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The Council of Egypt
Translated by Adrienne Foulke
Imprint: Carcanet Fiction
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (212 pages)
(Pub. Mar 1999)
The place: Palermo, 1783. The barons reject the reforms of the principled viceroy Caracciolo, pursuing their feuds and petty plotting. Their wives indulge in forbidden French novels. And porcine abbot Vella, forty years old, is drawn like a fly to the sweetmeats of their society. How can he achieve the lavish security of an aristocrat, without any aristocratic gifts of his own?
With a novelist's invention he forges an ancient Arabic chronicle, The Council of Egypt, which justifies baronial privilege and restores power over the island to the Kingdom of Naples. In a world ripe for reform, Vella is an instrument of counter-reformation, pursued by the Jacobins, opposed by the brilliantly-drawn intellectual De Blasi. The terrible consequences of reform for the reformers themselves are among Sciascia's themes. His tone is cool, as uncompromising as his master Stendhal's. In evoking a country, its people and traditions, this is Sciascia's most vivid canvas.
'He is a first-rate story-teller with a pure style which carries his narrative, sardonic wit and metaphorical undertow in its deceptive, easy flow.'
The Times 'He is surely, along with Italo Calvino, Italy's finest prose writer.'
Times Literary Supplement 'Leonardo Sciascia is so infuriatingly good that you wonder whether his Protean talents are not those of a secret syndicate.'
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