Leonardo Sciascia the Man and the Writer (Paperback)
Restlessness of imagination and intellect in a writer can damage his standing with critics, but Sciascia's insatiable curiosity, keen intellect, detestation of injustice wherever perpetrated have made him a writer who could not be restricted to any one genre. His reputation has been enhanced by his versatility, guaranteeing his place among the great writers of the twentieth century. He remains best known, especially outside Italy, as novelist and author of idiosyncratic detective stories which seek to discover not only 'whodunnit' but why the crime was committed, who profits by it, and what is the nature of collusion between low-level criminals and seemingly respectable figures in society. His novels, including To Each His Own and The Context, can be enjoyed as thrillers or crime stories, but they simultaneously probe questions of socio-political ethics. The investigation by his detectives is not primarily directed at individual guilt but at uncovering flaws in the very structure of society. He exposed mafia power in Sicily and Italy, and the mafia provided the lens or metaphor behind his sceptical view of all power. He once accused himself of not having great creative powers, and while this judgement is highly dubious, he did not always find fiction the most suitable vehicle for his enquiries. He devised a new genre which corresponds to no existing category but which can be conveniently described as the 'essay-enquiry'. The very idea of enquiry is the central feature of his cast of mind and of his output as a whole, fiction or non-fiction. Essay-enquiries include Death of the Inquisitor, set in the age of the Counter-Reformation, The Stabbers, an account of a plot in Palermo in the mid nineteenth century after Garibaldi's landing, and The Moro Case, an investigation into the kidnap and assassination of the politician Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1970s Italy. In addition, Sciascia was what would once have been known as a 'man of letters', author of many essays and articles on literature, history and politics, as well as an acerbic commentator on current affairs, essayist, belle-lettrist and occasional poet. He acknowledged his debt to Enlightenment thinkers and his insistence on reason as the basis of civilisation has contributed to his fame outside as well as inside Italy. His focal point was his native Sicily, but his work is the product of a refined, critical spirit which is both Sicilian and cosmopolitan, which is at home in different cultures and which acknowledges its debt to such varied authors as Pirandello, Stendhal, Kafka and Borges. His tenacious campaigning for truth and justice gives him renewed importance in an age of relativist scepticism. An early enthusiast, Gore Vidal, once wrote that "Sciascia has made out of his curious Sicilian experience a literature that is not quite like anything else done by a European". He himself claimed that his Sicilian experience made him a pessimist, but his works give ground for hope. This new volume attempts to give due attention to the totality of his rich and varied output, to evaluate his achievement in the context of own time and also to assess his enduring legacy. It is hoped that it will extend the appeal of this important author to an English-speaking audience.