Few Returned: Twenty-Eight Days on the Russian Front, Winter 1942-1943

Few Returned: Twenty-Eight Days on the Russian Front, Winter 1942-1943

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After World War II more than one hundred books appeared that dealt with the experience of the Italian army in Russia, and particularly the terrible winter retreat of 1942-1943. Few Returned (I piu' non ritornano) is the only one of these that is still regularly reissued in Italy.

Eugenio Corti, who was a twenty-one-year-old second lieutenant at the time, found himself, together with 30,000 Italians and a smaller contingent of Germans, encircled on the banks of the River Don by enemy forces who far outnumbered them. To break out of this encirclement, these men undertook a desperate march across the snow, with constant engagements and in temperatures ranging from -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Whereas supplies were air-dropped to the Germans, the predicament of the Italians was far more difficult: lacking gasoline, they were compelled to abandon their vehicles and to proceed without heavy arms, equipment, ammunition, or provisions. Even the wounded had to be abandoned, though it was well known that the soldiers of the Red Army"enraged by the brutality of the German invasion"killed all the enemy wounded who fell into their hands. After twenty-eight days of encirclement, only 4,000 of the 30,000 Italians made it out of the pocket.

Why is it that Corti's book, which was first published in 1947, continues after fifty years to be reprinted in Italy? Because, as Mario Apollonio of the University of Milan said, when the book first appeared: "It is a chronicle . . . but it is much more than that: behind the physical reality, there is the truth" about man at his most tragic hour. Apollonio adds: "The power of the writing immediately transforms the document into drama"; the result is a "novel-poem-drama-history." The philosopher Benedetto Croce found in Corti's book "the not infrequent gleam of human goodness and nobility." Few Returned is a classic of war literature that succeeds in bringing home the full hatefulness of war.

Eugenio Corti began writing his diary at a military hospital immediately after being repatriated from the Russian front. When in September 1943 Italy found itself cut in two by the Armistice, Corti, loyal to his officer's oath, joined up with what remained of the Italian army in the south and with those few troops participated in driving the Germans off Italian soil, fighting at the side of the British Eighth and the American Fifth Armies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780826211156
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Publication date: 05/28/1997
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 253
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Born in Besana Brianza, Italy, in 1921, Eugenio Corti marked his debut as a writer with Few Returned. He went on to write many works of historical fiction, including The Red Horse and The Last Soldiers of the King: Wartime Italy, 1943-1945 (University of Missouri Press).

Peter Edward Levy teaches English at the University of Siena in Italy. He has published translations of contemporary Italian poetry and critical essays on British poets.

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Few Returned: Twenty-Eight Days on the Russian Front, Winter 1942-1943 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Taurus454 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't figure this to be a great book when I bought it but found I couldn't put it down. Absolutely fascinating what they endured and leaves you wondering how 4,000 out of 30,000 managed to survive the savage Russians. Amazing the author hated the Germans but never had similar contempt for the Russians.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
: FEW RETURNED :BY EUGENIO CORTI The famous translation of 'I piu' non ritornano' in english.This is the accounts of insanity,depravity,suffering and true war reality in the form of a diary of a Italian Artillery liuetenent in the soviet Don retreat.It shows the bravery of italian soldiers and the bare extents people will use to attempt to live.After twenty-eight days of encirclement, only 4,000 italians of the 30,000 Italians made it out of the pocket.It shows the barbarity with which the Russians exacted on the italians,and the contempt and disrespect that the Germans also displayed torwards the russians and italians. For example :the small contigint of Germans with which the italians had in their ranks executed russian prisnors captired by the italians without any authority of the italian commanding officers,this led to the russians killing any of the countless italian prisnors that they came across (who could not move due to frostbite,wounds etc).It aso showed the callous direspect that the soviets showed to their own men One example is how the soviets deployed a uzbek company (gang pressed into the ranks)into a entrenched position where they were pounded by italian 81 mm mortars and never got to fire a shot back...when the uzbek company was completely destroyed the soviets replaced them with another fresh company to be murdered ....what does this =? Human life to absorb and use up the enemies ammunition.Also interesting was how Ukranian peasents helped the italians build a underground/bunker type church just so they could attend mass. Some interesting parts ae when a german armour attack to breakthrough soviet ranks consits of a huge Panther Tank ,several small French Hotchkiss tanks and 'Battaglione M 'italian assault troops they were able to knock out and force to withdraw a force of over 15 T34/76 med tanks. This book is a first hand eyewitness account of a front of the war that is very often generalized and not well documented by historians.It is among my favorite titles. oronzo