Enrico Toti: a new man for Italy's mutilated victory.
"'Tis the melodious hue of beauty thrown Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain, Which humanize and harmonize the strain." (Percy Bysshe Shelley)
Standards of beauty vary widely across cultures and historic periods as attested to by the fact that the classical statuary of Greece or Rome bears little resemblance to contemporary Playboy or Playgirl centerfolds. If for Kant what constituted human beauty was that perfect exemplum of the human being, the Romantics were clearly drawn to memorialize the beauty of pain, horror and death (Praz). Contemporary artists, activists and researchers in the field of disability studies have recently posed profound challenges to normative standards of bodily beauty. When Marc Quinn's giant version of Alison Lapper Pregnant appeared on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square in 2005, it sparked some controversy, but Lapper, born with no arms and underdeveloped legs, regarded Quinn's 11-foot-7-inch-Carrara marble sculpture of her naked body to be a powerful assertion that disability "can be as beautiful and valid a form of being as any other" (236). The voices of opposition included those who were concerned that Lapper's image represented an intrusion of the sanctity of Trafalgar Square as a devotional space to the nation and its war dead. David Whiting, grandson of Lord Hugh Dowding, who was killed in the Battle of Britain, felt that "a naked woman should be filling the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square [...] ridiculous. Trafalgar Square should be a place where men who have served their country should be honored" (Lyall). Underlying this sentiment is the notion that only a certain kind of disability might be appropriate for display in Trafalgar Square, one that can convey the metaphorical beauty of self-sacrifice via the militarized male body.
Whiting's sentiment points to the enduring nature of a Romantic ideal about beautiful suffering and its application in the construction of a kind of modern masculinity inextricably linked with the rise of nation states. While the Great War is regarded by some as having contributed to a crisis of modern masculinity (Fussell), George Mosse has argued that it "tied nationalism and masculinity together more closely than ever before," adding a new dimension of animal brutality to a concept of modern manliness that was linked to willpower and the idea of "sacrifice for a cause" as "the highest virtue of which masculinity was capable" (Image of Man 110-12). Many soldiers imagined war as a test of their manliness and others thought of it as a kind of crucible in which "real" men would be forged. These sentiments carried over into the Second World War as exemplified by Mussolini's assertion in March 1945, "A man who scrupulously avoids war will be anything but a man because only battle completes a man" (qtd. in Koon 22). Despite the rhetoric of modernity that surrounds the technological advances of both world wars, this gender narrative is an old one of the heroic knight on the battlefield whose plate armour, lance and charging steed have been replaced by tank, airplane and/or machine gun.
Yet the remoteness of the modern battlefield and the absence of the dead that had previously helped maintain the conquering hero's masculine mystique were being eroded by the kind of modern technologies that intensified the war experience for non-combatants and civilians. Photography brought home images of the battlefield and its dead, even if imperfect ones, and the discovery of anticoagulants permitted blood transfusions, which increased the survival rates of the wounded, such that large numbers of soldiers returned home with visibly fragmented, mutilated or dismembered bodies. If contemporary prosthetic and surgical technologies have facilitated an impressive re-enabling of disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in our own time, those available to veterans of the early twentieth century, for example tin facial prosthetics (Feo) or uncomfortable artificial limbs (Bourke), were considerably less successful. The war thus forced reformulations of the notion of masculinity as a flawless bodily specimen in response to the numerous visibly fragmented bodies it produced (Bourke; Carden-Coyne; Gagen; Salvante). In this context the image of the disabled male body acquired particular significance becoming emblematic of a kind of moralizing rhetoric of masculine sacrifice, one which served a nationalist purpose.
