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The Island in Writing

The island of sun has always charmed the travellers who visited it. First and foremost Ulysses, whose adventures have influenced Sicilian literature and have left traces in the works by D’Arrigo and Consolo. Irony and sarcasm are major ingredients in the works by Bufalino and Brancati, which reveal Sicilians philosophy and describe the island’s myths.


Odyssey Odyssey (IX-VII century BC.) by Homer
One of the placed touched by Odysseus in his archetypal voyage is Sicily, where the hero and his crew, starved by the long journey, feasted on the cattle sacred to the Sun and were therefore punished. Once left “the land of the sun, blessed by mankind”, they were swallowed up by the stormy sea. Only the hero survived, and was punished with a long lasting wandering, before finding his way back home. Worth of mention is the striking description of the two monsters Scylla and Charybdis, which made crossing the Strait of Messina a frightful experience.


Aeneid Aeneid (29-19 cent, BC.) by Virgil
As well as Odysseus, Aeneas, the hero of the “pietas”, halted in Sicily. On the island Aeneas’father, Anchises, died. In Erice the hero celebrated the games in honor of his dead father.





I Malavoglia I Malavoglia (1881); Mastro Don Gesualdo(1889) by Giovanni Verga
I Malavoglia, manifesto of Italian Verismo, narrates the misfortunes of a fishermen’s family living in Aci Trezza (CT), finally ending with their ruin. Mastro don Gesualdo describes the social rising of a bricklayer from Catania. He loves and marries an impoverished noble woman, Bianca Trao, who doesn’t reciprocate his love, and he never succeeds in taking part of his wife’s social life. His existence is marked by greed and isolation, and he eventually dies in solitude, mocked by the servants in his wife’s family mansion.


Other works by Giovanni Verga:

Little Novels of Sicily
Life in the Country
Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Stories
A Mortal Sin
Storia Di Una Capinera
La Lupa


The Viceroys The Viceroys (1884) by Federico De Roberto
Renowned historical romance set in Sicily in the late nineteenth century, it provides a detailed description of Sicilian events and characters at the time of Italian unification. I Vicerè focuses on the Uzedas, an aristocratic family from Catania, lacerated by interior conflicts and perpetually struggling to maintain their ancient privileges.




Novelle per un anno Novelle per un Anno (1922) by Luigi Pirandello
Pirandello’s short stories were first published separately and then collected in one volume, providing an overview of the author’s main features and themes. His sharp look focuses mainly on the grotesque aspects of daily life, and describes the masks we all wear to conform ourselves to approved social standards. Pirandello lays bare the depths of human psyche, exposing the empty conventions diffused among all levels of society. A large number of his short stories are set in Sicily.


Other works by Luigi Pirandello:

The Oil Jar and Other Stories
The Late Mattia Pascal
Six Characters in Search of an Author
Absolutely Perhaps
The Notebooks of Seratino Gubbio
Il Berretto a sonagli
Eleven Short Stories
Liola, Cosi è (se vi Pare)


Acque e Terre Acque e Terre (1930) by Salvatore Quasimodo
It is the first collection published by Quasimodo. The two elements, water and earth, mark the borders of the author’s birthplace: Sicily, beloved although lost.





Other works by Salvatore Quasimodo:

Complete Poems


Conversations in Sicily Conversations in Sicily (1941) by Elio Vittorini
The author’s return to the island turns out to be the occasion to rediscover the roots of mankind. The novel describes the symbolic query for man’s origins, and exposes the world’s wounds, forcing mankind to take the blame for them.





Other works by Elio Vittorini:

Women on the Road


Don Giovanni in Sicilia Don Giovanni in Sicilia (1941) by Vitaliano Brancati
Giovanni Percolla drags an idle and peaceful life in Catania, cuddled by his three sisters and amused by his friends’ void talks about women. He leaves Catania to experience love in Milan and changes his life, but, despite himself, he keeps on feeling the alluring call of his birthland. This novel is a biting portrait of the prevailing "male chauvinism" in little Sicilian towns, where “talking about women gives more pleasure than women themselves”.



Other works by Vitaliano Brancati:

The Lost Years
Bell' Antonio


The Leopard The Leopard (1958) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
The novel describes the decadence of Sicilian aristocracy and the rising of middle-classes after the unification of Italy. It is focused on the charismatic character of Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, who precognizes and anticipates the coming ruin of his caste and family, but it aims to be a portrait of Sicilianity which can still be considered true.




Other works by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa:

Siren and Selected Writings


The Day of the Owl The Day of the Owl (1961) by Leonardo Sciascia
This short novel about Mafia is also a mesmerizing demonstration of how this criminal organization sustains itself. It is both a beautifully written story and a brave act of denunciation. A dark-suited man is shot as he runs for a bus in the main square of his small town. The investigating officer is a man believing in the values of a democratic and modern society, but he soon finds out he has to throw down a wall of silence and vested interests in order to find the truth.


Other works by Leonardo Sciascia:

The Wine Dark Sea
Equal Danger
The Knight and Death & One Way or Another
The Moro Affair
Sicilian Uncles
To Each His Own
Sicily as Metaphor
The Council of Egypt
1912 + 1


Blind Argus Blind Argus (1984) by Gesualdo Bufalino
It is winter in Rome. The main character recalls episodes of his youth in Modica in the summer of 1951. Lost loves evoke an ancient world, described with both irony and regret.






Other works by Gesualdo Bufalino:

Night's Lies
Tommaso and the Blind Photographer
A Plague-spreader's Tale


The Silent Duchess The Silent Duchess (1990) by Dacia Maraini
The novel is set in Sicily in the early eighteenth century. Marianna Ucria, a deaf and dumb little girl, is married off to an old uncle at the age of thirteen. She gives birth to many children, grows a woman, discovers the beauty of reading and becomes acquainted with the philosophical theories diffused throughout Europe in her time. When her husband dies, she manages to hold the reins of her own life. It is the story of Marianna’s emancipation, an unforgettable heroin whose private and intimate emotions are described with particular attention.


Other works by Dacia Maraini:

Woman at War
Traveling in the Gait of the Fox
Only Prostitutes Marry in May
My Husband
Darkness
Isolina


L’Olivo e l’Olivastro L’Olivo e l’Olivastro (1994) by Vincenzo Consolo
The title is a quotation from Odyssey, a motto which highlights the common origin of both the wild and the cultivated plant, the human and the non-human. Returned back to his native Sicily, the main character visits places which were once the cradle of true civilization and culture, but are now inhabited by wicked people. The novel focuses on the transition from a rural to a modern society.




The Terracotta Dog The Terracotta Dog (1998) by Andrea Camilleri
The well-known detective Salvo Montalbano investigates on a Mafia murder in Vigata, a fictitious and metaphoric little town in Sicily. While examining the clues, he finds out this latest murder leads to another one, dating back to fifty years before. As for earlier novels by Camilleri, the language is marked by vernacular words and expressions.





Other works by Andrea Camilleri:

The Scent of the Night
Excursion to Tindari
Voice of the Violin
The Snack Thief
The Shape of Water
Rounding the Mark
The Patience of the Spider
The Paper Moon
The Smell of the Night

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