I have just finished reading a collection of short essays by Leonardo Sciascia 1921-1989, who was born in Racamulto, Sicily.
I have commented before on the ability of the Italian authors Sciascia, Camilleri, Carlotto, Lucarelli and Carofiglio to pack in to short novels more action, events and quality writing than many who produce long 600 page blockbusters.
In this collection we have Sciascia at almost his best with tales that are taut and spartan in style, but capture the true essence of Scicily and the Italian South. It is clear that his time as a Communist Party member of Palermo's town council, and as a Radical Party MP in the European parliament has provided him with much material.
The stories are not all of an equal quality, but as the best are absolutely brilliant this is not surprising. My favorites were:
"A Matter of Conscience" a story of marital infidelity, confession and its consequences.
"Mafia Western" where the tables are turned and the mafioso in a town are bewildered and frightened as they are stalked by an avenger.
"Philology" an erudite essay on the discussions between a mafia boss and an underling.
"Do you know what the Gospel says? Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other. "
"Is that how you react?"
"If someone smites me I gun him down."
"End-game" a tale of intrigue and the relationship between a husband and wife.
"In a well ordered and honest society, where no papers were forged, and men had to depend on their own merits and abilities, the most favorable of circumstances would have carried them both to the threshold of public office-as doorkeepers."
Leonardo Sciascia has a mischievous sense of humour and in this book you get both the sweet and the sour.
You will also find plenty of those interlocking threads that have shaped Sicily and all of Italy, Catholicism, Communism, Fascism and Mafia.
One of Sciascia's mafiosi sums up Sicily with this gem, "this is the country where the left hand doen't trust the right even if they belong to the same man."