Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Accountants, Soldiers and Nurses

Accountants are dangerous. And no, I am not going to entertain you with my adventures in mortgage and banking. The fact is, while doing a bit of research both for The Ministry of Lightning and for a short article I am about to write, I chanced on something that will not go in the article – being only tangentially connected with the topic – and will certainly get into the novel. And it’s all about accountants.
One accountant in particular.
His name was Andrea Compatangelo, and he was an Italian, from Benevento.

Let’s bactrack a little – during the Great War, a number of Italians fought in the Austro-Hungarian forces, simply because the territories from which they came, while being ethnically Italy, were part of the Hapsburg Empire. Many of these men were taken prisoner on the Eastern Front, and deported to Russia.

After the war, an Italian military mission took care of extracting the “talianski” from the Russian working camps, and bring them back to Italy. This is the subject of the article I am writing.
But there were others. And here we go down a wholly different rabbit hole. This is a strange story…

Continue reading


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The war is over

Today is the 4th of November, and in this day in Italy we celebrate “National Unity”.
On the 4th of November 1918 the armistice became official between Italy and Austria-Hungary – and this is the reason why this day is special.
It’s the day the Great War ended for us Italians.

Fortunino Matania (1881-1963). Поле великой скорби и великой славы- поле битвы при Ипре - Посещение старых сражений Западного фронта

Now it’s the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
I don’t know if there will be any celebration hereabouts – we are after all in the wild hills of Astigianistan, but if on one side we’ve been subjected recently to a revision of those events, on the other it is also true that we are going through a very unpleasant resurgence of the sort of mindless and ignorant “patriotism” that is fed by slogans and only profits cunning rabble-rousers. Continue reading


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An eye for details: Fortunino Matània

Picture No. 10933845I wonder if they ever called him ‘Nino’.

The fine gentleman in the photograph is Fortunino Matània (sometimes spelled Matania, without an accent).
He was born in Naples in 1881, but spent most of his life in London, and he worked as an illustrator – the family trade. He published in such magazines as L’Illustrazione Italiana, Illustration Francaise, The Sphere and later The Illustrated London News.
He did some editorial illustration, but today he is mostly remembered for his paintings of scenes from the Great War – he was in the field, working as a war artist (basically an artist following the troops and sketching from life scenes from the battlefield -not exactly a relaxing job).

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But if today he’s remembered for his war paintings, in hist time he really became famous after the war Continue reading