Italy's "New Man"
"Masculinity," writes George Mosse in his pivotal study of the subject, "was regarded as of one piece from its very beginning: body and soul, outward appearance and inward virtue were supposed to form one harmonious whole, a perfect construct where every part is in its place" (Image of Man 5). This notion of masculinity as the total package formed a logical basis for the idea of the body politic that would be put to broad use by nineteenth-century European nationalists. Since the Risorgimento, national welfare has repeatedly and variously been imagined in terms of a metaphor relating the physical and moral health of the human body with that of the nation of Italy itself (Bonetta). Before World War I, authors like Enrico Corradini were still espousing a kind of masculinity that advocated mens sana in corpore sano as its key feature (Benadusi 15). Fascism too exalted the cult of youthful physical force, seeing in the perfect male specimen a metaphor for society: "Against the fragmentation and anomie of modern mass society, it placed the harmony, belonging, and identity of the national community" (Koon 3). Although the conjoined image of the Italian nation and the virile male body clearly endured beyond the war, Italy's nearly one million WWI-wounded presented a serious challenge to totalizing definitions of "real" manhood, a fact that poet and Futurist founder, F. T. Marinetti, seems to have appreciated early on. First published in L'Italia futurista in June 1916 and republished in Come si seducono le donne, his treatise "Donne, preferite i gloriosi mutilati!" exhorts women to fight alongside men in the trenches in order to be worthy of their love and rhapsodizes about the beauty of truncated limbs: "Donne, fate che ogni italiano dica partendo: Voglio offrirle al mio ritorno una bella ferita degna di lei! [...] Gloria alla pelle umana straziata dalla mitraglia! [...] Questo e il futurismo che glorifica il corpo modificato e abbellito della guerra" (102-03).
Emilio Gentile identifies the First World War as having produced "new ideological syntheses regarding the myth of the nation" that gave rise to the vision of a Greater Italy composed of "New Men," ideals that fueled the cause of what he terms modernist nationalism (Struggle for Modernity 5-6). Derived in part from Nietzsche's conception of the Ubermensch, he also explains that the picture of Italy's "New Man" as it emerged within the writings of these modernist nationalists was a contradictory one. "The real revolution," wrote Giovanni Papini in 1913, "is in the mind and not at the barricades." Similarly, modernist intellectuals centered around the journal La voce envisioned the ideal new Italian as "studious, intellectual, artistic" rather than physically forceful or athletic; yet the Futurists envision the "New Man" as a kind of "new barbarian" or nationalist warrior (Struggle for Modernity 35). The existence of such contradictory views regarding the meaning of "new manhood" created spaces for alternative reimaginings of masculine heroism.
The Great War inspired new reflections on a timeless imaginary of masculine heroism in visual culture that has so frequently been populated by triumphant male bodies. The image of the fallen soldier has frequently been mythologized and perpetuated in monuments that draw upon traditional models of ideal youthful Greek masculine beauty and/or Christian symbolism of sacrifice and resurrection (Mosse 70-106). However, after 1916 a new public image of disability arose that insisted on the disabled body as a symbol of the Italian national struggle in World War I (Bracco). One-legged cyclist and would-be soldier Enrico Toti became one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of this phenomenon, emblematic of both Greater Italy and its "New Man" in the wake of their "mutilated victory." War memorials to Enrico Toti help to strengthen the metaphorical link between body and nation still more powerfully by fusing traditional imaginaries of the Greco-Roman athletic masculine ideal and the self-sacrificing saint with those of a fragmented body to create an image of national heroism that resonates with the history of Italian visual culture while re-contextualizing the wounds of the war.
