SEGNI Land Art Installation, Carso Upland, Doberdò Lakes Nature Reserve

October the 20th, 2018, 11.30 am
Reservation is highly requested:

Two monumental red signs, condensing the vocation of a whole territory. This is how artist Joshua Cesa makes fully visible a fragment of the border between Western and Eastern Europe: border which, during centuries, has split up populations forcing them to adopt new national identities (in recenthistory, with the World Wars). The installation rises in the middle of the Carso Upland, in the Doberdò Lakes Nature Reserve. Built of fabric, and designed to be gradually consumed, the artwork has a colour that recalls the surrounding landscape’s chromatic scale, dominated by a type of karstic bush called “Sommaco”, to which a significative historical memory is connected: it’s belief that its autumn red leaves are actually the fallen soldiers’ blood resurfacing on the upland.
The visitor will be able to enjoy the artwork from different perspectives and points of view, even going inside it, discovering different perceptions of  the boundary and its continuous movements.

Joshua Cesa, was born in 1986 in Monfalcone (GO) and graduated from the University of Architecture in Udine, develops his art combining architecture with digital, installative and contemporary art, experimenting on the issue of conflicts to share the memory among local people. Cesa uses Land Art getting inspiration from the monumental and environmental impact of some Christo’s artworks, and so he did for his latest project “Segni”. This installation consists of the rappresentation of a fragment of the borderline between Western and Estern Europe through two monumental straight edged signs built of special fabric tipically used to fabricate sails, more than four metres tall and respectively 30 and 36 metres long, placed on the Carso Upland, in the village of Doberdò.
Indeed, the borderline has been moved on several occasions during the World Wars, splitting up populations and forcing survivors to assume a new national identity they didn’t feel comfortable with. The two signs are made in a blood red colour in accordance with the surrounding landscape’s chromatic scale, dominated by a type of karstic bush called Sommaco to which an important historical memory is connected: they say that its red autumn leaves are actually the ancient fallen soldiers’ blood that resurfaces on the upland.

For around a month, from the 20th  October 2018 to the 18th November 2018, the visitor will have the possibility to enjoy the artwork from different perspectives: closely, so they could perceive the kinetic nature of the artwork, internally and from above, from the promontory of the nature reserve where the artwork’s shapes and dynamism pointing towards the sea can be easily caught. In particular, looking at the installation from the right side people may have a perception of breakthrough and tension to the destination, while on the left side the sensation will be the opposite.
This tension reminds the visitors of the public imagination of the Carso Upland as frontier with Eastern Europe, since it witnessed the World War I and the Cold War, in the period of the Berlin Wall when it was the last Italian fortress.
In a contemporary moment of transition, full of violence, the artist want to encourage the vistors to pay attention to the mortality of human beings, metaphorically represented by using a fabric that is deriberately designed to be gradually consumed by weather conditions.

“Remarkably Prescient” Exhibition Focused on American Jewish Life during WWI to Open at National WWI Museum and Memorial on Friday, June 29

“Remarkably Prescient” Exhibition Focused on American Jewish Life during WWI to Open at National WWI Museum and Memorial

“For Liberty: American Jewish Experience in WWI” Opens Friday, June 29

Jacob Lavin (center) with group of American Expeditionary Forces in France. 
Lavin was one of the American Jews who fought in World War I.
National Museum of American Jewish History, 1996.51.5
Gift of Marilyn Lavin Tarr


KANSAS CITY, MO. – More than 250,000 Jews served in the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Yet, their stories – and the stories of those who remained in the U.S. during the war – often remain untold.

Hailed by Time magazine as “a deep dive into a strange, history-shaking year” and by the New York Times as “remarkably prescient,” For Liberty: American Jewish Experience in WWI, the latest special exhibition at the National WWI Museum and Memorial, portrays what life was like as an American Jew on the home front and the battlefield through remarkable stories and unique artifacts.

“One of the most noteworthy aspects of this exhibition is the unique perspective it provides,” said National WWI Museum and Memorial Senior Curator Doran Cart. “Seeing these extraordinary objects in person and gaining a deeper understanding of American Jewish lives during WWI is a truly incredible experience.”

Eva Davidson (right) with her fellow Marines. Davidson, an American Jew, was one of the first 300 women to enlist in the United States Marine Corps after the Secretary of the Navy began permitting it in 1918.

National Museum of American Jewish History, 1992.126.19
Gift of Judge Murray C. Goldman in memory of his cousin Eva Davidson Radbill

Service men and women were not segregated by religion or ethnicity except for African Americans. Trying to discover their American identity, 1917, the year that the United States entered WWI, was a unique time for Jewish Americans at home and at war.

