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All persons chronically diseased are egotists, whether the disease be of the mind or body; whether it be sin, sorrow, or merely the more tolerable calamity of some endless pain, or mischief among the cords of mortal life. Such individuals are made acutely conscious of a self, by the torture in which it dwells. Self, therefore, grows to be so prominent an object with them that they cannot but present it to the face of every casual passer-by.
The Egotism; or Bosom Serpent (Nathaniel Hawthorne)


We've often recommended the excellent Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon and there's an especially good passage in Death in a Strange Country. Despite a somewhat anti-American tone and a plot that tries to compare the U.S. Military to the Mafia and the corrupt Italian bureaucracy, Ms Leon eventually has Guido approach his father-in-law, a powerful Count, and ask his help in getting an illegal toxic waste site dealt with. The Count agrees, but reluctantly:
"Don't you care about any of this?" he asked, unable to keep the passion from his voice. [...]

"Yes, I care about it, Guido, but not in the same way you do. You have managed to retain remnants of optimism, even in the midst of the work you do. I have none. Not for myself, nor for my future, and not for this country or its future. [...]

We are a nation of egoists. It is our glory, but it will be our destruction, for none of us can be made to concern ourselves about something as abstract as 'the common good.' The best of us can rise to feeling concern for our families, but as a nation we are incapable of more."
And, of course, the birth rates in Europe demonstrate that they don't care about family in the abstract either, just the self.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A-)

  

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Donna Leon (3 books reviewed)
Mystery
Donna Leon Links:

    -Donna Leon (Grove Atlantic)
    -Donna Leon (Random House)
    -INTERVIEW: One Minute With: Donna Leon, crime writer (Independent, 30 MARCH 2012)
    -INTERVIEW: DONNA LEON INTERVIEW (giall.com, Venice, May 5, 2003)
    -MEET THE WRITERS: Donna Lean (Barnes & Noble)
    -Donna Leon (BookBrowse)
    -Donna Leon (Tangled Web)
    -Novels by Donna Leon
    -READING GROUP GUIDE: A Noble Radiance
    -REVIEW: of A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon (Val McDermid, Tangled Web)
    -REVIEW: of A Noble Radiance and Uniform Justice by Donna Leon (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Acqua Alta by Donna Leon (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Friends in High Places by Donna Leon (Peter Guttridge, Observer)
    -REVIEW: of A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon (Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian)

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