TORQUEMADA by Howard Fast


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In this brief novelette Fast displays his ability to tell a story head-on, cleanly and surely, but for once a straight story is not enough. The plot relates how the aging Grand Inquisitor involves a close friend of 25 years standing in charges of heresy. The great crime of the day (1483) is Judaizing. It is a crime punishable by fire at the stake for a Christian even to enter a synagogue. (The parallels with today's witch hunts and Author Fast's Jousts with HUAC are self-evident; he has been both singed with a Jail sentence and soothed with a Stalin Peace Prize.) Torquemada believes utterly in the cleansing fire of the auto-da-fe (Act of Faith). When his friend is discovered to the wearing a Jewish amulet next to his crucifix, the Inquisitor sets out to save his friend's soul by confiscation, torture and fire. Inadvertently, the friend's daughter is burned alive instead, when some Christians raze a synagogue. In a fit of remorse and self-pity, the Inquisitor releases his prisoner but tells him he must leave the country...What gets lest in this narrative is the complexity of both main characters. Yet the minor characters--Columbus: Ferdinand and Isabella--are eerily successful sketches.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1965
Publisher: Doubleday