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise spoke for many when he wrote in the New York Times that military service would “mark the burial, without the hope of resurrection, of hyphenism, and will token the birth of a united and indivisible country.”

Featured objects from the exhibition include a letter from American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) leader Louis Marshall appealing to Jewish philanthropists like Julius Rosenwald to support the Ten Million Dollar Fund, American Jewish composer Irving Berlin’s draft registration card, and two handwritten drafts of The Balfour Declaration by Leon Simon from July of 1917, the document that outlined British support for the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel.

The trials and tribulations and the lasting effects of WWI on the American Jewish population are also shown through documents such as a map that notes the amounts pledged to the JDC for Jewish war sufferers and a poster showing a shipment of kosher meat being loaded onto the SS Ashburn in New York City, bound for Danzig, Poland.

For Liberty: American Jewish Experience in WWI, originally exhibited as 1917: How One Year Changed the World, is organized by the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia and the American Jewish Historical Society in New York and made possible in part by the National Endowment of the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor.

Bank of Blue Valley, the Regnier Family Foundation and Herb and Bonnie Buchbinder are sponsors of the exhibition’s appearance in Kansas City with the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle and KCPT serving as media sponsors.

This special exhibition will be open to the public at the National WWI Museum and Memorial from Friday, June 29-Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in the Wylie Gallery.

About the National WWI Museum and Memorial
The National World WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum and Memorial holds the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. The Museum and Memorial takes visitors of all ages on an epic journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Designated by Congress as America’s official World War I Museum and Memorial and located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., the National WWI Museum and Memorial inspires thought, dialogue and learning to make the experiences of the Great War era meaningful and relevant for present and future generations. To learn more, visit

Einstürzende Neubauten - Lament 3. Pater Peccavi

Einstürzende Neubauten
Lament Tour at Auditorium RAI
Turin, November 29, 2014

"Visions of war. How artists and soldiers depicted World War One". An online exhibition by Europeana

La tranchée : ("C'est la Guerre". I) : [estampe] / Félix Vallotton

As we can read in the announcement, the new online exhibition "Visions of War" by European examines how serving soldiers and official war artists depicted conflict on the Western Front during World War One in paintings, drawings, watercolours and sculpture.

We invite you to browse and to take a deeper look from this link.

A new book about animals in the Great War

Press release:

The eBook Animals in the Great War, one of the didactic proposals that was developed by the cultural association Se, has been released and it is avalaible in both Italian and English versions.

Animals in the Great War responds to the association’s pledge to promote the history of the twentieth century, disseminating an inclusive knowledge that develops further secondary subjects that have been excluded from institutional accounts with the aim of expanding the definition of a discipline, in this case history, so that it is no longer the “science of man throughout time” but the “science of the living throughout time”.

It provides teachers and secondary school students with a tool, that offers updated references to develop line of study in the classroom whilst also offering a methodological support for individual or group work at home.

The eBook release was made possible by participating in the first international competition “Europeana Strike a match for Education” promoted by the Europena cultural network in collaboration with the Goteo civic crowdfunding platform and the proceeds from the funds raised, in which Animals in the Great War participated and was one of the three winning projects.

In order to receive a copy for free download (available formats: EPUB, PDF), please contact the cultural association Se to the following link contatti using “Animals in the Great War eBook” as subject line.

Attaching a dispatch on a carrier pigeon, 1917 
© ÖNB, Europeana Collection 1914-1918

Captured Italians bury horses lying on the street, 1917 
© ÖNB, Europeana Collection 1914-1918

"Memory Lands", the new exhibition of the B#SIDE WAR FESTIVAL's opening in Treviso (Italy)

Gordon Belray,
print, 2014

Vernissage: Friday the 10th November 2017 at 06.30 p.m., at B#S GALLERY (Via Isola di mezzo 3/5, Treviso, Italy).

Exhibition's details: the exhibition will be available from the 11th November to the 2nd December, from Monday to Saturday with timetable 10.00 a.m. - 06.00 p.m. (free visited tours available in location).

