Carol Forster column

Leonardo Sciascia.
Leonardo Sciascia.

Perceptive and brilliant, the Italian author Leonardo Sciascia was born in 1921 in the town of Racalmuto Sicily.

He wrote about his native island with a wise, insightful eye, drawing on his experiences of life there.

Although not immune to its flaws, he shows real affection for this beautiful but treacherous part of Italy.

In his early days, he worked as a teacher and clerical worker, then he later became involved in politics, working for Palermo city council.

Having written many books, his best include ‘Il Giorno Della Civetta’(Day Of The Owl) which touches on the sensitive topic of the Mafia and was published in 1961.

The gripping ‘A Ciascuno Il Suo’ (To Each His Own), is a detective story exploring the turbulent world of Sicilian society, in which a naive academic attempts to resolve a crime, in a complex and dangerous world he doesn’t adequately understand.

‘Il Contesto’ (Equal Danger) regards a police inspector who gets caught up in political intrigue, whilst investigating several murders, and ‘The Moro Affair’ centres on political life and difficult events from the 1970s.

‘The Wine- Dark Sea’, is a collection of short stories in the realist tradition, on his typical themes of life in Sicily, politics and the Mafia: One of these, ‘The long crossing’, is a particularly brilliant story about Sicilian émigrés who are tricked out of their entire life savings by an underhand sea captain, who has promised them safe passage to America.

He then fools the poor souls by taking them on a deceptively fruitless boat journey for twelve nights before dumping them back on a Sicilian beach.

Sciascia skilfully manages to balance the poignancy of the situation, with a touch of humour.

‘Sicilian Uncles’ comprises four novellas which touch on upturned ideologies and lives set in different historical contexts.

Some of his work has also been turned into film, such as director Gianni Amelio’s ‘Open doors’, (1990), based on Sciascia’s 1968 book, ‘Porte Aperte’.

Sadly, Leonardo Sciascia died in Palermo, 1989.

‘The conscience of Italy. Defiant by definition’, seems an appropriate definition of this great writer, highlighted by author Vincenzo Salerno.