The namesake of numerous streets, piazzas, associations and one submarine, the subject of many rituals, monuments, and one full-length feature film, Enrico Toti and his image have endured well beyond his death. An authority on his life story, Lucio Fabi has observed, "La figura di Toti, per la generazione dei quarantenni e per quelli che hanno qualche anno in piu, reassume in maniera singolare uno dei principi stereotipi dell'eroismo bellico, il soldato che suggella con un estremo gesto bellicoso il sacrificio supremo per la Patria" (Vera storia 7). Following his death at the sixth battle of Isonzo on August 6, 1916, Toti was resurrected as a mythical figure, the details of whose real life would become more and more obscured as facts were manipulated in favor of fiction by successive governments. The origins of the story that would be widely perpetuated perhaps lie in Achille Beltrame's September-October 1916 cover illustration for La domenica del corriere in which Toti is pictured leading a charge against the trenches of the Austrian enemy while brandishing a crutch in his raised right hand and leaning on a rifle with his left. The underlying caption read, "L'eroica fine del mutilato Enrico Toti: ferito per la terza volta, si alza e scaglia la sua gruccia contro il nemico in fuga." Toti's gesture of the raised crutch perhaps came to symbolize Italy's contempt for the "Vittoria mutilata" (Fabi, Vera storia 7); certainly the image of an injured man who, in his final moments, hurls the last element that braces him up against a fall is one of utter defiance in the face of both humiliation and death. However, particularly within the context of the above cultural discourse that fused male body and nation state, it is Toti himself who in some sense comes to represent Italy as an injured body and defiant spirit. In a propaganda leaflet issued in Naples for the VI Prestito Nazionale in 1918, an image of Toti's crutch flying across the trenches is emblazoned with the words, "Che l'Italia non zoppichi piu! Questo volle Toti!" Toti is not pictured, but, at least within the terms of the declaration, T oti and the nation state of Italy are made synonymous and the crutch is used to signify the necessary refinancing of the public coffers.
Those invested in this myth of the nation quickly picked up on Toti's legacy and its relevance in strengthening popular nationalist sentiment. Lieutenant Pietro Bolzon reported that Toti's fame had already been established in the trenches by the time he met him in April 1916. He recorded that Toti "divenne ben presto un simbolo maschio e magnifico di popolo combattente, e i fanti se lo sequestravano gelosamente come pagina vivente del loro oscuro eroismo" (qtd. in Sillani 94). Marshall Gaetano Giardino, said of Toti, "Non e un eroe, ma l'eroe, nell'antico senso Greco [...] che puo incarnare visibilmente le virtu latenti di un popolo [...] eletto dal destino" (Fabi, Vera storia 11); Gabriele D'Annunzio described him as "il divino dispregiatore dell'austriaco" (Fabi, Vera storia 10). The Fascist regime would subsequently adopt and expand on Toti's myth as exemplified by the detailed and emotive elaboration of official accounts of his death twenty years after the fact. (1) Mussolini would identify Toti and another patriot, Francesco Rismondo, as the very incarnations of the heroism of the Bersaglieri. The Fascist youth, he affirmed, would be trained to idolize Toti as the quintessential emblem of the self-sacrificing citizen: "Tra Misiano che scappa e Toti che butta la gruccia contro il nemico, i fanciulli sceglieranno Toti" (Fabi, Vera storia 10-11).
Enrico Toti, Man and Myth
Toti was born in Rome in 1882 and grew up in the area of Porta Maggiore to parents from Cassino (Frosinone). At fourteen years of age he enlisted in the navy and served for eight years; following the death of his brother in 1905, he left the service and eventually found a position with the state railways as a stoker to help support his family. On March 2, 1908, only a year after taking the job, Toti had to have his left leg amputated following an accident in which he was dragged beneath the wheels of a moving locomotive. Although he was left with only a modest state pension, his sister Lina reported that he never lost heart and instead devoted himself to cycling and other interests. After this accident Toti had two traditional alternatives of either relaxing into the life of an invalid or trying to rebuild an image of himself as a whole man via the use of a prosthetic limb. But the optimistic climate of nascent modernism seems to have suggested a third alternative to Toti, who set about raising himself to the status of "personaggio" or public personality (Fabi, Vera storia 20). By taking on a number of impressive athletic challenges, including an international swimming competition in the Tevere and a world bicycle tour during which he reportedly traversed 20,000 kilometers across Europe and Africa, he attracted the attention of local and national newspapers. One photograph captures Toti posed on his bicycle departing from the arch of Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome in 1911. In May 1915 Toti participated in the city's interventionist demonstrations and, shortly after Italy's entry into the war, set off on his bicycle with a homemade uniform for Trieste and the front lines. His gesture was not unusual in that La domenica del corriere reported several similar episodes by women and children in June 1915. Yet, rather than normalizing Toti's gesture, this fact reiterates the reality of Toti's marginalized status before the war as a figure whose disability rendered him something other than a full-fledged male citizen, comparable instead to women and children.
