The Great War and the Modern Memory. Some thoughts in memory of Paul Fussell

Paul Fussell died
on May 23, 2012
Paul Fussel, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, died last Wednesday in Medford, Oregon, at the age of 88. He was author of many books on war and poetry. On the top of them, we all remember the successful The Great War and Modern Memory that along with No Man's Land by Eric Leed represents the must-have couple of books about the Great War. While Leed's book investigates the transformation of soldiers' behaviour after coping with the traumatic space and time of the trenches, Fussel's most popular book is a clear attempt to recreate the literary landscape coming out of that war.

If we consider the two authors we understand that basically with their books they drew the drivers of development of almost all initiatives today remembering the World War One. On one side we find the almost ethnographical description that goes back to Leed's mainstream, on the other we have the literary and artistic analyses inspired by Fussell. These two are the furrows where, still today, we can position the most relevant attitudes towards the study of the First World War (of course we could include a third important track, namely the technical and military narration of the war, but this is not our main interest, as we stated in the heading of this blog).

Even if it may seem a too ambitious scenario, we think that in the middle of these two (or three) streams there is enough room to make a new try to paint and tell that story, probably a cross-fertilization of all possible ways of remembering that war. The first names are there: together with Fussell and Leed, let's think about Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, Annette Becker, Modris Eksteins, Antonio Gibelli and many others. The interdisciplinary approach has become so fashionable but a real and clever use of the interdisciplinary mix is hard to reach and follow. Probably it will never become so trendy since it's so laborious. It would have been interesting to know Fussell's opinion on this point on the eve of Great War centennial.

First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 3: Forcella Toblin-Via Ferrata De Luca-Innerkofler-Forcella Camoscio-Monte Paterno

Each post of the unit tagged as Itineraries will correspond to a one day trip proposal, so that everyone will be able to assemble and disassemble these suggestions to prepare a "more than a day schedule". Of course these are intended to be only suggestions, and you should always take into consideration the travel variables.

Dolimites, Monte Paterno
 (Sesto mountain range)


This is one of the most famous – and fascinating – “Vie Ferrate” in the Sesto Group of Dolomites. It combines fantastic views to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and an interesting wartime path with an extensive tunneled section and ruins of wartime trenches. We suggest you to start this itinerary as early as possible in the morning because the “Via Ferrata De Luca - Innerkofler” is usually crowded with tourists in high season. The whole tour takes about 5 hours; you should therefore plan a short break at Forcella Camoscio and then eat on the way back at Refuges Lavaredo or Pian de Cengia. The itinerary should be undertaken only in good weather; it pays to check local weather forecasts before leaving.

Degree of difficulty: Medium to advanced (good physical shape and basic climbing experience), only with proper equipment (a complete trekking and climbing equipment) and a torch.

Drive to Auronzo Refuge with your own car (toll road of about 20 Euro for the last 7 kms). You can go on foot from the parking at the beginning of the toll road, but it takes more than 1 hour. A shuttle bus is usually available during the summer months from Misurina. Please check this last - and cheapest! - possibility, contacting the Tourist Office of Misurina Email. As you arrive to Auronzo Refuge, take the path n. 101, which leads you to Forcella Lavaredo and to Lavaredo Refuge and go on towards Locatelli Refuge. The path runs along the rock face of Monte Paterno and reaches the Forcella Toblin (m.2405) where the Via Ferrata starts on the right. Climbing on the old wartime path and turning around a pillar called “Salsiccia di Francoforte”, you reach quickly the first tunnel entrance. Headlamp and an extra pullover are suitable, because the cold-wet tunnel climbs steeply and it's quite dark. Take your time to explore the tunnels, especially the second stretch, with its side-tunnels, windows and lookouts, rooms and rests of wooden barricades. At the end of the tunnel you arrive into a small platform, where you can wear the special equipment for the climbing (lanyard, energy absorbers, helmet and harness) and start climbing towards the Forcella Camoscio (m.2650). This passage is quite easy for trained climbers, should not be anyway underestimated (sometimes you have to pay attention to rubble and snow). From the Forcella Camoscio you have three options. 1) You can go up to the summit of Monte Paterno (m.2744) through the “Via Ferrata” on the right and then descend with one of the following alternatives; 2) You can descend immediately towards Forcella Passaporto and Forcella Lavaredo, taking a fascinating (wartime dugouts and fortifications), but difficult route. This option requires a good climbing experience; 3) We suggest you to take a third alternative, the “Sentiero delle Forcelle”. It may be longer but is equally attractive. This path runs along the eastern crest of Monte Paterno, scene of tragic war acts during WWI. You can still see the evidence of it by walking through ledges connected with wood bridges and ladders, till you reach “Forcella dei Laghi” (m.2550). The landscape you can enjoy is simply great.
From here, you have to walk down to the path at the base. At the junction of path n.101 and path n.104, you can choose if you want to take a break and eat at the near-located Pian de Cengia Refuge (path n.101) or at  Lavaredo Refuge (path n.104). It depends on how hungry you are! In any case you have to go back to Lavaredo Refuge in order to reach the starting point at Auronzo Refuge.

