A dramatized dialogue on the nature of good and evil, conducted between a young man and the devil himself.
In A.’s (The Power of Listening, 2015) latest work, Harvard graduate Malcolm Murray is a tourist in Florence when he encounters a charismatic stranger—an Italian priest with an oddly commanding demeanor. The narrative refers to this stranger simply as “the Enchanter,” and Malcolm immediately accepts his friendly offer to show him the sights of the city, starting with the famous Duomo. Malcolm studied law and is an open-minded, progress-oriented man on a quest to understand the meaning of life. The Enchanter seems to have many intriguing opinions on the subject, but it quickly becomes apparent that there’s much more to him than meets the eye. He is in fact the devil, as he soon admits to Malcolm, and he confesses that he covets the young man’s soul. He won’t simply take what he wants, however; his goal is to convince Malcolm to surrender his soul voluntarily—perhaps in exchange for untold wealth, fame, and power. The bulk of the book is devoted to the devil’s taking Malcolm on a virtual tour of the iniquities of mankind, including—fittingly enough for the Florentine setting—an exposition of evil as found in great works of art and poetry. The devil maintains that humans are made in his image, not God’s, and that evil is their true nature; Malcolm steadfastly, intelligently argues otherwise. The author sets up this modern-day Faustian scenario in quick, economical strokes. The intriguing debate ranges from the dawn of time to the dawn of the Taliban and encompasses everything from the sins of entire nations to, disarmingly, the sins of Malcolm’s own mother. However, in a move that many readers may find off-puttingly controversial, the debate frequently devolves into an assessment of U.S. foreign policy; however, this discussion is the most energetic thread running throughout Malcolm’s defense of the mortal world. Fans of G.I. Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950) or C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (1942) will find this story to be a fascinating contemporary update.
A protracted, argument-starting debate between the Devil and an advocate for humanity.