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"The Gadfly" is set in Italy during the revolutionary ferment of the 1830s and ‘40s. The protagonist is a young Englishman, Arthur Burton, who moves to a Catholic seminary after the death of his mother. There he becomes devoted to his guardian and mentor Montanelli, who, unknown to him, is also his biological father. In the company of his childhood sweetheart Gemma, Arthur becomes involved in the Young Italy movement fighting Austrian imperial rule. But he unwittingly betrays his comrades, after his private confession is relayed to the police. He then discovers his family secret, and loses all faith in the church...
One of the most popular English-language novels of the 20th Century is almost unknown in the English-speaking world – a global phenomenon in translation, now neglected in its original form. "The Gadfly" was a sensation on the other side of the Iron Curtain – it sold over 5 million copies in 107 editions in the 22 languages spoken in the Soviet Union. The book inspired seven musical adaptations, including an opera by Prokofiev, five theatre adaptations, including an ‘official’ version by George Bernard Shaw, and five film adaptations, one of which featured a famous score by Shostakovich.