sábado, 26 de febrero de 2011

To Each His Own

To Each His Own [A ciascuno il suo] (NYRB Classics, 2000)
by Leonardo Sciascia [translated from the Italian by Adrienne Foulke]
Italy, 1966

In a small Sicilian town, an affable pharmacist receives an anonymous letter that's brief and exceedingly to the point: "This letter is your death sentence.  To avenge what you have done, you will die."  When the pharmacist and a friend are shot and killed soon thereafter while on a hunting trip, Sciascia's arch crime novella zooms in on Italian history and lit liceo teacher Professor Laurana as he pursues an unofficial investigation into the murders--an investigation which, while not all that compelling from a detective fiction point of view, at least allows the novelist to drop tasty tidbits on Dante, Manzoni, and Pirandello into the mix alongside his usual observations on mafia culture and the nature of justice in Sicily.  Not my favorite Sciascia by a long stretch--but wryly observed, as in this passage on the return of the braying hunting dogs from the scene of the crime: "This return of the dogs set the whole town to disputing for days and days (as will happen when people discuss the nature of dogs) about the order of Creation, since it is not at all fair that dogs should lack the gift of speech.  No account was taken, in the Creator's defense, that even had they had the gift of speech, the dogs would, in the given circumstances, have become so many mutes both with regard to the identity of the murderers and in testifying before the marshal of the carabinieri" (14).  (http://www.nybooks.com/)

Leonardo Sciascia (1921-1989)

10 comentarios:

  1. I haven't read any Scascia yet but always wanted to. Since you say this isn't your favourite, which should I begin with then?

  2. I echo Caroline's question. I want to read more Italian fiction in the future, since it is part of my heritage.

  3. I'd recommend The Wine Dark Sea as a starting place, but it's a collection of stories, and some people don't seem to know how to read short stories.

    I think this one is Richard's answer.

    tuulenhaiven - is your heritage Sicilian, or Italian? They're not the same thing - just ask any Italian who is not from Sicily!

    Richard - have you seen the movie Mafioso, 1962, made it to the US in 2007?

  4. I was going to ask the same question as Caroline and tuulenhaiven, but I see Amateur Reader has already provided the answer! I have both on my list, but I guess now I know to read The Day of the Owl first.

  5. *Caroline and Sarah and Amanda: I'd go with The Day of the Owl (as Amateur Reader correctly predicted) for fiction or The Moro Affair for nonfiction. Both are excellent and would make fine entry points to Sciascia's body of work. To Each His Own isn't bad, by the way, just not of the same caliber.

    *Amateur Reader: I'll probably pick up The Wine Dark Sea when I get around to choosing/reading my next Sciascia, so I'm glad to hear that it comes with your seal of approval. Will be interested in seeing what he did with the short story format. I missed Mafioso when it hit the theaters (I think the local indy showcase only had the rerelease screening for a week) and haven't checked it out on DVD yet either for some reason. I guess this is the point where you inform me what a big dummy I am for those oversights, eh? Please clue me in if you get a chance.

  6. Thanks for the recommendations Amateur Reader and Richard. I often prefer short stories but I realize that there are quite a lot of people who think little of them. They seem to feel cheated as some say. I never thought that they might not know how to read them. That is very interestin and does actually make sense. It is a different form and probably wants another type of reading.

  7. Amateur Reader - I'm 1/4 Italian. My great-grandmother was born north of Naples. Haha, now I'm stuck thinking about the oh-so-clever Sicilian from The Princess Bride...

    Thanks Richard and Amateur Reader for the reading tips.

    And Caroline, I sometimes feel like I'm one of those people who doesn't know how to read short stories... Doesn't keep me from trying, and I hope that I am improving.

  8. *Caroline and Sarah: You're very welcome! I still tend to prefer novels (and book-length nonfiction) to short stories, but I took a course on the Latin American short story years ago and was blown away by how many great writers work/have worked in that format. I should do a better job reading short stories and talking about them here, but even though I feel like I know how to read them, I definitely don't know how to write about them to my satisfaction. Ditto for poetry. Something to work on as always. Happy reading to you both!

  9. Have you seen the Italian movie adaptation, with the great Gian Maria Volonte? It's not the best adaptation of a Sciascia novel, but it's a solid crime thriller.

    1. Miguel, thanks for the tip! I wasn't even aware of the movie. The last Italian crime movie I saw was a more recent one called Romanzo criminale: pretty good all in all but perhaps most notable for featuring two of my new Italian actress "girlfriends"!