Having been turned away on several occasions, Toti eventually received an assignment as a civilian dispatcher at Cervignano. Reputedly he defied orders that prohibited him from any active military involvement to retrieve an Austrian weapon and present it to the commander, who promptly sent him home. In August 1915 Toti is recorded as being back in Rome, where he presented repeated requests to various ministries for permission to return to the front, which was granted in early 1916 thanks to the apparent intervention of Emanuele Filiberto Duca d'Aosta to whom he had written in an undated letter, "Le giuro che ho del fegato e qualunque impresa la piu difficile, se mi venisse ordinata, la eseguirei senza indugio," citing his cycling accomplishments as evidence of his physical fitness (Sillani 50). His reassignment as auxiliary volunteer was designed, as before, to keep him out of harm's way, obliging him again to stay well behind the front lines. Apparently Toti was able to obtain a transfer to the Third battalion of Bersaglieri cyclists under major Paride Razzini and appears to have been charged with monitoring lines of communication, retrieving weaponry, and identifying the dead. The details of Toti's final days and eventual death on August 6th are clouded by conflicting accounts. His personal letters home reveal frequent elements of exaggeration and fantasy and it is according to these that he received permission in April to remain in the war zone and display stars like a genuine soldier; however, there is no official record of this claim (Fabi, Vera storia 40-44). Likewise, post-facto military accounts that place him at the front of the attack on the morning of August 6th do not match those of contemporary biographers, who report that he suffered terribly from not being allowed to follow the "glorious battalion" (Fabi, Vera storia 58). As the only biographer who has attempted to dissect the facts of Toti's life from the possible glorified fictions of his death, Lucio Fabi admits that the task is "un bell'intreccio, per non dir groviglio, tra mito e dissacrazione" (10).
Fabi also identifies three key events in the construction of Toti's myth (Enrico Toti 8). First, during a triumphal parade through Trieste, Bologna and Florence, Toti's remains were transported from Monfalcone to be buried at Rome's Cimitero di Verano on May 24, 1922. The service, attended by both family and military, including General Armando Diaz and Marshall Giardino, prompted an episode of public violence that was subsequently attributed to opponents of the war. The second event is identified as the inauguration of a monument designed by Arturo Dazzi and dedicated to Toti in Rome's Villa Borghese on June 4, 1922. The third is marked by Mussolini's pilgrimage to the reputed site of Toti's death, after the inauguration of the Cimitero degli Invitti della Terza Armata del Colle Sant'Elia with King Victor Emanuel III and the Duca d'Aosta on May 24, 1923. The rise of Toti's myth is a clear example of what Gentile has called the Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy; but while the Fascist regime nurtured and took full advantage of Toti's transformation from man into national saint, the myth was born in the trenches out of war propaganda's profound need for heroes and in the interest of the royal house, particularly Emanuele Filiberto Duca d'Aosta, commander of the Terza Armata (Enrico Toti 8). Furthermore the resonance of Toti's image within the terms of a Christian imaginary ensured that his story would inspire Liberals, Fascists and Christian Democrats alike. Toti's status as a war hero survived the fall of the regime, lasting well into the postwar period, as attested to by David Carbonari's film, Bella non piangere! (1955), or the monuments erected at Gorizia in 1958 and at Cassino in 2008. Toti continues to be held up as an example for contemporary Bersaglieri, who greeted Fabi's historic reassessments of 1993 and 2013 with resistance.