Jane Glynn,
digital print on aluminium, 2015
New perspectives on the everlasting advancing of history in war’s territories invite us to a profound consideration on the memory of the soil, through the techniques and the looks of international contemporary artists from Ireland, China, Canada, UK, Belarus. Memory Lands is the new exhibition of the B#SIDE WAR FESTIVAL's fourth edition, which enjoys the patronage of UNESCO and the Municipality of Treviso: the vernissage is planned on Friday the 10th November at 6.30 p.m., at the B#S Gallery (Via Isola di mezzo 3/5, Treviso). The exhibition will be available from the 11th November to the 2nd December, from Monday to Saturday with timetable 10.00 a.m. - 06.00 p.m. (free visited tours available in location).
On the occasion of the Opening, the artist Jane Glynn will present the brand new preview of her photographic reportage. The Irish artist is the protagonist of the new edition of the B#Side War Artists in Residence project: the photographer has spent a whole month on the Carso Upland (between cities of Trieste, Gorizia, Nova Gorica, Fogliano Redipuglia, Monfalcone), where she has dedicated herself to a reportage on the karst territory. The Glynn feels particularly attached to the idea of the karst soil: in fact, her country of origin counts a vast number of karst territory, so she has developed a special bond with the Italian/Slovenian border lands as well. The element more attracting for her attention is the flow of historical rivers, such as the Isonzo, the Tagliamento and the Piave: they were silent protagonists of numerous battles and with their vibrant flow, they represents metaphorically the passing of time and memory.
Victoria Lucas
digital video, 2014
In Memory Lands, soil as a natural element is the protagonist of a dynamic memory, captured by photos and videos which are able to underline its invaluable testimonial essence. Starting as a static document, thanks to the artists memory becomes alive and vibrating, transmitted from generation to generation, leaving an unchangeable trace in the History of the land (like the rivers that cross it).

In the exhibition, artworks by: Jane Glynn (Ireland), Victoria Lucas (UK), Ting Bao (China), Gordon Belray (Canada), Lesya Pchelka e Vasilisa Palianinа (Belarus).


Event link:
Web:;; (press)

The poets and the world war: "The Glory of Women" by Siegfried Sassoon

One of the international themes of First World War Centenary is the role of women during the warfare. This is logical if we consider the fact that the "Centenary mood" has to promote dialogue among different parts, countries and stakeholders through neutral topics or cross-cultural topics (like the role of women and children, the different and new technologies of war, the role of music in the different armies etc.). One of the limits of this approach is the guilty removal of all possible political arguments and discussions about that huge carnage. Anyway, the role of women remains a crucial aspect to take into consideration while studying the five years of the conflict. What we cannot allow is that the umbrella of political correctness hides the reality of testimony, even the one of literature and poetry. Take Siegfried Sassoon, for example. There’s no need to introduce him, he is for sure the most remembered and celebrated British “war poet”. Sassoon once wrote the sonnet “The Glory of Women” that you can read here below. And the image of women that we find there is in contrast with the image and role of women we are used to detect in the radars of Centenary speeches. This is just a foreword to the short poem and, moreover, an invitation to consider all the sides of our complex prism. Here Sassoon simply tells us that some women do not (or can not) understand the mental and materialistic condition of the modern war. Let's put it in this way: we do not know if Sassoon was right or wrong, but we can investigate considering also his standpoint.


You love us when we're heroes, home on leave,

Or wounded in a mentionable place.

You worship decorations; you believe

That chivalry redeems the war's disgrace.

You make us shells. You listen with delight,

By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.

You crown our distant ardours while we fight,

And mourn our laurelled memories when we're killed.

You can't believe that British troops “retire”

When hell's last horror breaks them, and they run,

Trampling the terrible corpses—blind with blood.

O German mother dreaming by the fire,

While you are knitting socks to send your son

His face is trodden deeper in the mud.

From Siegfried Sassoon, Counter-Attack and Other Poems (1918).

Last days to visit the exhibition "Organic Memory" at Ca' dei Ricchi (Treviso, Italy)

If you're spending some time in the Venice area, there are still some days to visit in the city of Treviso the charming exhibition entitled “Organic Memory”. This is located in the beautiful venue of Ca’ dei Ricchi, just one minute walk from Piazza dei Signori, the central and main square of the city.

The exhibition will be open until the 5th of August with the following opening times: from Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 01:00 p.m. and from 03:30 p.m. to 07:30 p.m.

Before leaving you with an anticipation, namely a concise and close photo reportage of some of the artworks that this exhibition hosts, we remind you this web page dedicated to the event in the site of the festival B#SIDE WAR. The artworks that the visitors can encounter in Treviso are by Nathalie Vanheule, Boris Beja, Lang Ea, Cosima Montavoci, Anitra Hamilton, Ilisie Remus, Ting Bao and Victoria Lucas.