Une publicité de guerre. Les “annonces” dans les journal l’Illustration (1914-1918). A book by Robert Gallic

It may not find a place among the “standard literature” concerning WWI, yet the short book of Robert Gallic (Une publicité de guerre. Les “annonce” dans les journal l’Illustration (1914-1918), L’Harmattan, Paris, 2011) deserves attentions. The Author provides in this study a general description of the advertisement in wartime focusing on L’Illustration, one of the most widespread newspapers in France since the beginning of the XX century. If the first chapter describes the graphic and thematic changes occurred in December 1914 as a consequence of the outbreak of the conflict, the second chapter shows how far the war became from 1914 to 1918 a market in full expansion, whose necessities were intercepted and exploited by specific advertising strategies. However, it would seem quite naïf, thinking that war economy has only required new objects to be produced and sold. The third and last chapter of Gallic’s book points out in fact, how advertising transmits also new values and attitudes, which had to support – and sometimes to exasperate – the French national sentiments.

The worth of this study lies however not in the analysis or in the historical contextualization (which is quite general and not so innovative), but in the iconographic sources. The book affords a great number of different kinds of advertising announcements and enables so the reader to compare them and catch their implicit communication strategies. Even the simplest objects needed in the everyday living – clocks, torches, pens, multipurpose pastilles – in the trenches or in the hospital – gas masks, compasses, toilette products, legs prosthesis – are not simply offered to the market, in order to satisfy the needs of the whole society in the war time. Publicity assumes also an active role, which cannot be limited to the business economic interests. It gains a social value, as long as it depicts these same “war necessities” with an almost cheerful and reassuring aura, appealing to and mobilizing public support. From this point of view these advertising images represent a virtual crossing point of different – material, economical, psychological, social, medical or political – aspects of a “global war”, such as WWI was.

A flourishing literature has emerged in the last decade, trying to describe the intricate connection between WWI and advertising, yet this slim book gives its contribution to the discussion: it provides a direct view into the topic, letting images speaking for themselves. Images which disclose us the universe of feelings, fears and hopes of the common people during the WWI, and which continue to affect unconsciously also the reader's imagination today. And so, comparing the different, yet always attractive advertisements of Uronal ( a medical drug used to dissolve uric acid), which depict a toast in the trench or an angelic nurse flying over the hospital beds, it happens, that we finally understand what Samuel Beckett once wrote in Molloy: “If I go on long enough calling that my life, I’ll end up by believing it. It’s the principle of advertising!”

"1917". The unmissable exhibition at the Centre Pompidou-Metz

Pablo Picasso 
Stage curtain for the ballet Parade.
It seems that nothing is missing. 1917 meets all the requirements to become the must-see exhibition about the creativity during the Great War. It is often preferable when the curators narrow to the utmost the span of time comtemplated by an exhibition, like they did in this case: in this way it becomes easier to figure out what the creative activity meant during a certain period. 1917 represents the so called "annus horribilis" and is worldwide studied as the turning year of the war, not only because of the United States entering the operations, the Fourteen points of President Wilson or, looking eastwards, the bolshevik revolution in Russia.

