A vigorous and occasionally raw novel in autobiographical form, translated from the Italian, and tracing the career of a middle class Italian from childhood, through adolescent love affairs and desultory jobs, to the gutter. As a lad he meets Sofia, is initiated into sex life with her, leaves her when she becomes pregnant and eventually comes back to her, only to leave her again. The story is the least part. The text teems with family anecdotes, Rabelasian, tragic, full-blooded and vital. A philosophical undercurrent -- indicated in the title -- in the end predominates. The book is a broad-canvassed picture of a level of Italian society, typical perhaps of the descent of that class in pre-war years. The author writes well, is adept at vivifying people, swarmy noisy vital Italians, some of his soberer commentary on life is souts. Crude at times -- normal -- frank. Not for your conservatives.