡献。

Jason Horowitz是罗马分社社长,报道意大利、梵蒂冈、希腊及南欧其他地方的新闻。他此前对2016年总统大选、奥巴马政府及国会均做过报道,重点关注政治人物报道及特写。欢迎在Twitter上关注他:@jasondhorowitz