What is a hero? One might say that a hero is a person who acts on his/her own behalf, in order to realize self-achievement goals, and then ends up - even without wanting to - being a model for universal humanity. Heroes violate the boundaries of normality and expectations, even causing outrage, but they are also bound to collide with new, overwhelming limits. A hero's mission is to redeem the world and yet be vanquished. A hero's ideal nature lies in glorious death or sacrifice, which renders her/him memorable. Anything but an intrinsically exceptional being, a hero becomes exceptional by performing extraordinary feats in wartime, fighting for freedom, dying in the name of love or exhaustedly crossing the finish line before anybody else. And so it is not true that heroes are always "young and beautiful", but that is how they are remembered in collective memories, when they are freed from history and elevated into exemplary myths. In a new series edited by Carlo Galli, seven authors with differing backgrounds describe heroes pertaining to seven universes of human action: war, freedom, love, civic passion, doubt, discovery, sport. Forthcoming titles: Heroes of Love by Massimo Fusillo, Civic Heroes by Roberto Escobar, Heroes of Discovery by Telmo Pievani and Sports Heroes by Daniele Marchesini.
In all wars and in today's so-called "peace operations", a warrior carrying a weapon feels like a god. This leads to the sublime concept of war hero: someone who serves the interests of others, defends the faith, protects his/her community, and thanks to her/his valour changes destiny and history. This books offers an intense narrative - ranging from Achilles' brutal violence to the mindful sacrifice of today's armed forces, from the lucid madness of World War I assault infantry to the charisma and courage of Caesar, Napoleon, Garibaldi, from the defeat of General Dallaire, the UN mission chief in Rwanda - against a backdrop of battlefields, the venues where war heroes have often fallen, only to be honoured in collective memory.
Fabio Mini is a former Italian army general and chief-of-staff of the Southern Europe NATO command and international mission in Kosovo.