The Formation of The Red Cross: Background information when reading The Surrendered

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The Surrendered

by Chang-rae Lee

The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 496 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Formation of The Red Cross

Print Review

A Memory of Solferino, by Henry Dunant appears over and over throughout The Surrendered. Sylvie acquired the book from her parents and brought it with her to the orphanage in Korea. She is pictured reading it many times and June eventually steals it from Sylvie. It is the impetus for June's final pilgrimage. Though it is out of print, A Memory of Solferino can still be found through used booksellers and, at the time of writing, was available online here.

The Battle of Solferino was fought as part of the longer struggle for unification within the Italian peninsula during the nineteenth century. Before then, Italy as we now know it was divided between France, Austria, Spain and numerous small Italian principalities.

On June 24, 1859, the alliance of France and Sardinia under Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon I) met the Austrian army at the small village of Solferino in northern Italy. Fighting continued for fifteen hours until the Austrians retreated, leaving more than 40,000 killed or injured. Surrounding villages were overwhelmed with the walking wounded; the largest number went to Castiglione. The small medical service attached to the French and Sardinian forces was unable to cope.

At the same time, Swiss businessman Henry Dunant was passing through Castiglione on business and was appalled at the suffering of the wounded. He had been involved with charitable organizations in his native Switzerland and worked with local women to help the wounded. He brought in supplies to wash dressings, food, water and clean clothes.

In 1862 Henry Dunant published an account of what he had seen, A Memory of Solferino. In it he proposed the creation of national relief societies of trained volunteers to provide neutral and impartial help to wounded soldiers in times of war.

The ultimate result of Henry Dunant's book was the formation of The Red Cross, whose exclusive humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance.

Article by Judy Krueger

This article was originally published in April 2010, and has been updated for the March 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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