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Italians

In this consummate portrait of the Italian people, bestselling author, publisher, journalist, and politician Luigi Barzini delves deeply into the Italian national character, discovering both its great qualities and its imperfections.

Barzini is startlingly frank as he examines “the two Italies”: the one that created and nurtured such luminaries as Dante Alighieri, St. Thomas of Aquino, and Leonardo da Vinci; the other, feeble and prone to catastrophe, backward in political action if not in thought, “invaded, ravaged, sacked, and humiliated in every century.” Deeply ambivalent, Barzini approaches his task with a combination of love, hate, disillusion, and affectionate paternalism, resulting in a completely original, thoughtful, and probing picture of his countrymen.

Luigi Barzini, was born in Milan, Italy, in 1908. After completing his studies in Italy and at Columbia University, he worked for two New York newspapers. He returned to Italy in 1930 to become a correspondent for Corriere della Sera. In 1940 he was confined by the Fascists. With the Allied liberation he returned to publishing and founded Il Globo. Subsequently he served as the chief editor of several newspapers and magazines. His books include Americans Are Alone in the World (1958), From Caesar to the Mafia (1971), and Peking to Paris (1973). He died in 1984.

The New Yorker Searching into every corner of Italian life and scrutinizing every cliché concerning it, from the charm of the people (an illusion, he maintains) to the consolations of la dolce vita (another one), Mr. Barzini has written an invaluable and astringent guidebook to his country.