Capos and Cardinals

Jonathan Steinberg

  • Fascism and the Mafia by Christopher Duggan
    Yale, 322 pp, £19.95, January 1989, ISBN 0 300 04372 4
  • A Thief in the Night: The Death of Pope John Paul I by John Cornwell
    Viking, 301 pp, £14.95, May 1989, ISBN 0 670 82387 2

‘So you think it comes from the Arabic?’ says the first character.

‘Very probably, my dear fellow, very probably,’ replies the second, ‘but on the subject of words, our science is anything but secure ... Here for example is Petrocchi who spells the word with two f’s: “a union of persons of every grade and type who help each other in their mutual interest without respect for the law or morality”. He puts it in relation, rather uncertainly, with the old French mafler from which we get maflé and maflu, to eat or stuff oneself.’

‘I don’t like it,’ says the first.

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