This tiny parable of political conscience may have some special resonance for Italian intellectuals--like Sciascia--preoccupied with the paradoxes of church, state, and Communism; but, even in Foulke's airy translation, it seems here a dry, momentum-less, private exercise. Sciascia's protagonist is Sicilian Candido Munafâ€¢, born (in 1943) to propertied but unloving parents: his mother promptly runs off with an American army officer, and his lawyer father reluctantly keeps the baby--who grows up ""catlike"" and is branded ""a little monster"" when his indiscreet disclosure of an overheard lawyer-client conversation triggers his father's suicide. Educated by a freethinking, soon-defrocked Archpriest, Candido ""plays peasant"" for a while on his estate, is disappointed by a pilgrimage to Lourdes (""If I were God, I would be offended by all this""), and--after wooing away his fascistic grandfather's young housekeeper--he turns to Communism: ""the instinct to conserve, the will to survive found expression in Communism. Communism, in a word, was something that had to do with love. . . ."" But Candido's ideals of Communism aren't the same thing as the Communist Party--which he gets thrown out of when his inquiring mind and incorruptibility offend the powers-that-be. And, after happily giving up his property (allowing himself to be declared mentally incompetent by his relatives), he moves to Paris, content just discussing Stalinism with the Archpriest and finding true love with his cousin Francesca. Those who study shadings of European Communism may find some kernels of interest here, but for most readers this will remain a moody, sour, seemingly untranslatable oddity--with only an occasional ironic flicker to echo the satiric dash of the Voltaire classic upon which it's nominally founded.