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The Council of Egypt


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In the morally confused and polarized atmosphere of a feudal Palermo reeling from the turbulence of the distant yet enveloping French Revolution, two men reflect the contending forces. Giuseppe Vella is a priest wholly without scruple or conscience, lusting for celebrity, wealth, a life of ease among the degenerate aristocracy. No lover of truth, he conceives and forges an ancient Arabic manuscript, ``The Council of Egypt,'' to provide fake lineage for barons and justify the domination of Sicily by Naples. Nor is he above selling his spurious titles and family histories for the right price. Vella's principal opponent is Francesco Di Blasi, a revolutionary lawyer aflame with the incendiary ideas of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot and the explosive doctrine embodied in the words Liberty, Fraternity, Equality, Justice. Readers familiar with Sciascia's previous novels (Sicilian Uncles, The Wine-Dark Sea) will not be surprised at this masterly, vivid, unmistakably accurate portrayal of places and historic events. The two main characters inevitably meet their fated ends as Di Blasi literally loses his head and the devious padre is packed off to prison. Originally published here in 1966 (and long out of print), this robust tale is doubly welcome and cannot help but enhance Sciascia's growing reputation here. (May)

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