and we accepted the chorus of laughternas we made our vows in a generous spirit.nThis carel”ree start made our divorcenmore poignant.nThis year marks the 20th anniversarynof our separation and divorce. Unhkenthe sailor from Genoa, Rose and I arennot making the covers of news magazines,nand scholars are not holding conferencesnto present papers and panel discussionsnon our problems. Yet the daten1992 marks an important date in mynown history. The pain of our marriage’snfailure returns this year with heightenednintensity, and 1 attribute this to the constantnreminders caused by the quineentennialnof Christopher Columbus.nThese aren’t the sort of routine lovesicknreminders that Chad and Jeremy wouldnsing about. Perhaps that would be easier.nI don’t sigh when walking by sodanshops or skating rinks, but rather whennseeing a bronze statue of Columbus innthe town square, sword in hand, lookingnever outward.nOkay, 1492 was the big year in his life.nBut little folk also have anniversaries. Inn1972 I was a perpetual graduate studentnand Rose worked for a mental retardationncenter. While I successfully avoidednthe Vietnam draft by advanced educationnand worked in the peacenmovement. Rose fell in love with hernhandsome and well-to-do boss, really annice fellow, though I’d have been hardpressednto admit it at the time. Rosenmarried her new love. The grapevinentells me they’ve stayed together thesenpast 20 years and have three children. Indo not know how well these childrennsail. My advanced degree is still on hold.nDissertation topics are tricky things.n1 don’t need a therapist to understandnwhy the voyages of Columbus fill menwith sadness. If my attractive, athleticnex-wife had been a descendant of Dantonnor Robespierre—I’d prefer Danton—I’dnhave suffered painful memoriesnthroughout 1989, the bicentennialnof the French Revolution. Anniversariesnof loss are painful. Unfeeling friendsnsend me calendars for Christmas, evenncalendars illustrated by boats and medievalncartography. The wounds reopen.nIf I marry again, I’ll choose a woman descendednfrom a historic figure with unavailablendates, lost in the mists of time,nlike Robin Hood or Buddha.nThomas O. Jones writesnfrom Bay City,nMichigan.nEugenio Cortinby Mario MarcollanThe fame of Italian writer EugenionCorti hinges on two works: I piunnon ritornano: Diario di ventotto giorninin una sacca sul fronte russo, invernon1942-43 {Most Do Not Return: Diary ofnTwenty Days in a Pocket on the RussiannFront, Winter 1942-43) first publishednin 1947, and his great 1,280-page noveln11 Cavallo Rosso (The Red Horse), publishednin 1983.nIn print continuously in Italy and withnsales measured in tens of thousands ofncopies, 1 piu non ritornano has for itsnepigraph the sentence of the EvangelistnMark: “Pray that it not arrive in winter.”nIn fact, the catastrophe that broughtnagony and death to 80,000 Italian soldiersnoccurred in the hardest winter ofnWorld War II, in the bend of the DonnRiver in Russia. Corti’s account, basednon his diaries written on slips of papernduring the retreat from December l942nto January 1943, constitutes an Odysseynof the Italian soldiers, fighting menntransformed into “poor Christs” [in Englishnwe say “poor devils”—a significantndifference?].nThe strength of Corti’s writing revealednin these diaries was an indicationnof his future literary fortunes. They offer,neven to today’s reader, vital matternfor meditation; as is always the ease,nwhen humble people are sucked into thenvortex of total war, the truth emergesnwith greater clarity—as clear as it is terrifyingnin the description of horrors, ofnmutilated piety, of inflexible evil, butnnnalso of charity unvanquished and ofnhope that dwells in “the secret waters ofnthe heart.”nThe events are narrated with suchncareful regard for truth that the writerncan vouch for the content of every singlensentence. The story of the 35th Corpsnof the Italian army on the Russian frontnis generally known to historians ofnWorid War II, but the heart of this bookn(and it strikes us today with even greaternforce than in the period immediately afternthe war) is the vastness of the destruction,nthe unutterable violence andnsuffering.nIn the telling it is not the war that isnso terrifying as the unchained hatred ofnthe Nazis and Soviets, the ruthlessnessnof the massacres, the routine killings thatnthe Russians and the Germans performnas if the conflict were between demons.nIn the midst of such horror, the sole remainingnconsolation was faith, invokednin the evening with the recitation of thenholy rosary and in prayers to the Virgin,namid the delirium of the wounded andnthe cries of men freezing to death.nThe narrative is realistic, day after day,nhour after hour, along the calvary of thenlong human column walking westward.n”The European Civil War,” in ErnstnNolte’s apt description, which from 1914nto 1945 tore Europe to pieces, unfoldsnone of its chapters in these pages: it wasna result unforeseen by the Italians whonwere trapped in the vise of an incomprehensiblencollision that had not beennincluded in any war plan. Eire, snow,nand ice, primordial elements which insteadnof discharging their natural andnbeneficial functions were in revolt to torturenthe flesh, to eut down, with fear,nyoung lives that were transformed stepby-stepninto dark frozen specters.nThus appears the Valley of Death, onnChristmas night of that year, around thenRussian village of Arbusov:nIn this way we leave the Valley ofnDeath: the village was half destroyed,nmany huts burned, andnmany civilians—old men, women,nchildren, killed in the battle or bynthe Germans out of hatred. Wenleft behind a wall of corpses,nspread everywhere: dead Germans,napathetic, Russians shotndown at some point in regularnfiles of ten, and our men, by farnthe most numerous, killed by enemynbombardment or fallen innwaves of bayonette assaults, deadnOCTOBER 1992/47n