Books: Erosion of Souls

VENDETTA OF SILENCE by Ann Cornelisen. 242 pages. Atlantic-Little, Brown. $6.95.

What English heaths were to Thomas Hardy, the mountains of southern Italy are to Ann Cornelisen. In the isolated villages of the Lucanian Apennines, she has stumbled upon that ominous interaction between dour people and stark environment that comes to be called fate.

Here is a world almost lost to the 20th century. For the peasant living equally with squealing animals and squalling children in his tiny plastered hut, "five hundred years are only yesterday." His half-feared, half-scorned authorities are the bishop—who uses...

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