PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Colm Toibin on Thom Gunn's Letters Allice Hiller and Sasha Dugdale in conversation David Herman on the life of Edward W. Said Jena Schmitt on Hope Mirrlees Brian Morton: Now the Trees
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This review is taken from PN Review 67, Volume 15 Number 5, May - June 1989.

INVENTING HISTORY Leonardo Sciascia, The Council of Egypt, translated by Adrienne Foulke (Carcanet) £10.95

The book begins quite brilliantly. We are in the late 18th century: Don Giuseppe Vella, a penniless monk, is interpreting for a visiting Arab ambassador and local Sicilian bishop. The matter in question: an ancient Arabic text in the archives of a Sicilian monastery: is it or is it not a history of Sicily under Arab domination? 'It is not,' pronounces the ambassador. 'It is,' interprets the wily monk, and gets himself the job of translator. The following years he will spend corrupting the text beyond recognition, inventing a period of history out of nothing and enjoying the affluence which comes from being a protégé of the bishop. But wealth is not enough, Vella wishes to be respected and feared too; discovering that the invention of history puts him in a position of power, he now produces an entirely fictitious Arabic work on Sicilian history and law, The Council of Egypt, and sets about terrorizing the local barons with his 'translation'. The pampered, arrogant Sicilian nobles are in turmoil because the Viceroy of the King in Naples is introducing a series of reforms designed to reduce their power. Sensing that the upper hand is with the king and the gift of an abbacy on the cards, Vella 'discovers' in his Arabic texts that all Sicilian lands originally belonged to the king and to him alone. Immediately he becomes the object of respect and a large number of bribes, fobbing off the barons in return with such irrelevant but much ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image