The works here displayed belong to public, private, art and military collections. The icing on the cake is for sure Picasso's stage curtain for the ballet Parade (a huge canvas measuring 10.5 by 16.4 metres). This is Picasso's largest work and was commissioned to the spanish artist by the director of Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev. The ballet featured a scenario by Jean Cocteau and music by Erik Satie. Today we can admire it keeping in mind what Apollinaire wrote about this total work of art: "for the first time this union of painting and dance, costume and theatre which hails the advent of a more complete form of art."

This 2300 square meter exhibition is hosted in Gallery 1 and in the Grande Nef of the Centre Pompidou-Metz. The first gallery tries to map the positions of almost 800 artists introducing a layout aiming to develop the themes of injury, violence, physical and symbolic distance from battlefields and trench art. The second section, hosted in the Grande Nef, swings between the opposite motifs of destruction and reconstruction (dwelling on faces, bodies, war artefacts and buildings) in a special layout resembling a spiral, a frequent form in the art of that year (think about Futurism and, before the war's outbreak, about Vorticism).

The exhibition:
26 May - 24 September, 2012
Curators: Claire Garnier and Laurent Le Bon, Centre Pompidou-Metz

An International Survey implemented by the World Heritage Tourism Research Network (WHTRN)

The WWI British cemetery of Giavera - Italy
Recently we took note of a really outstanding project launched by WHTRN, the World Heritage Tourism Research Network based in Halifax, Canada. Everything gets underway from a global survey that each of us can take into consideration and can start to surf from this link. It seems this project is going to look at the main objectives in order to shape the remembrance of the First World War on the eve of the centenary. According to our point of view, the most relevant goal is the global coordination that may derive from this knowledge in an international frame, especially with relation to World War One tourism. The project team is composed by E. Wanda George, Myriam Jansen-Verbeke, Mallika Das & Brian Osborne. We highly reccomend to take a look at the above mentioned link. 

First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 2: Rifugio Refavaie – Monte Cauriol

Each post of the unit tagged as Itineraries will correspond to a one day trip proposal, so that everyone will be able to assemble and disassemble these suggestions to prepare a "more than a day schedule". Of course these are intended to be only suggestions, and you should always take into consideration the travel variables.

View of Cima d'Asta from the Cauriol and its cross

GOOGLE MAPS STARTING POINT:  Rifugio Refavaie – Caoria – Canal S. Bovo.

If you want to discover a less touristic side of Dolomites region, you should venture into the mountain range of the Lagorai, along which ran the front line between Italy and Austria during the First World War. We suggest you as first destination in the region the fascinating morainic barrier of Monte Cauriol, starting from Rifugio Refavaie, in the Vanoi Valley. This small refuge in the forest is the last place, where you can get refreshment. It may be therefore easier to plan a picnic on the top – a supermarket is available also in the near hamlet of Caoria – and take a rest at the refuge on the way home. The walk up to the Cauriol is quite long (7 hours for the whole tour), but it is not overly demanding, since the path is mainly wide and well-marked.  It requires anyway a good physical shape and endurance and trekking equipment.

You can park beside the Refavaie refuge (m1116), where the forest road soon enters the trees, along the river Vanoi, and turns then slightly right. About 100m after the first bend, take the path (n.320). Here begins a fairly steep climb into the wood (Bosco Laghetti), which joins up with another forest road. Take it, turning on the left, and walk among the upper meadows of Malga Laghetti, until the path (still n.320) turns away from the road and starts climbing up to Sadole Pass (m2066). From here follow the “Italian Way” on the right. The Old Italian military route runs over black rocks and takes you to Busa della Neve and to Selletta Carteri (m2343), a small saddleback, separating the two capes of Cauriol (the little and the big Cauriol – Piccolo e Grande Cauriol). After few easy climbing passages, you can reach finally the summit (2494m) of Grande Cauriol, with its metal cross, and can enjoy a magnificent landscape, which pays off the 4 hours walk. The 360-degree panorama (breathtaking when the sky is clear!) shows the views from Fassa Valley towards Latemar, Catinaccio, Sassolungo, Marmolada, Pale di San Martino and Cima d’Asta.

