Fenoglio was the bookish son of the local butcher, who decides to flee to the mountains and join the partisans. He takes with him the bloc-notes used by his father to weigh the meat. And he will write some of the most adventurous tales imaginable on them.
When he reaches the partisans, they immediately label him "the school teacher", and he begins by teaching the others how to read and write. But before long Fenoglio is asked to replace a partisan on a dangerous mission to Alba.
Fenoglio’s codename was Milton, like that of his favourite writer.
Before the war, Fenoglio was looking forward to graduating and going on to become a University professor of English.
But the war changed that.
And this man, this shy bookworm, is thrown into something much bigger than himself something that could swallow him whole if he doesn't rise to the occasion.
But he does.
For twenty-three days a small group of partisans, in which Fenoglio played a pivotal role, took over the town of Alba.
And kept the enemy at bay, saving the lives of hundreds who were able to flee from certain death.
And in these twenty-three days Fenoglio became a legend. So much so that the Nazis put him at the top of their wanted list and hunt him down combing through the Piemontese countryside. And having arrived in the last quadrant of Piedmont, not yet searched by the enemy, Fenoglio finishes writing his Partisan Notes (Appunti Partigiani). And tries to fall asleep even though he expects to be dead the next morning. But the next day the war ends.
Each time I read Fuller's quote, I'm reminded of Fenoglio, and of whom he became. And my admiration for him grows.
"Adversity introduces a man to himself." Thomas Fuller