Monuments to a National Hero
If, as Elaine Scarry has argued, war "requires both the reciprocal infliction of massive injury and the eventual disowning of the injury so that its attributes can be transferred elsewhere," arguably through acts of omission and redescription, then memorials often serve these sanitizing purposes (64). Toti's case provided a unique opportunity to recast the terms of disability for two reasons: firstly, because Toti lost his leg prior to the war, his injury could be distanced from the mutilating effects of the war on the male population; secondly, his injury could thus be transformed from a sign of weakness into a mark of manliness. Monuments that are dedicated to the memory of Enrico Toti repeatedly evoke Italian visual traditions that synthesize the iconography of the patriotic saint with that of the Greco-Roman mythological hero to legitimize the construction of a paradoxical new model of manhood, which at once glorifies the male body and its ruin.
Each of the three events delineated by Fabi in the construction of Toti's myth reinforced in the public consciousness a sense of Toti as national martyr by activating the traditions and symbolism of Christian history. His remains were retrieved like the relics of the many martyred Christian saints, a shrine was erected, and a pilgrimage made. Beginning with Beltrame's illustration for La domenica del corriere, Toti's crutch and, to some extent, his rifle, which in fact he might not have had as a civilian volunteer, became easily identifiable attributes, like those of Saint Paul's sword or Saint Peter's keys, and symbolize his identity as a national martyr. This parallel is perhaps highlighted by the fact that Toti's original tomb at Monfalcone was decorated with a crossed crutch and rifle, translated rather explicitly thereafter on his Roman tombstone into a large palm frond, the element of Christian iconography used to represent the victory of martyrs and the eternal life of the spirit over that of the flesh. Without exception, the war memorials discussed below, those erected in Rome at the Museo dei Bersaglieri and at Villa Borghese, in Gorizia at Piazza Battisti and in Cassino's Piazza Enrico Toti, reiterate Achille Beltrame's initial drawing in their featuring of a crutch in Toti's right hand.
At the Museo dei Bersaglieri in Rome's Porta Pia, the courtyard provides a commemorative space in his honor by way of a monument designed by the sculptor Pietro Piraino (fig. 1). Sitting on a rock base within a circle of rose bushes and against a wall under a dedicatory plaque, his vision of Toti in the trenches on August 6, 1916, recalls Beltrame's early illustration in terms of the presence, rather than positioning, of the crutch. Yet, in Piraino's reimagining, the hero is represented as the fallen soldier, on the ground, with the crutch over his left shoulder, ready to be hurled forward. In this way the sculptor has evoked both the Classical pose of the dying Gaul and the dynamic torso rotation of Gianlorenzo Bernini's Baroque David primed for the toss of the stone in the sling: two of Rome's most iconic artistic treasures. While one evokes a Roman triumph, the other enlists a biblical tale that, more than any other, reminds us of the victory of a diminutive, divinely chosen champion over his gigantic Philistine opponent. This latter artistic quotation suggests a direct comparison between the two heroic figures of David and Toti, and insinuates an ancillary parallel between David and Italy. If the battles at Isonzo were ultimately a futile effort resulting in only a few miles gained at the ultimate cost of a million Italian dead and another million wounded, these battles could ultimately be reimagined via such monuments as a part of a larger war narrative that culminated in the victory of the smaller, younger nation of Italy over the immense Austro-Hungarian Empire. Despite its losses and the terrible defeat at Caporetto, Italy crossed the Isonzo into Austrian territory after an Allied victory in 1918.
