Set against the background of an ancient manor and the surrounding village, where life is moving forward in spite of foreign invasion and internal oppression, this novel portrays the totalitarian destruction of the human soul.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
A beautifully crafted novel in which ideas and narrative are seamlessly woven together by East European writer Aczel (Illuminations, 1981), presently living in the US, to create a stunning indictment of moral relativism. In the 1950's, three colleagues arrive at a remote and beautiful manor in the countryside of a nameless East European country for what they assume is the annual hunt, traditionally held at this time. But the three men - General Wulf, a retired minister of defense; Justice Adam Krolthy, head of the judiciary; and Monsignor Anselm Beck, a priest and member of the current Communist regime - soon realize that they've been summoned for some other purpose by Gerogen, the country's ruthless ruler and a former friend and colleague. The wait for Gerogen prompts the three men - increasingly uneasy despite the beauty and comfort of the manor - to recall their childhoods, their early associations with Gerogen, and their reasons for joining him. The general, once an idealist, was seduced by the perks of office; the judge, a member of the aristocracy, joined to survive ("obedience was the wall behind which one was safe"); and the monsignor had hoped his position would help preserve the Church. When Gerogen finally appears, after rumors of riots in the capital, the request he makes is so cynical, so self-preserving, that the three men - reminded even more of the reality of their past complicity - realize that they cannot comply. Repentance and death, if necessary, are preferable. Aczel is in no hurry to tell his story of corruption - a story rendered more horrifying because the guilty are not monsters of evil. But then that is precisely his point - a point underlined by vividly evoked settings and characters. A profound and gripping book. (Kirkus Reviews)