Conclave by Roberto Pazzi

Set in the Vatican City

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ROBERTO PAZZI is a poet and novelist whose works have been translated into eighteen languages. His previous novels in English translation include Searching for the Emperor, The Princess and the Dragon, and Adrift in Time. Conclave has won numerous literary honors, including the Zerilli-Marimò, Scanno, SuperFlaiano, and Comisso Prizes. Born in 1946, he is widely considered to be the successor to Italo Calvino, with whom he shares the ability to turn history into fable. Pazzi lives in Ferrara.

Roberto Pazzi

(Translated from the Italian by Oonagh Stransky)


JACKET NOTES:  Conclave tells the story of what goes on inside the Vatican when the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church gather in complete secrecy after the death of the current pope to elect a new spiritual leader. A week, a month, four months go by and still the cardinals cannot come to a majoritarian decision. The world outside grows impatient, but time inside the Vatican has another quality: dreamlike, suspended, symbolic.

The spectacle that takes place is one of surreal proportions. The archbishop of Rio de Janeiro has died, the cardinal of Turin is having a crisis of faith, and, at the direction of an Eastern European cardinal, a Turkish bath has been constructed in Saint John's Tower, The cardinals conspire in secret meetings to advance their absurd political struggles with Kafkaesque determination. Who shall rise to don the white robe and wield the authority of the Holy See? A political activist from Latin America? A black cardinal from the Church's leading growth market, sub-Saharan Africa? A prominent Palestinian whose election would shake up geopolitics? Or has the time come for an Italian to once again wear the pope's miter?

A series of fantastic events, starting with a plague of rats, intrudes to upset the conclavists' opulent comfort, steal their dignity, and undermine their faith. The end result is a work of fabulist and at turns very funny fiction that also touches on some serious issues facing the Church and is grounded by meticulous historical accuracy and attention to detail.
(© Steerforth Press)