ANITRA HAMILTON, Still life with Fruit


Lang Ea, Listen


[Photo courtesy of IoDeposito Press Office]

Novels of the Great War: "War" by Ludwig Renn

Here is just a quick note about a book we could enlist among the forgotten titles that came after the end of the First World War. "Krieg" by Ludwig Renn was first published in German in 1928. It was immeditaly translated into English by the publisher Martin Secker and a new edition, always with the translation by Willa and Edwin Muir, appeared in the 80s (see here for the editorial history of this title). This novel, available in Spanish and Italian, seems to have low avaibility now in English. The book is autobiographically based on the war experience of the author that becomes therefore author-narrator. The standpoint belongs to a simple soldier and the reason why a rediscovery and new proposal of this book is highly recommendable lays on the straight account of the madness and brutality of war. Like other books released several years after the end of the war, War by Ludwig Renn benefits from all the meditation that stands in between 1918 and 1928: bombast at the minimum level and great simplicity as the tuner of the entire novel (and great engine of dramatic force, too). The book had pretty a good success when it first came out but was probably obscured by other best-sellers soon transformed into the new banner of pacifism. Here below we suggest a short video about the book and a writer that went through all the great wars of the Twentieth century.

The Italian sound art installation INSIGHT will 'sound' even across the border

Press release


Thursday the 15th June, at NAGN – National Art Gallery of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia. 
Saturdaythe 1st July, at Mosede Fort & Museum, Greve, Denmark.


B#SIDE WAR, the diffuse artistic and cultural Festival promoted by IoDeposito Ngo, has achieved a new international goal: Insight, sound art installation by Joshua Cesa, lands to Namibia on the 15th June and to Denmark on the 1st July. These two days are dedicated to the inauguration of two of the seven installation's bells, which have been donated to NAGN- National Art Gallery of Namibia and to Mosede Fort & Museum of Denmark. In fact, Insight is the protagonist of an international dissemination project: the ‘sensorial - auditive stations’ will take new routes, stimulating new keys to interpretation. Presented in Italy during the B#SIDE WAR FESTIVAL's second edition, the dissemination project is now oriented to an international network of partnerships with cultural institutions involved with subjects and issues covered by the artist Joshua Cesa. Thanks to this new horizon, the Italian Ngo IoDeposito and its B#SIDE WAR FESTIVAL crosses national border again and stays tuned to innovative and interactive contemporary art expression. With exhibitions, avant-garde artistic perspectives and international research projects IoDeposito carries on its missio through Festival's third edition, focused on the Great War and its legacy to contemporary society and new generations.

Insight is a sound installation, a sensory, narrative, auditive and visual path, a precious and vibrant relational architecture based on the perceptive stimuli of light art and sound art. Cesa's work aims to involve visitors through senses and feelings, in order to trigger an intimate and polyphonic reflection about what conflicts victims have lived. Inspired by the literary evidences of 1914-16, the artwork contributes in investigating the collective and individual memory of the first global conflict, starting from the sensorial polarity sight/deceptive – hearing/salvific, detected into the evidences of the past and common to all the conflicts of the short century. And it's exactly this polarity the main resource of vistor's interactive experience: Cesa’s installation -with Alessio Sorato and Lorena Cantarut sounds- puts in direct contact with the experiential ghost of the conflict, which is narrated by the reproduction of First World War's auditive prints through seven different ‘sensorial-auditive stations’.

The international donation project of the Insight's ‘sensorial-auditive stations’ is based on the assignment of sound concepts to the local history of different countries, in order to connect each bell to the specific history of the land and stimulate new artwork's undermeaning. So, as a demonstration of artworks' universal value, each cultural location chosen (Denmark, Namibia and soon even USA, France and Russia) has recognized a piece of itself and its history in the sound concept of Insight. «The artist has worked with native testimonies, gathering direct life experiences» explains Chiara Isadora Artico, IoDeposito's president and B#SIDE WAR FESTIVAL's art director. The new artwork's geo-localization has, in fact, deep roots. About National Art Gallery of Namibia, the analysis of Great War human experience related to history of African conflicts has led to the choice of the Campana dello Stallo. The eternal repetition, the impasse condition -for example, the foxholes one- expressed in Italian war diaries' pages found here new perspectives thanks to the Namibians contribution. In this way, installed in the neutral, airy and metallic space of the Upper Museum, the sound art installation gives back a fragment of the African local history able to show inner affinity with Italian war testimonies. From comparative studies of Danish war dynamics, it can be investigated the dimension of countries indirectly afflicted by World Wars. The selected station for the Mosede Fort & Museum is the Campana dell'Attesa, which will become part of the important Danish museum's permanent collection. «The connection established between Insight and new cultural institutions' history» asserts the touched and satisfied Italian artist «it's going to create a new narration of the installation itself, but even of the absolute value of its universal message».

