It is notoriously easier to write about things and people one does not really know very well. One has fewer doubts. But to write about one’s own country was a tortured enterprise. I knew too much. I saw too many trees. I sometimes could prove one thing or its contrary, with equal ease. I was embarrassed by the exceptions. I questioned every idea and watched every word. In my younger days sentimental patriotism was the fashion. In my anxiety to correct such prejudices, was I too eager to demolish sound and durable notions? I was afraid to be too conservative and, at almost the same time, too ready to follow new intellectual fashions, the rage among contemporary intelligentsia, to embrace seductive new theories which might be obsolete before the book appeared in print.
—Luigi Barzini, The Italians, 1964