Books

There are just so many  Sicilian writers it is difficult to make a comprehensive list here.   I have tried to include the favourite classics  but also books by foreign authors about Sicily.

 

Sicilian Classics, Historic and Contemporary Novels

 

The LeopardGiuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

The book recounts the political upheaval in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento, the period after the arrival in Sicily and unification of Italy by Giuseppe Garibaldi.  The Prince of Salina is faced with the dilemma whether to uphold or change his upper class values to ensure the continuity of his family’s influence.   cit: “everything needs to change so everything can stay the same”.   A bit like Italian politics today!

 

The Late Mattia PascalLuigi Pirandello

Sicily’s Nobel Prize winner for literature has written a great many books but not many have been translated in English.   “The Late Mattia Pascal” is a great introduction to this writer’s works as Pirandello explored people’s identities and realities.   This book tells how Mattia Pascal discovers that he has been declared dead which for him is providential as he can escape the drudgery of his former life and start a new one.   He soon finds, however, that his new life is as insufferable as the former one and tries to return to the old one only to find that nothing has remained the same.   His fate is to live on as the ghost of the man he was.

 

Beautiful Antonio (Il Bell’Antonio) – Vitaliano Brancati

A 20th century author from Pachino, near Syracuse, Brancati enjoyed satirizing Italy, with a touch of the grotesque, during the Fascist years, and especially the very Italian phenomenon of gallismo (the preening male).   This book tells of Antonio - the handsomest young man in Catania - who returns to his native town from Rome with the reputation of being a playboy and a long list of amorous adventures behind him. To please his father, Antonio agrees to marry the beautiful Barbara. A year after their marriage however - scandal erupts. Barbara is still a virgin! The bride's family attempt to annul the marriage and Antonio's honour seems irrevocably lost.

 

The Day of the Owl – Leonardo Sciascia

A man is shot dead as he runs to catch the bus in the piazza of a small Sicilian town. Captain Bellodi, the detective on the case, is new to his job and determined to prove himself. Bellodi suspects the Mafia, and his suspicions grow when he finds himself up against an apparently unbreachable wall of silence. A surprise turn puts him on the track of a series of nasty crimes.   This short, beautifully paced novel is a mesmerizing description of the Mafia at work.

 

HISTORY

 

The Normans in Sicily – John Julius Norwich

Covering one of the most important periods of history on the island, this is an entertaining narrative history of how wandering Norman knights transformed themselves from mercenaries and cattle thieves into powerful lords and the rulers of Southern Italy and eventually Sicily.

 

Contemporary

 

Death in Sicily – Andrea Camilleri

Anyone who has watched the Inspector Montalbano series on British and Australian television will find his books a real delight for holiday reading.  In “Death in Sicily” his first three novels have been collected in one volume:  The Shape of Water, The Terra-Cotta Dog and The Snack Thief.   Camilleri’s humour, cynicism, compassion and love of good food and women are ever present in the long list of novels supremely translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

 

 

Midnight in Sicily – Peter Robb

For those who prefer to find out a bit more about the dark side of Sicily’s culture, Peter Robb tries to understand the historic roots of the Mafia and its connections to contemporary Italian politics