Event Link: ;

The new b#side war festival's horizon: Rome, with the installation "Prisoners"

Press release

Details: The installation will be available: from 27th to 28th May at Piazza San Silvestro, from 6.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m.; from 10th to 11th June at the Park of ex Manicomio Santa Maria della Pietà, from 6.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m.; Saturday the 24th June at MAAM – Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove (via Prenestina, 913, Rome), from 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.


After Udine, Gradisca d'Isonzo, Pirano and Genova, B#SIDE WAR FESTIVAL's tour comes to the capital city of Italy, for the first time, with a series of appointments focused on public art. These inaugurations organized by IoDeposito Ngo start with Prisoners, the conceptual public art installation by Joshua Cesa: in collaboration and with the patronage of the Municipality of Rome, the first date is set for Saturday the 27th May at 6:00 p.m., at Piazza San Silvestro (Rome, Italy). The installation, which enjoys the patronage of UNESCO, will be available from 27th to 28th May, in the area of Piazza San Silvestro, from 6.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. For the first time in Rome, this new artistic experience opens three upcoming events dedicated to the work of art: the second one will be on Saturday the 10th June at the Ex Lavanderia and, the third one, on Saturday the 24th June at the MAAM – Museo dell’Altro e dell’Altrove. All three Roman appointments belong to the third edition of the diffuse artistic and cultural Festival B#SIDE WAR, which is promoted by IoDeposito through numerous Italian and international events such as exhibitions, conferences and research project.

One hundred years ago, Europe looked like a big open-air prison: almost fifteen million people used to be trapped inside inhuman war jails and even more civilians were trapped between refugee camps and their own houses, living a life of destruction and deprivation. Through his installation Prisoners, the artist Joshua Cesa relates to that terrible war scenario trying to involve visitors in exploring a poli-focal historical point of view, between the past and the present. In fact, Prisoners is born from the need to investigate the experience of captivity in a perceptive sense. Starting from the historical experience of the Great War, the artwork triggers a reflection on the idea of imprisonment, a constant and invariable implication in all conflicts, impacting on the way in which we perceive the world. The installation consists in a series of cubic structures open themselves to dynamism, showing the image of many people trapped inside them, that, desperate, seek freedom. A container which become, in this way, metaphor for all the imprisonments -not only those due to overt wars, but also the ones due to concealed conflicts-, in these challenging times where man is above all prisoner of himself: so, the issue begs the unavoidable question of what are real borders of a cell. Prisoners appears to act as a veritable artistic experience, even thanks to two languages that underlie in the same work: fixity and perfection of the geometrical figure are combined with faulty and desperate gestures of those that try to achieve freedom.

A special role is played by the three locations chosen for each appointment: with the specific intention of starting from the centre and then pull away in the suburbs, the installation will enter into contact with different types of users, generating different approaches to artistic message. So, first date's path is articulated starting from town centre where, just for two days, it will be possible to face with these stories. The artwork is in dialogue with the shapes of the city, in a cultural landscape in which Prisoners is filled strengthening its message of reflection on captivity as a troublesome legacy of the global conflicts: for this city, populations and civilities have fought through the millenniums. A strong connection is established even between the installation and the second Roman location, an ex psychiatric hospital: in fact, those walls keep the memory of a painful and brutal imprisonment undergone by the one who, confined there for many years, has lost the own freedom because considered insane. Installed in a context with strong symbolic value, the cubic structures become containers and contents and, above all, they become primordial testimony of desperation: the despair of the one who does not manage to get rid, now as it was then with “patients”. Roman appointments' last date is set on 24th June, at an ex suburban slaughterhouse which is now a sui generis art museum, hosting communities and refugee camps for the immigrants and asylum seekers. Here, the problematic social emergency of immigration rediscovers the universal message of art as tool of knowledge, cultural integration and protection. So, thoughts go to social marginalisation and precariousness as prisons from which escape seems impossible: the random meeting with the artwork leads the passers-by to reflect on the encounter/clash paradox between their freedom and the exasperated condition of the prisoner, which is outside any time and any place (awakening a valuable, albeit uncomfortable, historical memory). «Is a B#SIDE WAR FESTIVAL's really important goal to be here: Roma gives deep food for thought thanks to its specific history characterized by ancient cosmopolitan and intercultural meeting» explains Giulia Di Paola, manager of the new Roman IoDeposito Ong's headquarters «in a city that stays constantly in contact with its cultural, military and historical background, Prisoners can offer a new and multi-focal point of view about war conflicts' tragedy»

