from starvation, dead from cold. .n. . Most agonizing of all was thenthought of the thousands of thendead, the hundreds upon hundredsnof wounded men abandonednon the snow, on a littlenstraw. . . . You who read thesenpages, do you know what itnmeans?”nThis question, hurled from the depthsnof tragedy, will haunt the writer’s entirenliterary life. Passing by other books ofnwhich we shall speak later, Eugenio Cortinspent years preparing himself for hisngreat work, the historical novel of ournage, II Cavallo Rosso, whose compositionnoccupied 11 uninterrupted years ofnhis intellectual life. Corti and his novelnare rooted deep in the earth of his fathers,nin the green and hilly land of thenBrianza, which from Monza (ancientncapital of the Longobards) extends upnto Lecco and to the gates of Como (annarea that is the setting of the 19th-centurynclassic I Promessi Sposi).nTwo generations of Italians, from 1940nto 1974, populate II Cavallo Rosso (nownin its ninth edition in Italy, publishednlast year in Spanish by Rialp Publishingnin Madrid, with French, English,nJapanese, Lithuanian, and Romanianntranslations and an international televisednversion in 12 installments innprogress). In the passage of time thencharacters are engaged, in war and innLIBERAL ARTSnMODEL RACISMnAn owner of a condominium complexnin Alexandria, Virginia, wasnfined $850,000 for advertising withn”exclusively white models” becausenit “sent a message that blacks werennot welcome there,” reported thenNew York Times last May. Two “fairhousing”ngroups and a black law professornof Georgetown University filednthe suit and argued that Colonial Village,nthe condominium complex, wasnin violation of the Fair Housing Act.nMack Benton, vice-president of thencondominium development, wasn”amazed at the verdict” and callednthe amount absurd.n48/CHRONICLESnpeace, in bearing witness to the Christiannidea in every situation. But the surprisingnquality of this work is the resultnof the author’s refusal to ally himselfnwith any 20th-century school of Italiannliterature. Rather, as an historical novel,nthe only real analogies are such works asnHugo’s Les Miserables, Tolstoy’s War andnPeace, Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914, andnManzoni’s I Promessi Sposi.nCorti is not an author to submit tonintellectual compromises in order tonreach the ninnies of the avant garde. Asnan iron man of the Brianza, he does notnbow at the summons of the ideologicalnand political Utopias that design gulagsnand cemeteries for Europe and the worldnby the perversions of reason that passnfor modern rationality. His line of departurenis a land both severe and joyful;namong his green hills and in the placesnmade famous by Manzoni he garners anmoral tradition from the living flesh ofnmen and transfuses it into his charactersnwho are directly experiencing thenhuman condition of good Christiansnand, therefore, of good men. Ambrogio,nMichele, Stefano, Pierello, Cerardo,nGiustina, Alma, Marietta and sonmany others are three-dimensional beings,nprotagonists in a plot that leadsnthem to bear witness to the ways markednout by Providence.nOne must learn, see, reflect upon thenatheist ideology that was implanted innCentral and Eastern Europe in order tonappreciate the clash between Nazi neopaganismnand its Communist oppositennumber. Corti’s observations on thisnconvey a reality captured in blood, anmetallic rationality of ideology that annihilatesnmen in obedience to a perversendream of regeneration. His charactersnfind themselves in the vortex of destruction,nand it is only the daily practicenof prayer to Cod and to the guardiannangels that saves them from dehumanization.nCorti is a master at illustrating suchnbehavior without rhetoric and withoutnobvious design. Conscious of man’s fallennnature, he measures the responsibilitiesnaccording to the idea and the practicenof the good. He does not judge,nbut condemns only the irrationality ofnsin that has imbibed the distorted ideasnof atheist humanism.nLike concentric circles in a pool ofnwater, the chapters of this novel revolvenaround a fixed axis, in an order of personsnand communities that must be preservednfrom destruction. The Brianzannnof fifty years ago from which his charactersnset out for war, is the model of anChristian society whose integrity isnthreatened by the atheist culture. It isnnot a question of words or of explicit expressionsnof faith so much as a realitynthat surmounts historical events andnconfirms the possibility of living as “integralnmen,” in the presence of a transcendencenthat is light for beings andnfor things. It would be too long to tracenthe plot of this novel, which despite itsnsimplicity, sums up all the recent historynof Italy and even of Europe. Even if itsncharacters appear today to be the losers,nthere remains the expression of a messagenand of a memory that passes fromnliterature to life.nOn the last page of his great book,nCorti quotes significantly these versesnfrom Eliot’s “Little Cidding”:nSee, now they vanishnThe faces and places, with the selfnwhich, as it could, loved themnTo become renewed, transfigured,nin another pattern.nTruly, it is so, and the pattern is that ofnour life. I look around me, I force myselfnto remember; I see no other Italian authornin this century capable of writingna novel of this intensity.nBetween his debut with J piu non ritornanonand his epic novel, EugenionCorti inlaid his literary activity withnother major works: I poveri cristi, II Communismon’realizzato’, L’epoca di PaolonVI, S. Giorgio declassato e altri racconti,nand the long tragedy Processo e morte dinStalin {Stalin’s Trial and Death), producednin Rome in 1962. Two years later,nthe work was translated into Russian and,nin 1969, into Polish by dissident exilesnfrom both nations. The Russian textnwas circulated in the Soviet Union bynsamizdat, and the Polish version earnednhim the title of Cavalier of Poland, givennby the democratic government in exile.nThe Lombard writer (born in 1921)ncontinues his work, traveling throughoutnItaly week after week, speaking tonpacked audiences of young people andnthe not-so-young. Meanwhile othernbooks {Gli ultimi soldati del Re willncome out this year) are stored in hisnmind for the years that will accompanynhis old age and wisdom.nMario Marcolla writes from Monza,nItaly. This piece was translated fromnItalian by Thomas Fleming.n