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Books from the other rank's perspective...

schooner

New Member
Good morning everyone,
As the title suggests, can anyone here recommend books about, or written by, ordinary Italian soldiers and their experience of the war please?
Regards,
Schooner.
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Welcome to the forum Schooner

There aren't many memoirs written by enlisted soldiers, even in the Italian language. Literacy of wartime Italians was low compared to other developed countries, limiting who was able to capture their experiences during the war.

The best known author is Mario Stern, a sergente maggiore in the Alpini. His Il Sergente nella neve was translated as The Sergeant in the Snow.

Nuto Revelli's La Strada del davai was recently translated as Mussolini's Death March. While Revelli himself was an officer in the Alpini, he interviewed 43 survivors the Russia campaign and included their stories in the book. Most of those individuals were enlisted.

If you read Italian, there is a series of books called c'ero anch'io (I was also there) edited by Giulio Bedeschi and published by Mursia. These are usually titled by the theater which they cover. Fronte russo: c'ero anch'io (two volumes), Fronte d'Africa: c'ero anch'io, etc. These are collections of participant's stories, both officer and enlisted. Well worth a read on their everyday experiences.

Beyond those, I am not immediately aware of any other accounts, but hopefully other members here on Comado Supremo will offer their thoughts.

Pista! Jeff
 
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DrG

Active Member
The series "C'ero anch'io" mentioned by Jeff is surely the best example of this branch of literature. It originated from Franco Bandini's "Io c'ero", which covered all the theaters of war, but was rather short. By the way, "Io c'ero" means "I was there" and "C'ero anch'io" means "I was there too": Bedeschi choose this title as a tribute to Bandini's book, regarding his own ones as an addition to his colleague's work.
 

jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks Jim and DrG

I took a look at the books. Several books addressing the holocaust but nothing written by enlisted R.E. Voice from the Bow looks interesting, but that is R.M. Never Retreat is written by an officer.

I feel one factor that limited the writing by enlisted service members is that the war was something they survived. It wasn't fought for a good cause and there wasn't much glory earned. I feel for many, the war was something they wished to put behind them.

Nearly all the books that have been written are about serving in the 'elite' units such as alpini, bersaglieri, paracadutisti, or corazzato. Rare are any written by anyone serving in the fanti.

Pista! Jeff
 

DrG

Active Member
Jeff, we are interested in WW2 for several reasons, but those who lived it often did not grasp the significance of their personal experiences, especially if they were mere soldiers or not involved in important battles. Maybe, in the late XXI century our grandsons will regret that we have not kept a diary or written memoirs about our current times, but we have the modesty to believe that, after all, we are not Napoleon. Most of people simply don't have the time, the will or, to some extent, the arrogance to write their memoirs.

But returning to WW2 Italian soldiers, if I recall the experiences of my relatives, most of them frankly did not take part to anything which would have deserved more than a short article, a handful of pages, surely not a full book of memoirs. Maybe only a granduncle of mine got involved in interesting experiences, but they were so much interesting that... he ended MIA in Russia...

Therefore, Bandini's and Bedeschi's collections of short memoirs are probably the best format (but also daily newspapers, especially the local ones, have been full of interviews and sometimes memoirs and letters from veterans, usually when they were very old in the Nineties or 2000s), because they are more coherent with the relative lack of interest of most of WW2 lives. And, after all, the Chinese say "may you live in interesting times" is a curse, not a greeting.
 
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