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A Poor Substitute?

September 04, 1988

What's in a word? Somebody in Book Review substituted conscience for pietas in my review of Larry Woiwode's "Born Brothers" (Book Review, Aug. 7). Hmmm. I'll admit that pietas is slightly pedantic, that it presumes a knowledge of Virgil to catch its connotations of profound, passionate (and somewhat humorless) loyalty to the family, the nation and the gods. It is connected to, but a far cry from, the much vaguer conscience . Still, I thought the readers of The Times were sophisticated enough to get the idea, while the copy editor (or whoever), who doubtless knows the territory better than I do, did not. I wonder who was right.

PETER HEINEGG

SCHENECTADY, N.Y.

Editor's note: Conscience was substituted for pietas in a sentence that originally read: "Readers not carried away by his brooding Germanic pietas --his fierce, guilty attachment to hearth, homeland, and traditional values--will find themselves on a long, bleak, and exceedingly strenuous trek across the Great Prairie."

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