You can descend on the ascent path. Alternative would be the way back through the “Austrian Way”, which departs from Selletta Carteri and runs along trenches and fortifications of the Austrian Army, turns around the Piccolo Cauriol and reaches the Sadole Pass.  A third option is an unnumbered path which starts short after the summit of the big Cauriol (there’s a sign indicating “Malga Laghetti”) and takes you to the rests of an Italian trench of the WWI till the ruins of an old village built up by the Alpine Troupes. This last trail however could be difficult to recognize among the trees. As you reach Malga Laghetti, follow the forest road which runs down to Rifugio Refavaie.

If you have time and still want to discover something about the WWI in Lagorai you can visit the local museum in the near hamlet of Caoria (please contact the local group of Alpini to agree a visit or check the opening time at this email).

Below some useful links:
- Val Vanoi
- Rifugio Refavaie

Paola De Pietri at MAXXI with "To Face - Landscape along Austrian and Italian front of the First World War"

Sella di Somdogna - Paola De Pietri
If you are in Rome, if you drop by MAXXI, don't miss the exhibition dedicated to the recent work of the Italian photographer Paola De Pietri. For the first time in Italy the visitors can admire the 21 large format photos taken along the Austrian and Italian front of the Great War. The images belong to the project awarded with the prestigious Albert Renger‐Patzsch prize of the Dietrich Oppenberg Stiftun/Foundation. Landscape-wise, the work of Paola De Petri (Reggio Emilia, 1960) is one of the most prominent in the present Italian photography scenario. In this case the artist faces the silent landscape of the First World War along the once thundering lines of the Austrian and Italian armies. The signs of the Great War are still present, but they are slowly getting invisible to our eyes. In the long run - that's what the work of the artist seems to suggest - they could even disappear. After the death of the last veteran of the World War I, we are now getting closer to another event (this one avoidable), namely the sinking of the Great War landscape.

Paola De Pietri
To Face - Landscape along Austrian and Italian front of the First World War
curated by Francesca Fabiani

17 May - 30 September, 2012
Hall Carlo Scarpa, Maxxi, Rome


The poets and the World War: "Désir" by Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire
Instead of proposing the generic topic of the First World War poets, it would be far more motivating to sketch a synoptic view of its literary legacy. Take the french case of Guillaume Apollinaire. His enthusiam for the Italian Futurism movement and the close friendship with Giuseppe Ungaretti did not prevent him from writing some war poems that we can consider unique in a survey of World War I poetry. Marinetti and Ungaretti are real presences of his poetry, but the landscape rising up from these verses represents a brand new achievement for the whole world literature.


Mon désir est la région qui est devant moi
Derrière les lignes boches
Mon désir est aussi derrière moi
Après la zone des armées

Mon désir c'est la butte du Mesnil
Mon désir est là sur quoi je tire
De mon désir qui est au-delà de la zone des armées
Je n'en parle pas aujourd'hui mais j'y pense

Butte du Mesnil je t'imagine en vain
Des fils de fer des mitrailleuses des ennemis trop sûrs d'eux
Trop enfoncés sous terre déjà enterrés

Ca ta clac des coups qui meurent en s'éloignant

En y veillant tard dans la nuit
Le Decauville qui toussote
La tôle ondulée sous la pluie
Et sous la pluie ma bourguignotte

Entends la terre véhémente
Vois les lueurs avant d'entendre les coups

Et tel obus siffler de la démence
Ou le tac tac tac monotone et bref plein de dégoût

