Thursday, October 12, 2006


Leonardo Sciascia states in a tailpiece to this book that he has "pruned" this short story to make it even shorter as "self- defence against possible reactions of any who might consider themselves more or less directly attacked in it...... I don't feel heroic enough to face charges of libel and slander."
I would consider that a libel or slander charge was the least of his worries in view of the subject of the book.

Lupara: literally a wolf shot, a cartridge loaded with 5 or 7 ball bearings used for mafia killings.

Chiarchiaro: a stony place

This is indeed a very short novel, but this is because not a word or paragraph is excess or extraneous to a simple and gripping story. In a superb 120 pages Sciascia distills the essence of the Mafia and its methods of control.

Sciascia has been described by many as one of the greatest modern writers, and on the evidence of this book that description is accurate.

This story has a beginning, a middle with plot development and an ending, and in that simple, perfect structure everything fits like a jigsaw puzzle.

Salvatore Colasberna, a builder is killed with a lupara shot, while a tree pruner who may have been a witness to the murder disappears. Captain Bellodi of the Carabinieri, a mainlander, leads an investigation, while mysterious unnamed figures discuss the implications in the background. Although one can guess the ultimate result of the investigation there is an atmosphere of hope that justice might be done, but also a strong feeling of the menace that is the mafia.

This a great book beautifully written, which was a pleasure to read, short but very sweet.

"An owl said to its owlets we'll all meet in the end at the chiarchiaro."


Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I can't find my copy of Day of the Owl; it's buried under a pile of books somewhere here, so I can't reread it now.

Quite apart from its stunning opening scene, this novel should figure in any discussion of books that stretch the boundaries of the crime novel and should be invoked whenever anyone asks whether a crime novel can be "serious" literature. And I hope such observations will not discourage anyone from reading it.


Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"

11:36 PM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I am happy to report that I found my copy of Day of the Owl. I was reminded again that one of the joys of Sciascia's books is the beauty of the covers between which New York Review Books published them in the U.S.

If you should happen to be in London the next few days browsing at Murder One, you may run into me.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"

6:40 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter,enjoy your trip to London. The covers Granta use are interesting, but not beautiful.

9:43 AM  

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