by Emilio Lussu, translated by Gregory Conti
Rizzoli Ex Libris; reprint edition, 2014
He greeted me very warmly and offered me a glass of brandy.
"Thanks," I said. "I don't drink liquor."
"You don't drink liquor?" the Lieutenant Colonel asked me, concerned.
He pulled a notebook out of the pocket of his battle jacket and wrote,
"Met a lieutenant who didn't drink liquor, June 5, 1916."
The odd exchange above could have easily come from the British comedy Blackadder Goes Forth, but in reality it is a recollection in the memoir of Emilio Lussu, A Soldier on the Southern Front: The Classic Italian Memoir of World War I. A rediscovered memoir, or testimony as addressed by the author, the book was originally titled Sardinian Brigade in 1938. As the author stated in the preface of the first printing of the work: "The reader will find neither romance nor history in this book, it consists simply of personal memories put together in somewhat haphazard fashion." Emilio Lussu fought heroically throughout the war but chose to narrow the events in the memoir to June 1916 through July 1917. In an Afterword, Mark Thompson explains that although many of the names were fictionalized, the majority of the people and events are real, no matter how absurd and often tragic.
|Italian Troops on the Asiago Plateau|
Events such as these are frequent on the southern front of the Great War. I recommend Lussu's memoir and also Mark Thompson's The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915–1919, to gain an appreciation of this overlooked part of the history of the war.
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