Event's link:

"Animals in the Great War”, the forthcoming eBook in Italian and English

Imperial War Museums - The British Army on the Western Front 1914-1918
A kneeling soldier is lifting up a pet dog in his shrapnel helmet, 22 December 1917

"Animals in the Great War” is a forthcoming eBook in Italian and English, edited by Se*, that will be available for free download.
Looking at the First World War from the standpoint of the animals that took part in it, allows to emancipate the Great War from textbook narrative, often exclusively focused on the European fronts and the defeats or victories of single nations.
It is an educational tool, which aims to provide the means to shift the focus to subaltern subjectivities, encouraging a broadening of horizons not only about a single historical event (namely the WWI), but also for looking more widely at the facts that surround us.
This project was one of the three winners of “Europeana Strike a match for Education”, a competition promoted by the cultural network Europeana and the civic crowdfunding platform for social innovation Goteo. As result it is involved in a global crowdfunding campaign, which - we trust - will provide money for a completely free publishing.
Your help to reach this goal is crucial, especially in these first weeks of campaign.
Please, let this project reach the widest possible audience through your social networks and back “Animals in the Great War” with a donation at the crowdfunding campaign page:

*Se is an Italian cultural association, which aims to promote the knowledge and study of Twentieth-century history. Find out more at Associazione culturale Se

Hemingway's Piave. An article by Bruno Marcuzzo (translation by Julia Owen)

The article here below by Bruno Marcuzzo and translated by Julia Owen comes from the book La grande guerra tra terra ed acqua. Storie e memorie nelle terre basse tra Livenza, Piave e Sile fino al mare (see here to flip the full book and here for text in Italian). We invite you also to surf the site

Each one of us has at least one place which represents a moment which changed our life. For Ernest Hemingway - more than he could ever have said (1), nor we imagined – the river Piave (2) was that place.
Ernest arrived there as a boy (3). He thought of war as a football match and the enemy as the away team (4). He wore a made-to-measure uniform on which the stripes of a second lieutenant were stitched . Whatever their age, all the American Red Cross boys were at least second lieutenants, so, as far as the troops were concerned, they were officers. The Italian officers spent time among them, in the canteens and at the command posts; these were educated men and some of them spoke English. They were certainly much more mature than Ernest. Even the infantrymen, marked by years of combat and discomfort, seemed older. With them he shared wine and women and all those experiences which would have been unthinkable at home in America. The American Red Cross had entrusted him with running a canteen post, putting men and materials at his disposal, and even a bicycle on which he could move around without asking anyone's permission. He was a protected boy in a grown-up world, and he was held in consideration both as an officer, and also as an American.  What more could anyone have asked for in that particular time of life when unexpected freedom suddenly throws open the doors onto a seemingly limitless world?
But soon the serenity which came hand in hand with ignorance, his sky high self esteem, and the epic myth of battle,would all lie buried in a trench on the bank of the river,

Despite ARC volunteers being forbidden to go near the front line, it was not the first time that Ernest had gone to look at the Austro-Hungarian trenches. That place where the river points in an 'L' shape towards Fossalta is famous (5): just before the last battle the Czech Lieutenant Stiny went by with the Italians bringing important news about an attack. His friends from the Ancona Brigade were right there, they would not cause problems. He left his bike leaning against the last houses at the foot of the river bank and climbed the short slope. It was hot, and the men were sleeping in holes dug out under the top of the bank. By day one could sleep, it was darkness which made everything difficult: all the eyes in the world would not be enough to see what was going on on the other side of the river. In the dark all you saw was fear.

On the curve behind the river bank there was a large dug out protected by earth where he used to go to chat to the soldiers. It was dark by the time he left the command post dug out at the foot of the river bank. He went up to the trench at the top of the bank, and made his way down towards the side of the river, before walking along the tow path which passed in front of a house whose roof had been blown off by mortar fire. The smell of day's heat had been replaced with the sound of the front line. A little further on, the reflection of a flare died on the still water of the river. In the gun emplacement were gunners and a machine gun. It does not take many men to control enemy lines; there would not be any sense in sacrificing more men than necessary on a position that far forward. It was an excellent position because from that point you could see down the river in both directions. The trenches were so close that each had a clear idea of what was going on on the other side.

