The Benedictine whisked a brush of multicoloured feathers over the top of the book, puffed out his plump cheeks like the god of winds in an old nautical map, blew black dust from the leather cover, and, with a shiver of what in the circumstances seemed delicate trepidation, laid the volume open on the table.
Palermo, 1783: The barons pursue feuds and petty plotting. Their wives indulge in forbidden French novels. And the porcine abbot Vella, eager to curry favour with Naples, 'invents' an ancient Arabic chronicle, The Council of Egypt, that rewrites Sicilian history.
Leonardo Sciascia (1921-1983) was a novelist and politician whose works were often set in his troubled, mafia-blighted homeland of Sicily. He hailed from Racalmuto in the south-west of the island and lived there for much of his life.