Emilio Lussu
Emilio Lussu was an Italia
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

n soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

, politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 and a writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....


The soldier

Lussu was born in Armungia
Armungia is a comune in the Province of Cagliari in the Italian region Sardinia, located about 40 km northeast of Cagliari.Armungia borders the following municipalities: Ballao, San Nicolò Gerrei, Villaputzu, Villasalto....

, province of Cagliari
Province of Cagliari
Cagliari is a province in the autonomous island region of Sardinia in Italy. Its capital is the city of Cagliari.It has an area of 4,470 km², and a total population of 543,310 . There are 71 comuni in the province....

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

) and graduated with a degree in law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 in 1914. Lussu married Joyce Salvatori, a notable poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, and member of the noble family of the Marche
The population density in the region is below the national average. In 2008, it was 161.5 inhabitants per km2, compared to the national figure of 198.8. It is highest in the province of Ancona , and lowest in the province of Macerata...


Prior to the entry of Italy into World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Lussu joined the army and was involved in several skirmishes. As a complementary officer of the Brigata Sassari in 1916 (the famous Sassari infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 Brigade of the Italian Army
Italian Army
The Italian Army is the ground defence force of the Italian Armed Forces. It is all-volunteer force of active-duty personnel, numbering 108,355 in 2010. Its best-known combat vehicles are the Dardo infantry fighting vehicle, the Centauro tank destroyer and the Ariete tank, and among its aircraft...

), he was stationed in Asiago
Asiago is the name of both a minor township and the surrounding plateau region in the Province of Vicenza in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy...

. He was in command of the defense of Verona against the Austrian Army. The defense was, at first, victorious but was soon followed by a counter attack (mainly on Monte Zebio
Monte Zebio
Monte Zebio is a mountain of the Veneto, Italy. It has an elevation of 1819 metres....

 and Castelgomberto
Castelgomberto is a town and comune in the province of Vicenza, Veneto, northern Italy. It is located east of SP246 provincial road.-Notable people:*Michele Carlotto, -bishop...

) that lasted until July 1917. The trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 that Lussu observed would serve as an archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...

 for his later works.

Politics and exile

After the war Lussu, together with Camillo Bellieni, founded the Partito Sardo d'Azione (The Sardinian Action Party), that blended social-democratic ideas and Sardinian autonomy. The party took a formal position in 1921, opposing the increasing power of the Fascist movement. Lussu was elected to the Italian parliament in 1921 and, in 1924 was among the Aventine secessionists who withdrew from the Italian Parliament after the murder of Giacomo Matteotti
Giacomo Matteotti
Giacomo Matteotti was an Italian socialist politician. On 30 May 1924, he openly spoke in the Italian Parliament alleging the Fascists committed fraud in the recently held elections, and denounced the violence they used to gain votes...


Lussu's anti-Fascist position was, at the time, one of the most radical in Italy. Lussu was physically attacked and injured by unknown aggressors several times. In 1926, during one of these attacks (notably, the same day that Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 suffered an attack in Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

), Lussu shot one of the squadristi, in self-defense. He was arrested and tried; and was acquitted. However, he was re-tried by an administrative Fascist commission and sentenced to 5 years of confinement on the island of Lipari
Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north coast of Sicily, and the name of the island's main town. It has a permanent population of 11,231; during the May–September tourist season, its population may reach up to 20,000....

, near Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...


In 1929 Lussu escaped from his confinement and reached Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. There, together with Gaetano Salvemini
Gaetano Salvemini
Gaetano Salvemini was an Italian anti-fascist politician, historian and writer.- Biography :Salvemini was born in Molfetta, Apulia....

 and Carlo Rosselli
Carlo Rosselli
Carlo Rosselli was an Italian political leader, journalist, historian and anti-fascist activist, first in Italy then abroad...

 he formed Giustizia e Libertà (Justice and Freedom), an anti-Fascist movement that proposed revolutionary methods to upset the Italian Fascist Regime. While in exile came to be known as "Mister Mills".

In 1938 Lussu's novel Un anno sull'altipiano ("A Year on the Plateau"), was published in Paris. This thinly fictional account tells of the lives of soldiers during World War I and the trench warfare they encountered. Un anno sull'altipiano underlines, with chill rationalism, how the irrationalities of warfare affected the common man. Gifted with a keen sense of observation and sharp logic, Lussu demonstrates how distant the real life of soldiers is from everyday activities. In a notable passage, he describes the silent terror in the moments preceding an attack, as he is forced to abandon the "safe" protective trench
A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground. Trenches are generally defined by being deeper than they are wide , and by being narrow compared to their length ....

 for an external unknown, risky, undefined world: “All the machine-guns are waiting for us”.

Return to Italy

Lussu took part in the civil war in Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and returned to Italy after the armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

 of 1943. Lussu joined the Resistenza and became the secretary of Partito d'Azione
Partito d'Azione
-History:It was an anti-fascist political party in the tradition of Giuseppe Mazzini and the Risorgimento. Founded in July 1942 by former militants of Giustizia e Libertà , liberal socialists, democrats...

for southern Italy. He became the leader of the left wing of Partito d'Azione and later joined forces with the Italian Socialist Party
Italian Socialist Party
The Italian Socialist Party was a socialist and later social-democratic political party in Italy founded in Genoa in 1892.Once the dominant leftist party in Italy, it was eclipsed in status by the Italian Communist Party following World War II...

. After World War II he served as a Minister of Aid in the government of Ferruccio Parri
Ferruccio Parri
Ferruccio Parri was an Italian partisan and politician who served as the 43rd Prime Minister of Italy for several months in 1945. During the resistance he was known as Maurizio.-Biography:...

 and later as a minor minister in Alcide De Gasperi
Alcide De Gasperi
Alcide De Gasperi was an Italian statesman and politician and founder of the Christian Democratic Party. From 1945 to 1953 he was the prime minister of eight successive coalition governments. His eight-year rule remains a landmark of political longevity for a leader in modern Italian politics...

's government.

In 1964 he separated from the Socialist Party creating the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity
Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity
The Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity , was a political party in Italy from 1964 to 1972.-History:...

 (PSIUP). Ideological differences with the political line of Partito d'Azione deepened and Lussu left Sardinia.

Emilio Lussu died in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 in 1975.


Many political meanings have been drawn from Lussu’s works, but his works are perhaps more important at a personal level. Morally and philosophically, Lussu books reflect his need to repent, previously an interventista (favorable to entrance in war) and a revolutionary (in Giustizia e Libertà); his works soberly describe what war, in its cruelest moments, was like for him.

The alteration of Lussu's opinion of war is quite apparent in the range of his works: first an interventista, then the author of a manual for revolution, soon after the author of a pacifist book, again a revolutionary and a volunteer in the Spanish civil war. Lussu's consistency has been questioned and political discourse often invades evaluations of his works.


  • Rossi, Umberto. “The Alcoholics of War: Experiencing Chemical and Ideological Drunkenness in Emilio Lussu’s Un anno sull’altipiano”, Mosaic, 38:3 September 2005, 77-94.
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