By contrast Arturo Dazzi's winning design for Toti's monument on the Pincian Hill (fig. 2) strips the war hero of a uniform, hat or rifle using Toti's naked body itself as a marker of defiance, stoicism and heroism. Recounting the events of the competition and Dazzi's supposedly unanimously chosen models, Guido Guida described the proposed work as one that appropriately captured the spirit of a hero who "moriva con lo sprezzo verso il nemico e la fierezza sul volto per aver guadagnato il suo posto d'onore" (333). With such a statement Guida might equally have been describing Italy's own pride at having won the war and a place at the table with the League of Nations. Toti's symbolic crutch appears once again, this time stretched out behind him at the end of a taut right arm. His stern face and strong jaw point in the opposite direction, looking over his left shoulder and an engaged muscular left arm that props up a frontally positioned, equally muscular torso. With the highly exposed stump of his left leg leaning against a rock formation, Toti's right leg stretches out behind him in an exaggeratedly tense pose, naked heel planted firmly on the ground. In terms of both musculature and posture, the modern hero bears a remarkable resemblance to Antonio Canova's Greek heroes, particularly his Hercules and Lichas (1795-1815) or Theseus Fighting the Centaur (1804-1819), both of which were executed by the sculptor in Rome and the former of which is in the collection of the Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna. These Neoclassical works display the muscular torsos of their respective mythical heroes in frontal view with right limbs extended backwards and electrified with the force of each hero's resolve. While Hercules is about to swing Lichas's frail form over his head to shatter his body against the ground at his feet, Theseus prepares to strike a final deadly blow with the club in his right hand to a centaur that he holds by the throat with his left hand. All three heroes are formally similar, rendered in profile to highlight strong profiles and jaw lines. In so far as Guida argues that Dazzi's work celebrates "un eroe della giovinezza e della vita" with a face expressing "maschia violenza popolana" (331-32), then the artist called upon a familiar visual history of mythological heroism, one which invites comparison with the works of arguably the greatest sculptor of the Napoleonic age. Dazzi's artistic quotations help give Toti new mythical status as an Italian popular hero.
Toti died at the sixth battle of Isonzo and it was during this battle that Italian forces took Gorizia, where a monument designed by sculptor and Bersagliere Mario Montemurro was dedicated to his memory and erected in 1958 (fig. 3). Toti stands at the center of Piazza Cesare Battisti, near the public gardens, on a rocky plinth, wearing the uniform and capercaillie feathered hat of the Bersagliere, with a bicycle resting beside him and a crutch clutched in his right hand. His chest is expanded with what might be a last breath, his arms are slightly elevated by his sides, the fingers of his left hand are partly clenched, and the furrowed brow and open mouth of his face all indicate a body in pain. Toti's furrowed brow and slightly parted lips mirror the facial expression of the famous Laocoon in the Vatican Museums while the position of his upper body recalls Mannerist renderings of Saint Francis receiving the stigmata in paintings by El Greco (1590), Federico Barocci (1594) or Ludovico Cardi Cigoli (1596). All of these images capture Saint Francis's divine rapture or ecstasy with the same slightly opened arms and upward tilt of the chest and chin, a posture that Guido Reni would use again in his painting of San Filippo Neri in Ecstasy (1614). The mirroring of these saintly postures suggests that Toti's gunshot wounds somehow correspond to Saint Francis's injuries, both signifying a divine sacrifice and implying a like consecration of the flesh.
Nearly fifty years after the dedication of Toti's statue in Goriza, the municipality of Cassino gathered a committee to erect a monument to Toti in its eponymous piazza in order, according to the city press release, to restore "la giusta dignita ad un personaggio che ha portato alto anche il nome di Cassino nelle pagine di storia" (Comune di Cassino). Egidio Ambrosetti's rendition of the subject was far from unique and it relies closely on the precedents of the monument at Gorizia and Beltrame's early illustration. Toti wears the full regalia of the Bersagliere as at Gorizia, but as in Beltrame's illustration the crutch in Toti's right hand is once again raised over his head as he leans on a rifle in his left. This far more recent memorial demonstrates that the symbolic attributes of Toti's myth have only become more entrenched with the passage of time.
