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The Red Horse Paperback – June 1, 2002
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The Red Horse: A Novel
1015 pp. "Eugenio Corti A literary phenomenon in Italy, The Red Horse a European bast-seller, was voted the best Italian novel of the decade in a public survey. Its success had gone far beyond Italy, as the book has been translated into Spanish, French, Japanese and three other languages. This epic historical novel about World War II and after, written from the author's own personal experiences as an Italian Freedom Fighter, is a profoundly moving account of the war, those who fought in it on both sides, and the effects the war had on families in the author's hometown in Italy. On a wider scale, it is a faithful witness to the actual events of the war - including the role of historical personages who appear, the Russian campaign, the Nazi barbarism, the Communist gulag, the North Italian resistance, and political life in the two decades following the war. This world, filled with powerful personalities, drama and clashing armies, bathes in the light of the truth. What makes this truly historical novel, with its epic scope, a masterpiece is the underlying spiritual dimensions of the protagonist, his family and friends, which illuminates the ongoing tragedy of the war and its aftermath. In the end, it is a story of faith and hope in a world reduced to barbarism and cruelty. Born in 1921 in Lombardy, Eugenio Corti joined the Italian Freedom Fighters. From his experiences of the tragic retreat from Russia, Corti wrote a fascinating chronicle, Most Did Not Return, and a book about the Italian Freedom Fighters, The Last Soldiers of the King."Keywords: EUGENIO CORTI RED HORSE FICTION HISTORICAL WORLD WAR TWO WWII WW2 MILITARY
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Top Customer Reviews
I know that many historical authors tend to dismiss the Italian fighting soldier of World War Two but when consideration is given to the weapons and equipment used by the Italian Army it is understandable why they are compared in such bad light to the German soldier or the Allies. I must admit that this book opened my eyes to the misery suffered by the Italian soldiers in Russia and it also fired a desire to read more about the Italian Alpine troops and their campaigns during World War Two, especially in Russia. As I mentioned earlier the first hundred pages may seem boring initially but when you get into the book it makes sense why the author went into such detail about the central characters as we follow them and their families through the war and into the final peace.
I cannot help but feel how the author has used his personal experience of serving on the Russian Front to make this such a great story; it is compelling reading. The accounts of the retreat during the Stalingrad battle are magnificent; you can actually picture the frozen wasteland as the soldiers tiredly trudge through the wind swept villages being hounded by the advancing Soviet troops. The accounts of the many rearguard actions are excellent and I really felt for the men who fell during the fighting. Many other reviews have mentioned that this is a powerful and moving novel of World War Two and I must concur with those sentiments. This is a great story and anyone who has an interest in the fighting on the Russian Front will be truly taken by this account.
The book continues on another level with the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943 and the subsequent campaign in Italy. We follow accounts of the Italian partisans, Communists, Royalist and bandits. This again is another interesting level of the story and one, which I had very little knowledge of. I enjoyed this section of the book as much as the account of the Russian Front. The book does not finish with the war's end in 1945 but continues with the surviving characters through the harsh years of peace and political turmoil that Italy found itself in with the conflict between the Catholic Church and the Communist Party.
Overall this book was a delight to read but at times towards the end maybe I felt that the author was trying to convert me to the Catholic Church however it must been read in the context of the times. I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who wants to learn about Italy during the war or anyone who has an interest in the Eastern Front during WWII. This is a great story and one of the best novels I have read in years, well done to the author!
CF, Amazon, 4/7/2017
This novel is very good but one step down from great, being seriously marred by a mistake in convention Corti made, following too closely his obvious model, Tolstoy.
The book takes up with Italian content the theme, style, and form of Tolstoy's War and Peace. Even the technique of using short, easily readable sections that proceed in epic proportions is entirely recognizable from Tolstoy. There is nothing wrong with this.
We would have had a great novel, with a lot of answers, a real continuation of Tolstoy with no reason for apologies, a real position towards and apparently against Modernism, which personally I greatly prefer. Personally I enjoy well-done Realism, even when, as Corti does, the author engages in (always gratuitous) attacks against Modernism. But Corti over-reached his story's necessities and over-committed himself to his model, making the same mistake Tolstoy did with Anna Karenina, brutally and suddenly, at the end, killing off his prize female character for no reason intrinsic to the novel. It was a mistake in Tolstoy and it is a mistake here. Had Corti stuck to making a companion or reply to War and Peace he would surely have had an astonishingly good one. Instead, unknown to us, he was blending in an Anna Karenina in the form of the character Alma, whose story and character, and purpose in the structure, in no way resembles Anna's. Alma's name so closely resembling Anna's must have been meant as a clue to Alma's fate. But Alma is never the slightest disappointed in her marriage; she always fawns affectionately over her husband; they have the great sex life Anna and Vronsky apparently have; there is no reason to eliminate her except Corti's desire to use Tolstoy not as a model but as a script.
The effect is about as arbitrary as the original version of De Sica's Umberto D. Fortunately someone intervened and forced the change of that movie's end, to keep it in line with the overall texture of the film.
The Red Horse merits close discussion but ultimately it is a too-close version of Tolstoy. I am not a fan of Realism but I had thought Corti was going to really succeed with it. The book is certainly worth reading, but it turns out, with this one major fault, not to be the continuation of Tolstoyian Realism, but merely one of its better, even best, imitators; but an imitation nonetheless.
Tolstoy did not have the courage to let his sexually rebellious and self-defining Anna live. It was a position he was later to repudiate. Tolstoy killed Anna because he did not have the courage to endorse a story that so wholly defied the civilization he worked in; it takes a Wagner to do that. Corti killed Alma because Tolstoy killed Anna. Anna is punished for defying convention in a loveless marriage, for defying her husband and going with a lover; Alma is punished for finding fulfillment in convention in a loving marriage, for defying her husband only once, to help him when he is stranded on the road, for going to her husband who is her lover. With Corti, there is simply a failure of the level of invention, and in fact a betrayal of Tolstoy with a merely Verismo ending. With both authors, the really sexy lady is not allowed to live, and Alma has a heart of gold, even adhering ebulliently to Corti's sometimes narrow-minded idea of Christian behavior. Until then, Corti's inventiveness seemed so reliable, and so interestingly Italian, throughout the novel. If we were dealing with any other style than Realism, it might be possible to understand parallel stories differently. But in a work of Realism, realistic parallelism is the substance of the work. So again I say that Corti stuck too stubbornly to Tolstoy.
None of the wonderful details in the storytelling are as structurally significant as what Corti does with the moral tale he is telling. Ten pages from the end of a 1015-page novel, he crashes the story with a crash of a car. Apparently there is to be no sexual fulfillment for Corti's Christian faithful, not even in faithful marriage, not even in characters he had redeemed, not even in a relationship he had otherwise transformed