A whispered conversation, the glow of a cigarette, or an unexpected sound, and the Austro-Hungarians on the other side, suspecting action, would send back a bombardment on the Italians (6). ''Through the other sounds I heard a cough, then came the chuh-chuh-chuh-chuh, and then there was a flash''. The aim was perfect.
The explosion, white, then red, then purple, and the movement of air, carried him with it while taking the air from his lungs. He had no time to think, he only felt himself dying. He finished up, semi buried beneath sandbags, beams and other detritus which continued to rain down even into the water; first the largest pieces, near the Italian bank, and then smaller and smaller across onto the opposite side. In the darkness he realised that near him one of the soldiers was dead, another was crying out. The shock of the explosion had anaesthetised him (7) so that he did not feel the many splinters of shrapnel which dug into his legs. All he could hear with his ears was the buzzing of shattered metal. His heart must have been bursting in his breast while the adrenaline warmed his veins.

He should not have attacted the attention of the enemy, indeed he should never have been there at all. Now he could have stayed where he was, pretending to be dead, waiting for help to arrive; instead, automatically, he began doing what he had been taught to do which was to pick up the wounded. The height of the average Italian soldier at that time was 1.60m while he stood not far short of 1.90m. He slung the small soldier across his wide shoulders and started making for the the trench below the bank. The Austro-Hungarians, pleased to have hit their target, launched a flare to see what was going on; it exploded high, illuminating the trench and the ruins of the house on the river bank.  This scene, in a yellow flash, remained in Ernests' eyes, becoming the synthesis of his perception of the moment. The image of that house on the river bank would remain in his nightmares as the representation of distress.

From the other side of the river they began to track him with machine gun fire and hit him first on his left thigh and his right foot. He got to his feet again, made his way for another fifty meters trying to reach the shelter of the bank. He was walking badly, inside his boots his feet felt as though they were squelching in hot water. He was bleeding from a head wound and thick blood ran down his neck. He was hit by a second burst which hit him on the right knee and which sent him, and the wounded man, tumbling down into the trench on the bank where he passed out.

At first he was given up for dead. The officers were alarmed, not merely on his account but because of the trouble he had caused. They would have to answer for a great many things. Meanwhile, the Italians, put on the alert by the explosion, thinking it was an attack, started firing their artillery across the river, and the orther side immediately began firing back. The night of 8th July 1918 should have been a quiet one.
This experience destroyed any myth he might have had of a 'just war', fought with force and the purity of ideals.
He realises that many Italians do not want war. He sees signs of their mistrust towards governments, and orders that are far removed from ordinary people who want victory even when faced with the unspeakable sacrifices of soldiers, they are insulted by propaganda.
He will write (8): 'I suppose it is just the loss of the immortality... well, in a way, that is quite a lot to lose'.   
The immortality to which he refers is also that of his youthful ideals, the myths of truth and justice which were killed not so much by the explosion as by the betrayal perpetuated by greater interests which held sway over the wishes of the people and drew advantage from that. He was not frightened of dying, something that at that point he believed to be quite simple, but of dying in order to pay someone else's bill without meaning to.

The young man's illusions die on that river bank and, from there, a man who no longer believes there is anything worth fighting for walks away.
This is the detachment of the 'lost generation' - the period in which he lived in Paris that was characterised by a resigned individualism but which would slowly disappear as the tensions in Spain led to civil war. Ernest returns to pure ideology, choosing to align himself with the wish for self-determination, an absolute value which cannot fail. He defends the idea of the Repubblic because it is the only form of democratic government which he believes possible.

The war in Spain will teach him that no one can fight for what is right without remaining marked by it; you cannot fight a war without getting dirtied; someone, on one side or the other, will feel authorised to justify the violence and twist truth into propaganda thus perpetuating the betrayal of truth, of justice, and of robbing the sacrifice of the dignity of purity.
For years to come, he and his pen will fight on. But he will have his eyes wide open and firmly fixed on the the true wishes of the people. He will denounce the manoeuvres of the various systems of interests and he will remain steadfast in the struggle, which he believes to be the only true measure of the dignity of man which, even when faced with the certainty of losing, cannot betray itself.

He returned to Italy one more time to work on 'Across the River' with the old soldier spewing forth confused memories. In the silence of the morning, gazing at a lagoon landscape of almost heartbreaking beauty, he rediscovers his love for this country, a love which now he finds in a time of peace. He returns to the river bank one last time, not like those veterans do as they search for their lost youth, but in order to settle his accounts with the fear of having sacrificed himself without properly understanding or making a conscious choice.

