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

A British vision on an Italian war

This is an outstanding book on the First World War on the Italian front, the so-called “White War”, fought on the snow-covered Alpine mountains and highlands, in the valleys and along the pure white gravel beds of the rivers Isonzo and Piave, and on the rocky Carso limestone plateau. Never disregarding the accuracy of scientific studies, this text also employs a good deal of memoirs and popular sources of information, showing all the great qualities and the small flaws of the Anglo-Saxon historiography to which the author belongs. Apart from the reconstruction of the war events, which is deeply exhaustive until the Caporetto retreat chapter, but slightly perfunctory on the Italian resistance on the Piave river and the decisive Vittorio Veneto battle, this work is quite good for the description of the socio-political situation which caused and marked the war. Remarkable are the chapters on the 1915 Italian intervention, which King Vittorio Emanuele III, Antonio Salandra and Sidney Sonnino jointly imposed on a inert Parliament; on war literature, with the experiences of Giuseppe Ungaretti, Scipio Slataper and Gabriele D’Annunzio; on Italian war journalism, and its use of empty rhetoric and self-censorship techniques; on the tactics of the Italian chief of staff General Luigi Cardona, founded on the dreadful frontal assault practice.

Translation edited by Ester Tossi