Je désire
Te serrer dans ma main Main de Massiges
Si décharnée sur la carte
Le boyau Gœthe où j'ai tiré
J'ai tiré même sur le boyau Nietzsche
Décidément je ne respecte aucune gloire

Nuit violente et violette et sombre et pleine d'or par moments
Nuits des hommes seulement

Nuit du 24 septembre
Demain l'assaut
Nuit violente ô nuit dont l'épouvantable cri profond devenait plus intense de minute en minute
Nuit qui criait comme une femme qui accouche
Nuit des hommes seulement



My desire is the region that lies before me
Behind the Boche lines
My desire is also behind me
Beyond the armies' zone

My desire is the butte of Mesnil
My desire is far off where I'm firing
Of my desire that lies beyond the armies' zone
I shall not speak today but I think of it

Butte of Mesnil vainly I evoke you
Iron wire machine guns brazen enemies
Sunken too far underground already buried

Ca tac tlac of gun fire that dwindles and dies

Whatching there late at night
A Decauville railway coughing
Corrugate iron waving in the rain
And in the rain my helmet

Listen to vehement earth
You see the flashes before you hear the gunfire

And a shell whistling demented
Or the monotonous brief tac tac full of disgust

I long
To grasp you in my hand Main de Massiges
So fleshless on the map
Goethe's trench I've fired at
I've even fired at the guts of Nietzsche
Decidedly I respect no glory

Night that is violet and violent and dark and momentarily full of gold
Night of men only

Night of September 24
Tomorrow the attack
Violent night oh night whose frightful deep cry became more intense every minute
Night crying like a woman in labor
Night of men only

(from Calligrammes, translation by Anna Hyde Greet, University of California Press)

"The Greater War: Empires in the Era of World War One". Conference at the Center of War Studies, University College Dublin

It seems that the world is warming up for the World War I centenary. It's even hard to keep the pace of the interesting conferences that come one after the other. This time we are in Ireland, at the Center of War Studies of the University College Dublin. By reading the program, what is really promising in this case is the transnational approach we foresee.

This conference takes a global approach to the First World War and its often violent aftermath. It highlights the mobilization of empires which played a crucial role in allowing the imperial powers to conduct a total war. The consequences of these mobilizational processes had a profound impact on the subsequent transition of these empires from war to a sometimes unstable peace. We aim to bring together scholars from around the world to examine the complexities of this global mobilization and the ensuing demobilization process. Through comparative discussion and debate organized around themed subject panels, this symposium will help to develop a transnational analysis of the ramifications of the First World War throughout empires and nation-states in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and North America. The conference will explore the global effects of the Paris Peace Treaties, the emergence of anti-colonial movements invigorated by the First World War, the responses of the state authorities to such unrest, and the extent to which empires successfully managed to reintegrate their veterans.
This conference is funded by the European Research Council.

Below is the program taken from this page:

Friday 18 May 2012

09.00 Registration
09.30 Welcome and Introduction: Robert Gerwarth
09.45 – 12.00
Panel 1: Mobilizing Blue-Water Empires for War
Chair / Commentator: Hew Strachan (Oxford)

Richard Fogarty (Albany) – The French Empire
Timothy H. Parsons (Washington University in St. Louis) – Mobilizing Britain's African Empire for War: Pragmatism vs Trusteeship
Filipe Meneses (NUI Maynooth) – Portugal and its Empire, 1914-18
Michael Pesek (Berlin) – Germany’s African Empire

12.00 – 12.15 Break
12.15 – 13.45
Panel 2: Mobilizing and Demobilizing the European Land Empires for War
Chair / Commentator: John Horne (TCD)

Peter Haslinger (Marburg), Imperial disintegration and national confrontation in East-Central Europe, 1918-1920
Michael Provence (UC San Diego), The Ottoman Empire
Chris Read (Warwick), The Russian Empire

13.45 – 14.15 Lunch
14.15 – 15.45
Panel 3: The Paris Peace Treaties and the Wider World
Chair / Commentator: Alan Kramer (TCD)

