Night's Lies

Gesualdo Bufalino

translated from the Italian by Patrick Creagh
Harvill Press 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
Four revolutionaries — a student, a baron, a soldier, and a poet — are imprisoned in an desolate island fortress. On the eve of their execution, the prison governor offers to spare their lives if any one of them will reveal the identity of their leader, a court figure known only as God the Father. Left for their final night with a fifth prisoner, a notorious brigand, each of the four tells a story about his life. But are these tales told for themselves, for their fellow prisoners, or as part of a broader plan? Who is deceiving whom?

Both the framing story and the four sub-stories of Night's Lies (Le menzogne della notte) are effectively fables. The characters are intriguing but at the same time distant, while the historical setting and the slightly archaic language help to maintain a certain detachment. But the evocation of atmosphere and setting is superb and the narrative is totally compelling, never the least bit contrived or forced. While the plot might not withstand close inspection, nothing ever prompts that, and the final twists follow one another in dramatic crescendo.

March 2003

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%T Night's Lies
%A Bufalino, Gesualdo
%M Italian
%F Creagh, Patrick
%I Harvill Press
%D 1999
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1860461107
%P 158pp