On the river bank every trace of the trenches had disappeared, the wind caressed the grass on the top of the ridge. Ernest saw once more the house on the river bank, it had stood witness to all the events but it remained standing, and it still is now, although rebuilt. In front of the house he searched for the crater of the explosion, then he pulled down his nut-brown trousers (9), and with the delicacy of an old knight (10), he prepared for a cerimonial evacuation of his bowels.  But nothing came, so he dug a small hole in the earth and buried a thousand lira banknote which corresponded exactly to the value of the pension which received, then he filled in the hole and stamped down the earth, just as people do after planting seeds.

His sowing of the seeds had begun in 1918 with the burial of youthful illusions; it was a carelessly made sacrifice and his voluntary efforts to an ideal had been betrayed.  If he had not returned to justify his actions then his would have remained a useless sacrifice. The mature man, who had given form to his own ideals, could not leave that sacrifice without justifying it, so he returned to tie together all the paths it had taken.
He put the money in the hole. He did not want anyone else to pay for the sacrifice he himself had made. He had not done it for the money. He left the money gladly to this earth which still needed so much support.
''It's fine now,' he thought (11). 'It has merde, money, blood; look how that grass grows... It has everything. Fertility, money, blood and iron. Sounds like a nation. Where fertility, money, blood and iron is, there is the fatherland.'"
The Second World War had just finished and there were great expectations of the future. Through that ceremony he found again his careless youth, he recognised it again as the sower, justifying his sacrifice as part of the birth pangs of a new nation, and it returns to him the dignity of blood spilt by the pure of heart.

Before leaving, he concluded his visit to the old front with another ritual. He stood up between the reeds on the river bank, raised his eyes and looked across the river to the point where the enemy lines had once been, and he spat.
''It was a long spit and he just made it. 'I couldn't spit that night nor afterwards for a long time', he said. But I spit good now...'' (12)
Even a failure to spit had its justification. As a boy he had discovered that if you were frightened your mouth went dry and you could not spit. During the civil war in Spain his writer friends in the combat used to try the spitting test.  ''There was not one of them...who could not make a joke in the imminent presence of death and who could not spit afterwards to show the joke was real (13).''  

They did not make jokes out of boastfulness. Hemingway believed that truly brave men are always cheerful. The fact that he now succeeded in spitting well, right there on the very spot where fear itself had bewitched him, was proof that he had finally worked through the idea of how one might die for a just cause without remorse. Above all it was proof that the old sacrifice he had never 'wished for' now demonstrated itself to have been shared by those men alongside whom he had contributed to both freedom and its political consequences.

On the bank of that river at Fossalta where the careless young man died, another man returned; the river saw that he had never ceased to fight even with his incapacity to justify human fear. This return concluded another cycle. The man who spat now was no longer the young Ernest, but neither was he Hemingway the mature combatant. Another man went away from the Piave river: it was an old man who will no longer write of soldiers and wars because ''he declares a separate peace'', a peace where destiny welcomes courage and fear without perceiving any difference between them. Now he would write of an old man fishing in a sea he knows well, a sea which is capable of containing both good (fish) and evil (sharks), challenging both himself and destiny.
The sea is God, the patient one, who asks no questions, and allows those who wish to do so to play according to their own natures. It is in that very awareness and the wish to be part of that game that the old man finds peace: he is now at one with his role.


(1)  Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and Into the Trees, ''This country meant very much to him, more than he could, or would ever tell anyone''
(2)  Originally the grammatical gender of the river Piave was femminine as 'la Piave'
(3)  His 19th birthday would fall on 21 July 1918
(4)  Ernest Hemingway, Letters
(5)  Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and into the Trees
(6)   This type of armaments, defined as trench artilliary, were the precursors of modern mortars. The sound when it was fired was generally more muted than that of common artilliary, so that it could indeed be confused with the sound of someone coughing. Ernest describes the mortar as having a 5 gallon or 20 liter keg which might lead us to deduce that it was a 225 m Bohler Minenwerfer. The shells launched were not stabilised in flight like artillery shells, so that during their revolution the different effects of the air produced different sounds.
(7)  The energy of an explosion expresses itself in vibrations of differing frequencies, therefore just as loud noise can cause deafness, so vibrations are capable of killing nerve endings.
(8)  Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and into the Trees
(9)  Giampiero Malaspina writing in the Piccolo of Trieste, November 1976
(10)  On the front line a soldier would never leave his trench to do his business for fear of being hit; he did it where he was and then threw it out with a shovel. The delicacy of his companions came from their taking no notice.
(11)  Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and into the Trees
(12)  Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and into the Trees
(13)  Ernest Hemingway's Introduction to Gustav Regler's The Great Crusade, 1940