Beppe Fenoglio’s A Private Affair is one of the great books of the Second World War and a masterpiece of modern Italian literature. Milton is the nom de guerre of the book’s protagonist, a one-time student of English literature who, in the chaotic last years of the war, has joined a partisan band. Before the war, gangly Milton was in love with the beautiful Fulvia—she let him read poetry to her— and now he hears that a friend and fellow partisan, the handsome Giorgio, was sleeping with her at the time. Jealous and furious, Milton hastens to confront Giorgio, only to discover that he has been captured by the Germans. A Private Affair tells the story of Milton’s mad quest—pursued through mud and fog and rain and terror, while barely evading German and fascist patrols—to rescue his friend and settle a personal grudge from a lost world of peace. Italo Calvino praised the book for the “geometric tension” between its themes of love and war and for its unsettling and utterly persuasive mingling of absurdity and mystery. The British novelist Paul Bailey has called the novel’s closing pages “superb and superbly exciting.” A Private Affair is a peerless story of the violent heart and world.