A terrorist attack, writes a shrouded veteran of the ultra-leftist Red Brigades, is of course a matter of guns and bombs—but also “of sensible shoes and a warm overcoat.”
A member of the Brigate Rosse since the late 1970s, and underground for nearly as long, “Giorgio” reveals himself in these pages to be something of a private detective: trailing a lawyer here, an engineer or judge there, studying his every move, getting to know all his secrets in advance of that fateful moment when his victim is kidnapped, kneecapped, or assassinated. The skills involved are those of le Carré’s fictional spy George Smiley, or so Giorgio writes: “His anonymity, his great skill at concealment, his capacity to memorize, record, and analyze, especially, details.” The work is dull, far from the romantic view of revolutionary life so many misguided souls took in the heyday of what Italians now refer to as the “years of lead,” when political murders felled hundreds of citizens a year until, finally, key members of the Red Brigades and other terrorist groups on the left and right were exposed and imprisoned. Giorgio’s account is generally lucid if sometimes self-indulgent (it seems clear that he’d like to emerge from the shadows and be hailed as an Important Author, and one of his recurring complaints is that life underground kept him from meeting girls). Readers without a grounding in the mysteries of Italian leftist politics, however, may have trouble following passages such as: “That was when I left Lotta Continua and I joined the Autonomia. At the time I was very, very much of a spontaneist; I sensed that something very important was developing in the proletarian youth movement, and I believed that any structure was too narrow and too rigid to contain it.”
Nonetheless, an intriguing and chilling glimpse into the rational, murderous mind of a terrorist.