Saturday, April 18, 2009

The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919 by Mark Thompson

Think of the worst conflicts of the first world war and you are unlikely to settle upon the 12 battles of the Isonzo, each covered in gory detail in this excellent history. As Thompson observes, "the ratio of blood shed to territory gained was even worse than the Western Front", because the proto-fascist General Luigi Cadorna forced wave upon wave of ill-equipped Italian peasants to advance along the Isonzo valley, only to be mown down by Austrian machine-guns. The Italian campaign ended in defeat, while the postwar settlement soured relations with the Allies sufficiently for the emergence of Mussolini. Thompson's reading of the Italian political scene makes clear how the war discredited democracy and led to the rise of fascism. He also discusses in some detail the poetry of the war, from the "psychotic" fascist propagandist Gabriele D'Annunzio (once hailed by Proust and Joyce as a genius) to the moving war poetry of Giuseppe Ungaretti, and the febrile verse of Marinetti, for whom the war was "the most beautiful Futurist poem".

No comments: