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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully Written, At Least in Italian...
I have read a lot of war and combat novels and stories; I am a war buff, and that's my hobby. I also earned a degree in literary studies, and honestly I don't know why one of the reviews is so negative--unless the book has been badly translated. I haven't read the English edition so I can't say. In Italy this is considered one of the classics of W.W.II literature, and...
Published on 4 Nov 2007 by Vittorio Caffè

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7 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars He may have been there, but....
Sorry, but with 5 stars against this title, I thought this was going to be a great book - it isn't. I have read many books on WWII, always preferring the ones written by those who were there, but this ranks as one of the worst I've read. Simply, it is appallingly written. The sentences barely seem to hang together. We have no context, we do not know where the soldier is,...
Published on 23 July 2004


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully Written, At Least in Italian..., 4 Nov 2007
This review is from: The Sergeant in the Snow (Paperback)
I have read a lot of war and combat novels and stories; I am a war buff, and that's my hobby. I also earned a degree in literary studies, and honestly I don't know why one of the reviews is so negative--unless the book has been badly translated. I haven't read the English edition so I can't say. In Italy this is considered one of the classics of W.W.II literature, and it's also masterfully written. It's true, Rigoni Stern does not give you many details about places and dates, but that's a literary choice: this is a novel. Do you want dates and places? Buy a history book. However, this is a powerful, compact book, which makes you feel the biting cold and the terrifying vastness of Russia, and makes you feel sorry for the Alpini who, badly equipped, were sent there to die. The hostility of that land is heightened also to tell readers that those soldiers had no right to be there, that they invaded that country and that the climate itself is driving them away and slaughtering them. Once again, a powerful book, thet makes you understand what was the ordeal of Italian soldiers in Russia.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Eastern Front memoir ever, 17 Sep 2001
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This review is from: The Sergeant in the Snow (Paperback)
In a world where the term "masterpiece" is abused, here's a little book that - I hope - will be read even 100 years from now. "The Sergeant In The Snow" is, quite simply, the best "soldier view" of the whole Eastern Front history (at least on the Axis side), focusing on the autobiographical experiences of sergeant Rigoni Stern, then a 21 years old country boy from the Dolomites area drafted into the Italian Alpines Troops and sent to fight in Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia and Russia. Here we've only the Russian bit (the rest of the war is covered in his others volumes), but this is Rigoni Stern's magnum opus. It brings poetry, humanity and soul into a devastating experience - the long months on the Don section of the frontline in 1942, the winter, the Russian offensive, the disastrous retreat (where Rigoni Stern's unit took 75% losses, most from exhaustion and cold), and the breakout battles to escape encirclement. It could have all the potential for the usual self defensive lies, complaints and half baked jingoism, but what we have is a magnificent (AND readable AND well written) potrait of the human experience in war. Most of Rigoni's comrades are vividly portaited (few got the chance to see home again) and the furious breakout battles (expecially the now legendary confrontation at Nikolaievska) are given a dry, perceptive tone often lacking from more ponderous books - this includes Guy Sayer's "Forgotten Soldier".
Also, Rigoni Stern (as many of his comrades) is well aware of the stupidity of the Italian involvement in the Russian campaign, and doesn't hide simpathy for the ordeals of the local population, and the valour of the "enemy". In one memorable accident, during the Nikolaievksa battle Rigoni stumble into a Russian squad hiding (and eating!) inside an "isba". He's scared, but he's hungry too, so he asks for something to eat, thanks everyone and get out unharmed. It's a small episode, but the author shows us what people can do when they don't hate each other.
There's definitely no much love lost for the German allied, althrough you'll not find inside Rigoni's book the monumental scorn against the Germans of, let's say, Nuto Revelli "Poor Men's War". But Rigoni (who spent one year in a German concentration camp and after the war became one of Primo Levi's best friends) shows no illusions on the true nature of the predictment they're in - an annihilation war against an entire country.
"The Sergeant In The Snow" is an incredible book, a work of poetry by a great writer unfortunately not well known outside Italy. If you're into the topic, you must absolutely buy it!
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7 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars He may have been there, but...., 23 July 2004
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This review is from: The Sergeant in the Snow (Paperback)
Sorry, but with 5 stars against this title, I thought this was going to be a great book - it isn't. I have read many books on WWII, always preferring the ones written by those who were there, but this ranks as one of the worst I've read. Simply, it is appallingly written. The sentences barely seem to hang together. We have no context, we do not know where the soldier is, he doesn't describe his surroundings. He doesn't describe the soldiers around him, his comrades, his friends - they are all cardboard-thin, because we know nothing about them.
Really, if you want to read a book that describes a young soldier's experiences and what it really felt like, avoid this at all costs; read "The Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer - now THAT is a good book!
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The Sergeant in the Snow
The Sergeant in the Snow by Mario Rigoni Stern (Paperback - 30 Sep 1998)
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