Rigoni Stern, Mario 1921–2008

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Rigoni Stern, Mario 1921–2008

(Mario Rigoni Stern)


See index for CA sketch: Born November 1, 1921, in Asiago, Vicenza Province, Italy; died June 16, 2008. Fiction writer, essayist, and memoirist. Rigoni Stern was a simple man who led a quiet life. The qualities that defined his life emerged in his writings and charmed his readers, even in translation. Stern was raised in the mountainous highlands of northern Italy. During World War II he served in an Alpine regiment of the Italian Army. Wartime service sent him from France through Eastern Europe, and eventually he ended up in Russia in the brutal winter of 1942. His memoir of that horrible time and the death-defying march home in 1943 was published in Italian in 1953 and in translation as The Sergeant in the Snow (1954; 1998). Readers and critics alike were touched by his memoir, which was described as both low-key and poetic, rooted in the unpretentious reality of men on the brink of death. After the war Rigoni Stern returned to his solitary lifestyle in the woods and countryside of his homeland. He was reportedly more concerned with his family and his orchard than with a literary career, but he did continue to write several books over the next four decades. Most of Rigoni Stern's work is available only in Italian. An exception is Storia di Tonle (1978), a volume of loosely connected short stories published in 1998 as The Story of Tonle. Tonle was a simple man of the Italian countryside, not unlike the author himself, whose life was disrupted by the world beyond the mountains. In order to support his family, Tonle becomes a smuggler and odd-jobber throughout Europe, returning home each Christmas. When he finally returns to stay, on the eve of World War I, Tonle is arrested and held captive in his own homeland for the duration of the war. Tonle's annual home visits enabled Rigoni Stern to muse on the Italian countryside as it changed from year to year, each year leaving bits of tradition behind in the melting snow. The essay collection Amore di confine (1986) is a more straightforward collection of Rigoni Stern's vignettes on the Italian highlands, from his own life there to the people, flora and fauna, history, and cultural heritage of the province of Vicenza. One other Rigoni Stern title was published in translation, in The Lost Legions: Three Italian War Novels (1967).



Rigoni Stern, Mario, Il sergente nella neve: recordi della ritirata di Russia, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1953, translation published as The Sergeant in the Show, MacGibbon & Kee (London, England), 1954.

Rigoni Stern, Mario, Amore di confine (essays), Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 1986.


Times (London, England), July 18, 2008, p. 57.