Books: The Devil's Work

CITIES OF THE FLESH by Zoe Oldenbourg. 503 pages. Pantheon Press. $5.95.

The dreadful pageant that seems to haunt Novelist-Historian Zoe Oldenbourg began on a hot, still day in 1209, when a French army took the city of Béziers, a bastion of one of history's most romantic territories. The region covered all of present-day southern France. Its palaces were rich in art and dominated by the codes of courtly love. Its tongue was a strange and musical dialect that had given the region a flourishing literature of poetry and was to give it a...

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