Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What If the Vatican Was Overrun By Rats and One of the Cardinals Was a Transvestite Dying in His Bed? (It's All True According to Roberto Pazzi)

What goes on in a conclave?

The whole world has been asking that for almost a century, but Italian novelist Roberto Pazzi has the answer. About ten years ago he wrote a brilliant, surreal novel called Conclave. It's been sold to more than twenty countries, and if you read it you'll understand why, because it's funny, symbolic, and deeply serious.

I became friends with Roberto Pazzi in Montreal in 2009 when both of us were speakers at an international festival for European literature. It turned out that we had a lot in common. Both of us are spiritual people that don't care much for organized religion and dogma. And we seem to laugh at the same things.

Our events took place at the new, sexy library in downtown. I would love to lie and tell you that hundreds of locals showed up with Italian and Danish flags, but it was fun nevertheless, especially listening to Roberto who is a fan of Proust and hardcore Pluto aspects.

In CONCLAVE, the cardinals are locked up for months, then for years, but still can't make a decision. The world outside grows impatient, but inside the Vatican time is suspended, and things quickly become very surreal. The Sixtine Chapel gets infested with rats and spiders, so the Church has to introduce cats and chicken to kill them off. A hot tub is constructed so the aging cardinals don't get bored. The Americans go jogging to stay sane; an African cardinal introduces black magic and vanishes miraculously; the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is found dead in women's clothes.

Read this Kafkaesque novel. It was a big hit in Italy but sold about eleven copies in the US. I hope it's getting a revival right now.

Conclave was translated by Oonagh Stransky and came out in America in 2003 from Zoland Books. The picture on top is of Roberto Pazzi and me. Roberto is on the left.

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