Leonard Smith (Oberlin College) - Empires as Actors at the Paris Peace Conference
Alex Marshall (Glasgow) – The 1920 Comintern Congress: Communism, Empire, and De-colonization

15.45 – 16.00 Break
16.00 – 17.45
Panel 4: The Making and Breaking of Empires in the Middle East
Chair / Commentator: John Darwin (Oxford)

James Kitchen (UCD) – Crushing the 1919 Egyptian Revolution: The British Army and the Post-War Crisis of Empire
Roberto Mazza (Western Illinois) – Jerusalem from Ottoman to British rule

19:00 Conference Dinner
After Dinner Lecture
Erez Manela (Harvard) – The Wilsonian Moment and the Extra-European World

Saturday 19 May 2012

09.30 – 11.15
Panel 5: Demobilization of non-European Troops and the Building of Nations: the “White Settler” Societies
Chair / Commentator: Bill Nasson (Stellenbosch)

Jennifer Keene (Chapman University) – Re-examining the Social Contract: Demobilizing the American Army
Nathan Smith (Toronto) – Britishness, Bolshevism and the Return of the Troops: Canada and the end of the First World War
Stephen Garton (University of Sydney) – The Return of the Anzacs

11.15 – 11.45 Break
11.45 – 13.30
Panel 6: The Fear of Colonial Revolts and State Responses to Colonial Unrest after the Great War: The Beginning of Decolonization?
Chair / Commentator: Erez Manela

Matthew Hughes (Brunel) – A British "Foreign Legion"? The British Police in Mandate Palestine
Martin Thomas (Exeter) – Rebellion and Restriction: Political Economies of Violence in France’s Inter-War Empire
Daniel M. Masterson (US Naval Academy) – Soldiers as Imperial Policemen: The Black and Tans in Palestine and the U.S. Marines in Nicaragua

13.30 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.45
Panel 7: Global Memories of the Great War: ‘Metropole’ and ‘Periphery’
Chair / Commentator: Adrian Gregory (Oxford)

Santanu Das (Queen Mary) – British Empire
Pierre Purseigle (Birmingham) – French Empire

Roundtable Discussion
Chair: Robert Gerwarth (UCD)

Hew Strachan (Oxford); Jay Winter (Yale); John Horne (TCD), Erez Manela (Harvard)

First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 1: Cortina d'Ampezzo-Passo Falzarego-Monte Lagazuoi-Forte Tre Sassi

Our World War I museum has been often consulted by foreign groups travelling through Italy First World War battlefields. They are usually looking for advices on locations, starting points for excursions and logistics aspects to better organize their trip schedule. We are more than happy to give advices for free. For this reason, we believe that we could even share with the kind visitors of WWI Bridges our suggestions. Each post of the unit tagged as Itineraries will correspond to a one day trip proposal, so that everyone will be able to assemble and disassemble these suggestions to prepare a "more than a day schedule". Of course these are intended to be only suggestions, and you should always take into consideration the travel variables.


If you're not already staying in the Dolomites, first reach Cortina d’Ampezzo. From there you can rise up to Passo Falzarego (2100 m / 6888 ft a.s.l.). You may take the cableway from Passo Falzarego to the summit of Monte Lagazuoi (2770 m / 9085 ft a.s.l.) and visit the Austro-Hungarian first lines, trenches, positions and shelters. From that spot breathe the view of the entire mountain war front (Marmolada, Monte Piana, Tofane).

You may have lunch at Rifugio Lagazuoi.

(We suggest here below two options for the afternoon)
OPTION A (level-EASY): cableway back to Passo Falzarego and drive to Forte Tre Sassi (Valparola pass); a visit of the museum that has been laid out starting from the Austrian fort could follow. After that, and according to the weather conditions, you may take into consideration to visit the first lines at Sass De Stria or the Austrian barracks opposite to the Austrian fort.
OPTION B (level-MEDIUM DIFFICULT): walking down from Cima del Lagazuoi to "Galleria di mina italiana" on a path that goes through a cave. Time: 2 h 30’ / 3 h. After that, departure from Forte Tre Sassi and way back to your place.

