Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThe elegance and intricacy that distinguished Bufalino's The Plague-Sower quicken here in a plot full of wit and wile. Condemned to die for treason, four swashbucklers spend the night before their execution contemplating a last-minute offer of pardon: if any of them anonymously identifies their leader, all four will be spared. As they consider, they enact a desperate Decameron : each takes a turn recounting a story, speaking ``of what, both for his own sake as for others', may best give understanding of the lie about himself.'' As each storyteller unburdens himself the others discuss his offering, analyzing which elements are imagined, which are true and which are true only emotionally. Fiction thus becomes a process of masking and of unmasking. The narratives themselves are entertaining, often drolly and implicitly commenting on literary traditions. But what is spellbinding is the manner in which Bufalino's conclusion expands his ploy of deception/revelation to ensnare the reader. Although the translation lacks precision, it retains enough of Bufalino's polish to demonstrate why the novel won Italy's Strega prize in 1988. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library JournalFour men--a mysterious lampoonist, a soldier-parricide, a baron who learned his sectarianism north of the Alps, and a student named Narcissus--are accused of sedition and arrested by the pre-Risorgimento Bourbon kingdom of Southern Italy. The men will die if they do not reveal the name of their anonymous mastermind, to whom they refer as ``God the Father.'' As they await death, they imitate The Decameron by sharing with one another tales that are allegedly autobiographical. Governor DeRitis, their tormentor now disguised as an apprehended brigand, arranges to occupy the same cell and confronts the ``lies of the night'' evident in their respective narratives. But he never suspects that the biggest lie may be the very existence of the mastermind whose identity he so obsessively pursues. Bufalino, who is Sicilian, won the 1988 Strega Prize for this spellbinding tale of mystery and psychological observation.-- Jack Shreve, Allegany Community Coll., Cumberland, Md.
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