Books: The Great Italian Novel

THE BETROTHED (591 pp.) — Alessandro Manzoni (translated by Archibald Colquhoun]—Dutton ($5).

Legend has it that Sir Walter Scott once met Alessandro Manzoni and fervently congratulated him on his historical novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed). Manzoni replied modestly that the book owed everything to Scott. "In that case," said Sir Walter, "this is my finest work."

Literary compliments aside, The Betrothed is a far more ambitious work than any Scott ever attempted. It is an adventure that pried into hearts as well as history; a long irony on men and politics that stung...

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