Remarking on "the paradox of the preexistence of an Italian national culture over that of an Italian nation-state," Loredana Polezzi and Charlotte Ross explain that "aestheticized," "regular and regulated," religiously "sublimated" or "youthful, powerful" bodies occupy a preeminent position in Italian "high" art and culture (10). By activating the visual power of Italy's preexisting national culture, Toti's monuments help construct the myth of a national hero in the service of a much broader myth, one that Emilio Gentile has called "the myth of the nation" (Struggle for Modernity 2). By infiltrating that canon of regulated and aestheticized bodies, Toti's image as a disabled man is made whole once again by tapping into modernist nationalist fantasies of an Italian "New Man," whose strength of character, dedication to the national cause, and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice might augur the birth of a "Greater Italy." In attempting to extricate the story of the man from that of his mythic demise, Lucio Fabi reminds us that Toti's motivations for seeking out "la bella morte" were driven by a highly personal desire to be "un soldato e quindi un uomo integro, e non un invalido a cui si fa la carita di un servizio di retrovia" (Vera storia 51). Yet, in the service of Italian nationalism, Toti's sentiments were given more universal significance and his myth was manipulated so as to inspire others to make the same ultimate sacrifice.
The visual rhetoric of heroic masculine self-sacrifice is a rhetoric that maintains a powerful hold on the public imagination in the context of contemporary nationalisms and has been re-emboldened by the long series of wars in the Middle East. In Marc Quinn's sculpture, Alison Lapper's disabled naked body resonates with the classical canon of ideal beauty only via the materiality of its white marble, which asks us to look again at the pure nude forms on display. World War I memorials to Toti as a fallen soldier, like the recently mass-produced versions of the Battlefield Cross by artist Richard Rist commemorating the fallen of Iraq and Afghanistan across the United States, are rendered in cast bronze. If white marble reveals the sensuous path of an artist's chisel over the soft stone as s/he considers, traces, and carves the contours of the body, bronze implies a degree of calculated removal from the more sensual or intimate task of sculpting form. It is a hard dark metal that more appropriately obscures formal impurities or imperfections. Alison Lapper's naked form in Trafalgar Square posed a dilemma for some members of the public, perhaps in part because her image demands close formal inspection and reconsideration, challenging the comforting equation that has too often been made between disability and sacrifice, an equation that continues to pervade the imaginary of modernist nationalism and inspire those sacrifices.
The American University of Rome
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(1) Upon receiving the gold medal for military valor the official account of Toti's death read: "Volontario, quantunque privo della gamba sinistra, dopo aver reso importanti servizi nei fatti d'arme dell'aprile a quota 70 (est di Selz), il 6 agosto, nel combattimento che condusse all'occupazione di quota 85 (est di Monfalcone), lanciavasi arditamente sulla trincea nemica, continuando a combattere con ardore, quantunque gia due volte ferito. Colpito da un terzo proiettile, con esaltazione eroica lanciava al nemico la gruccia e spirava baciando il piumetto, con stoicismo degno di quell'anima altamente italiana." Twenty years later this account was expanded to read: "a mezza costa e ferito ad una spalla da un colpo di fucile; cade, si rialza, arranca con la sua stampella; si getta ancora nel combattimento, e ferito al petto una seconda volta, cade una seconda volta [...] pencola ma non cade, s'avventa, balza, sobbalza, incespica, salta, raggiunge i suoi ormai ridotti ad un manipolo [...] quando un terzo colpo lo percuote al petto, non si sgomenta, sta per cadere ma trova ancora la forza di combattere e la stampella, strale incoccato dalla furia suprema di un dio, si leva dal suo pugno di Eroe e sferzando a rovescio la morte s'abbatte sui volti, nelle teste, sulle spalle di nemici trasecolati nella indicibile visione [...] ne afferra la tesa [dell'elmetto], vi avvicina la bocca piena di sangue e alle piume che palpitano all'affannno del suo respiro sempre piu stanco dona il suo bacio e la sua agonia" (Fabi, Vera storia 13).
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