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Council of Egypt Paperback – 25 Mar 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd; New edition edition (25 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185754434X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857544343
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 1.3 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 905,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Cannell on 14 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback
This superb, witty book operates on many levels - it's my favourite Sciascia novel and one I've read several times.

On the one hand we have the opportunist priest who, for political gain and later, blackmailing the nobility, invents and adapts history to fit the changing political landscape. On the other, Di Blasi, a minor noble with humanist inclinations, gradually loses influence as political events move towards religious and political conservatism. We explore the debauched gentility of Palermo society (i.e. the politics of the gentry) with him. The 2 men are linked by their shared understanding that truth is negotiable and subvertible.

The writing is superbly sensuous and this is Sciascia's genius - it makes the end of the book a truly disconcerting view into the void beneath civilisation.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
This books is about a Maltese monk, Don Giuseppe Vella who lived in Palermo, Sicily. He is the only person who knows how to speak Arabic. An Arabic manuscript is found and this Maltese monk is given the task to translate it. It comes out that this manuscript is of no value, and so, Vella, through his genius produced a work of fiction - a fraud. We can see cleary that Vella is a born gambler and he adores playing games of chance. In doing so he is being seen as an artist making cosmos out of chaos. An artist creating something because he is distressed with his physical surroundings. This book is dominated also with philosophical ideas and political ideologies and past ways of thinking. I have first studied this book at school and I would really recommend this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
One of his best 4 Dec. 2004
By picaraza - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I came to this book rather late. It is out of print in this country, but well worth tracking down.

This is not a mafia novel. This is a historical novel set in 18th century Palermo. If you are interested in Sciascia primarily because you are interested in crime or mafia novels, this may not be the book for you.

That's not to say that the mafia isn't present in the book-- they're here alright, they just aren't called the mafia quite yet. Here the crooks are called Baron, Monsignor, Abbot, Viceroy, Judge, and Prince.

I overlooked this book for a long time because I usually avoid historical novels. (Novels written in 18th century--fine. Novels written in the 20th about the 18th century--no. I hate costume dramas.) But this is truly one of Sciascia's best, most political, and thought-provoking books. It is a historical novel about what modern Sicily has inherited from its past, and how things really had not changed much between the 1780s and the 1960s.

As good or better than anyhing he wrote.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Great novel, poor translation 1 Sept. 2011
By MichaelWBerkeley - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is one of Sciascia's greatest. The translation, however, makes no attempt to capture the 18th century stylistic flavor. Nor does it convey the Sicilian qualities of the writing. It is also full of amateurish mistakes. Perhaps the most glaring is on page 182 when Di Blasi, being tortured, thinks of "the 19th of Dante's Inferno". The translator assumes this is the 19th verse of the first canto and takes it upon herself to incorporate Dante's text from that line which is not present in Sciascia's text. In fact it makes no sense whatsoever for Di Blasi to be thinking of the 19th verse from the first canto which merely refers to Dante's respite from fear as he has escaped from his initial torments. BOOK 19 of Inferno is what Sciascia means. In that book the Simonists are being tortured because their feet are on fire and this is more or less what is happening to Di Blasi.

Sloppiness makes this great novel seem like much less in English than it is in Italian.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
What this ancient document says is... 3 April 2012
By Guillermo Maynez - Published on
Format: Paperback
Abbott Vella is a Sicilian priest who says he speaks Arab, although no one has ever heard him do it. He makes some money advising people about the lotto numbers. One day, in 1783, the Moroccan ambassador's ship wrecks off the coast of Sicily. While his ship is repaired, he asks to be shown whatever is left of the Muslim remains on the island. The Viceroy sends for Vella, and instructs him to show and explain for the ambassador an antique manuscript in Arab that's kept in an old church. The document is nothing but a mediocre biography of Mohammed, but the abbott smells an opportunity there and transforms it into a story of the Muslim domination years. The ambassador gets all excited and hires Vella to translate the text, in return for which Vella gets a luxurious life, totally out of reach for him previously.

So begins his career of forger, which brings for him great rewards at a time of political turbulence, sparked by the Viceroy's atempt at agrarian reform which elicits the rage of the corrupt landed gentry. Vella uses his forged documents (the "Councils" of Sicily and Egypt) to further ignite the fire...

What makes some mysteries and intrigue novels stand above the genre and graduate as great literature is the use of the plot to further probe into the human psyche and passions, as well as history. Sciascia does so here brilliantly, making a portrait of ambition, cynicism, and the tragic fate of idealists and justice-makers. Likewise, he produces a superb depiction of a remote corner of Europe, in the middle of the fight against privileges during the Ilustration. Sciascia is in full possession of his art, with a tightly controlled rhythm, a great use of tension, and a precise language. Much recommended.
Excellent historical novel by an author I scarcely heard of 18 Oct. 2014
By JK - Published on
Format: Paperback
Excellent historical novel by an author I scarcely heard of. I recommend it. The edition I received (well packaged, in good condition and on time), while quite readable, had a number of right hand margins slightly cut off. It's more of a cosmetic irritant than a substantial one. Just an FYI for future buyers. JK.
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