September 03, 1979 12:00 PM

by Aubrey Menen

The scugnizzi of Naples are poor boys, mostly 13 and under, who live by their wits. They dive in the harbor for coins tossed by tourists. During four days after Italy surrendered in World War II, the scugnizzi organized and drove out the remaining Nazi troops. It was foolish—it brought reprisals—but a wonderfully brave act. Menen, who was in Naples in 1948 as a BBC correspondent, gives a rich picture of a unique city. The Neapolitan, he writes, “is not vivacious, artistic, smiling or a great lover. He is usually melancholy, with a strong dash of cutting irony…” This fine, unusual slice of history shares that last quality. (Seaview, $9.95)

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