"A masterful tale of treachery and duplicity. . . . Spellbinding."New York Times
The year is 1908, the place, a small Greek island in the declining days of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. For twenty years Basil Pascali has spied on the people of his small community and secretly reported on their activities to the authorities in Constantinople. Although his reports are never acknowledged, never acted upon, he has received regular payment for his work. Now he fears that the villagers have found him out and he becomes engulfed in paranoia. In the midst of his panic, a charming Englishman arrives on the island claiming to be an archaeologist, and charms his way into the heart of the woman for whom Pascali pines. A complex game is played out between the two where cunning and betrayal may come to haunt them both. Pascali's Island was made into a feature film starring Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren.
|Publisher:||Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Barry Unsworth (1930-2012), who won the Booker Prize for Sacred Hunger, was a Booker Prize finalist for Morality Play and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for The Ruby in Her Navel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Definitely not the right time to read this book. It take the reader into the ranting, paranoia and mind of a spy of a crumbling empire. I think I just had too much going on to give it its due. I've read to Unsworth previously. One I loved. One I just wondered, "Why is this in print? It is just dull and silly." Hope one day to pick this up again when I'm in the mood for some nothing-to-crazy madness. :-(
The novel is set on a small Greek island in 1908. The Ottoman Empire is about to fall, but in this remote outpost a government informer pens his last report to the Sultan. Basil Pascali, an outsider of mixed-race, has loyally reported on the activities of the people of his community for twenty years, each month receiving a tiny stipend, but never a single response. As a writer he begins to take liberties with his reports, taking enormous pride in his ability to depict events with great clarity and flair.When Englishman Anthony Bowles arrives on the island, he and Pascali become rivals for the affection of Lydia, a Viennese artist who has been living there for some time. Pascali suspects that Bowles may not be honest about his claim to be an archeologist (it takes a practiced confidence-trickster to recognise another of his kind, after all), so what is he doing there?The atmospheric short novel is superbly plotted, there isn't a scene out of place. Nothing is as it seems and Pascali's Island keeps you guessing right up to the tragic ending as the characters become enmeshed in layers betrayal and deceit.Literary fiction honestly doesn't come much better than this and I am actually surprised that the novel didn't win more recognition at the time.It was shortlisted for the Booker in 1980, but was eclipsed by William Golding's win for Darkness Visible and Anthony Burgess' masterpiece Earthly Powers. I've read several other novels by Unsworth which I've greatly enjoyed and admired (Morality Play, Rum and Sugar, Losing Nelson, and Sacred Hunger, which finally did won Unsworth the Booker) but I like this by far the best. (I still have his latest novel A Ruby in her Navel to be read.)Pascali's Island reminded me of several other novels I've greatly enjoyed : E.M. Forster's Passage to India, L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between, and the episode about the smugglers in Lermentov's A Hero of our Time ... all of them written much earlier.
Pascali, a long-ignored Ottoman "informer" on a small island, files his report about the arrival of an Englishman. The book's beginning is slow reading and Pascali is not particularly sympathetic when we meet him, but as the story unfolds we see much deeper into the obsequious Pascali's personality. Stay with him for a delightful read. The book is a tour de force of deceit and treachery.