Requirements for option B are of course a good physical shape, good training and all the equipment that is usually needed for trekking and hiking (boots, helmets, torch etc).

"From the Garden to the Trenches: The Child, the First World War, and North America". An extremely interesting conference

Most people agree that the relation between world wars and childhood is a key point to investigate. For this reason, we are more than happy to give evidence to an extremely interesting multidisciplinary conference that will take place in the coming week, from 10th to 12th May. The title is From the Garden to the Trenches and the locations will be in Niagara and Toronto. This is the second of a three symposium series organized by the research project "Approaching war: childhood, culture and the first world war" (see this website). This second conference follows the one hosted in Sydney, Australia (December 2011) and centred on the Global South. It will focus on childhood, culture and war, but from the perspectives of the Americas. A third conference, to be hosted in Newcastle UK (March 2013), will complete the precious mapping work considering the european context.

Full program and more information available here.

"Not All Bastards Are from Vienna." Andrea Molesini recreates the hamlet of Refrontolo after the rout of Caporetto

Andrea Molesini
It is always a pleasant surprise to realize how fiction and reality mixed together lend new significance also to the history of the First World War. This is the case of Non tutti i bastardi sono di Vienna (“Not all bastards are from Vienna”, Sellerio, 2010), the first narrative book of Andrea Molesini. Already known as author of work for young readers and translator (Walcott and Pound, among others), Molesini was awarded last year for this “opera prima” with the Premio Campiello. A Spanish translation is already available (Entre enemigos, Lumen, 2011) and a German and English one are to be expected.

The book draws inspiration from the discovered diary of Molesini's grandaunt, Maria Spada, who reported what occurred in the time between the rout of Caporetto and the end of the conflict in the hamlet of Refrontolo, situated in the Venetian region a few miles north of the Piave line. Starting from this historical factum, Molesini sets the story at Villa Spada, occupied by the Austrian Army in October 1917. This is where the protagonist, the seventeen years old Paolo, lives with all other characters: his skilled grandmother, his eccentric grandfather, his proud yet sensitive aunt, but also the wise cook Teresa and her silly daughter Loretta, the guard Renato – an agent of the Italian intelligence – and the young Giulia. Through Paolo's eyes, Molesini portrays the consequences of the First World War on the “microcosm” of Villa Spada and, by analogy, its well-known consequences on the civil society: violence and horror, rape and vengeance, fear and hate, famine and desperation, destruction of all social orders and moral values. The life behind the front line becomes for Paolo and his family not only a constant effort to survive under the enemy's occupation and his abuses of power, but also effective cooperation to the allied Resistance – cooperation which leads to a tragic end of the story, stressing so clearly that war knows no heroes or winners, only suffering human beings. Yet, in the whirlwind of those tragic days, Paolo discovers also the value of all essential things of life – friendship, love, family and compassion, even the importance of the landscape –, which brings dignity to human beings even in times wasteful of human life like WWI was. The well documented historical background is thus interwoven with the personal experience of the protagonist and his progressive awareness of the tragic contradictions of human existence.

The narrative skill of Molesini, who plays on the everlasting contrast between tragic and comic of life, shows great ability in tracing the psychological nature of the characters, especially the female characters, and in describing with great realism places and facts, providing a powerful five senses’ perception of the war. This is the strength of Non tutti i bastardi sono di Vienna: a war novel and a “Bildungsroman” at the same time, it not only presents a valuable historical account of specific events, which many publications have fully described; but it is also compelling at a personal level, enabling the reader to feel how common people tried to survive the Great War, in a way that only literature can do.

Update about the translation rights of this book: the German translation will be available within shortly by Piper (München), while the French edition will be released by Calmann-Lévy. Readers from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia will find this book in the Atlantic Books catalog next year. The translation rights were sold to Norway, to the Netherlands and to Slovenia.