Vitality, passion, the lyric quality of life which poets are presumed to embody and novelists to document, is almost totally absent from modern literature. Unless in Celine, Genet or Apollinaire, in a flauntingly perverse fashion. To be a hero today is to be an anti-hero. The heroism of Emanuel Carnevali is in an older tradition. The startling appeal of his autobiography lies in his power to transcend a wretched fate and transform it, personally and aesthetically, into a liberating experience. Carnevali came to America at sixteen and returned to Italy eight years later where he remained, bedridden and impoverished, until his death during WW II. According to Kay Boyle's introduction, his genius was recognized by the New York literary underground of the twenties, but except for arranging the publication of some tales and poems, little could be done to promote his fame. Carnevali was a man of two worlds, Italy and America, and his slightly primitive but fluent English is supplemented by the verve of his native tongue. However awful the scenes he describes, dealing with a disruptive childhood, belittling Jobs, an unfortunate marriage and a lacerating illness, they all achieve an extraordinary vigor and reflect a generosity, a purity of spirit.