A cultivated man looks back more than twenty years at his youthful participation in the Italian resistance movement. He could be patronizing, apologetic, sentimental, journalistic...but Meneghello, now a professor of literature, is none of these. Indeed he conveys to perfection the physiognomy of a complicated little group and their agonizing enterprise. Which is not to say that the book presents nothing but the bloodshed of civil war and anti-Nazi struggle: the student partisans sought retreat from an ugly world as well as political combat. Arguing philosophy and tactics in the mountains, they discovered the rules of guerilla warfare, the plight of the peasants caught in the crossfire, the disintegration of the old order, all by themselves. The style is often exquisite, never precious; the substance is honest without cynicism. Meneghello's avowed purpose was to counter the rhetorical convention of resistance literature, with its conventional heroes. He has produced a superb memoir of courage, confusion, irony and self-examination--and a charming sketch, despite the bitter times, of Italy itself.