The Priest’s Hat
by Emilio De Marchi
Translated by
Steve Eaton & Cinzia Russi

The Priest’s Hat is a suspenseful, moving, and darkly ironic tale loosely based on Count Alessandro Faella’s murder of the priest Virgilio Costa in Imola in 1881. Against the background of late nineteenth-century Naples, the novel brings us the meltdown of an aging playboy, Carlo Coriolano, the last baron of a once-wealthy and powerful clan.

U barone has squandered his inheritance and now can’t support his extravagant tastes. He’s been banned from his club and depends on his loyal, long-suffering housekeeper for pocket change. And if he doesn’t repay an old loan, he’ll soon be in jail. His solution is to lure to his crumbling, mortgaged ancestral estate a greedy old priest, murder him, and then take possession of the priest’s considerable riches. Of course, it all goes wrong, and the priest’s hat takes us through a mirrored maze of guilt and self-deception as the baron attempts to maintain his equanimity and social position.

A precursor of the Italian giallo genre, The Priest’s Hat was first published in 1887 in installments. Echoing the works of Dostoyevsky and Dickens, De Marchi intended this novel as an accessible yet literate exposé of contemporary Italian society with its culture of gossip, rumor, and superstition; of powerful gangs and clergy; of misleading new philosophies; a frivolous, inept, and corrupt media; and an inequitable justice system.

First English translation of Il Cappello del Prete (1888).
Translated by Steve Eaton and Cinzia Russi.
Fiction. Introduction and notes. 192 pages.

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