Love and war in Naples.
The narrator, an orphan, grows up a young man in postwar Naples, tutored by Don Gaetano, an apartment super and wise old man who was out of sympathy with the Fascists. During the war Don Gaetano helped hide a Jew in an underground room, one the young narrator finds by accident when a soccer ball lands near its hidden entrance. A neighborhood soccer game also leads the narrator to discover Anna, the love of his life, when as a child he climbs up a drainpipe to retrieve an errant ball and sees a young girl in a third-floor window. Time passes, the war ends, and the girl goes away. Years later, however, she returns to the apartment, and they have sex, the fulfillment of a fantasy that the narrator had harbored for much of his adolescence. His sexual initiation had actually occurred earlier with a widow who lived in the building and was getting tired of her physical intimacy with Don Gaetano. Anna is young, attractive and sexually proficient, but she has two regrettable failings—she has a gangster as a boyfriend (fortunately for the narrator temporarily housed in prison), and she’s mad, a condition emphasized by flights of disconnected verbal fantasy. It turns out the narrator is more willing to forgive the latter than the former, especially when the gangster shows up, knife in hand, to challenge Anna’s new suitor.
A lyrical narrative about a thorny search for happiness.