Magazine article The Spectator

Stuart Reid

Magazine article The Spectator

Stuart Reid

Article excerpt

Aside from Friends, Voters, Countrymen by Boris Johnson (HarperCollins, and a snip at 14.99), the book that meant most to me this year was Eugenio Corti's The Red Horse (Ignatius Press, 22.95). It was published in Italy in 1983 but has only just been translated into English. Its subject is the second world war and the struggle against the social and cultural barbarism that followed it. Corti served with the Italian army on the Russian front (and later with the Italian resistance), and his vivid account of defeat and retreat in the Soviet Union dominates the book. But what is truly remarkable about this huge novel (more than 1,000 pages of tightly set text) is that most of the leading characters are serious Christians. In The Red Horse, Italian soldiers resist sexual temptation, since fornication - the very meat of a decent war yarn - is a mortal sin. Death is to be feared not principally because it is likely to be painful but because it leads immediately to judgment. In one harrowing battle-scene a young (and devout) country boy is mortally wounded: his last moments are filled with terror, `not so much of death but of what might be beyond death'. …

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