Leonardo Sciascia

Leonardo SciasciaLeonardo Sciascia (January 8, 1921 – November 20, 1989) was an Italian writer, novelist, essayist, playwright and politician. Some of his works have been made into films, including Open Doors (1990) and The Day of the Owl (1968).
A number of his books, such as The Day of the Owl (Il giorno della civetta) and Equal Danger (Il contesto), demonstrate how the Mafia manages to sustain itself in the face of the anomie inherent in Sicilian life. He presented a forensic analysis of the kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro, a prominent Christian Democrat, in his book The Moro Affair. Sciascia’s work is intricate and displays a longing for justice while attempting to show how corrupt Italian society had become and remains. His linking of politicians, intrigue, and the Mafia gave him a high profile, which was very much at odds with his private self. This high profile resulted in his becoming widely disliked for his criticism of Giulio Andreotti, then Prime Minister, for his lack of action towards freeing Moro and answering the demands of the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades). More at wikipedia.

Here are 10 of his most famous books.

 

The Day of the Owl (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

A man is shot dead as he runs to catch the bus in the piazza of a small Sicilian town. Captain Bellodi, the detective on the case, is new to his job and determined to prove himself. Bellodi suspects the Mafia, and his suspicions grow when he finds himself up against an apparently unbreachable wall of silence. A surprise turn puts him on the track of a series of nasty crimes. But all the while Bellodi’s investigation is being carefully monitored by a host of observers, near and far. They share a single concern: to keep the truth from coming out.

This short, beautifully paced novel is a mesmerizing description of the Mafia at work.


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To Each His Own (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

This letter is your death sentence. To avenge what you have done you will die. But what has Manno the pharmacist done? Nothing that he can think of. The next day he and his hunting companion are both dead.The police investigation is inconclusive. However, a modest high school teacher with a literary bent has noticed a clue that, he believes, will allow him to trace the killer. Patiently, methodically, he begins to untangle a web of erotic intrigue and political calculation. But the results of his amateur sleuthing are unexpected—and tragic. To Each His Own is one of the masterworks of the great Sicilian novelist Leonardo Sciascia—a gripping and unconventional detective story that is also an anatomy of a society founded on secrets, lies, collusion, and violence.

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The Wine-Dark Sea (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

Leonardo Sciascia was an outstanding and controversial presence in twentieth-century Italian literary and intellectual life. Writing about his native Sicily and its culture of secrecy and suspicion, Sciascia matched sympathy with skepticism, unflinching intelligence with a streetfighter’s intransigent poise. Sciascia was particularly admired for his short stories, and The Wine-Dark Sea offers what he considered his best work in the genre: thirteen spare and trenchant miniatures that range in subject from village idiots to mafia dons, marital spats to American dreams. Here, in unforgettable form, Sciascia examines the contradictions—sometimes comic, sometimes deadly, and sometimes both—of Sicily’s turbulent history and day-to-day life.

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The Moro Affair (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

On March 16, 1978 Aldo Moro, a former Prime Minister of Italy, was ambushed in Rome. Within three minutes the gang killed his escort and bundled Moro into one of three getaway cars. An hour later the terrorist group the Red Brigades announced that Moro was in their hands; on March 18 they said he would be tried in a “people’s court of justice.” Seven weeks later Moro’s body was discovered in the trunk of a car parked in the crowded center of Rome.

The Moro Affair presents a chilling picture of how a secretive government and a ruthless terrorist faction help to keep each other in business.

Also included in this book is “The Mystery of Majorana,” Sciascia’s fascinating investigation of the disappearance of a major Italian physicist during Mussolini’s regime.


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Equal Danger (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)

District Attorney Varga is shot dead. Then Judge Sanza is killed. Then Judge Azar. Are these random murders, or part of a conspiracy? Inspector Rogas thinks he might know, but as soon as he makes progress he is transferred and encouraged to pin the crimes on the Left. And yet how committed are the cynical, fashionable, comfortable revolutionaries to revolution—or anything? Who is doing what to whom?

Equal Danger is set in an imaginary country, one that seems all too real. It is the most extreme—and gripping—depiction of the politics of paranoia by Leonardo Sciascia, master of the metaphysical detective novel.


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The Council of Egypt (Paperback)

Abbot Vella is a schemer who sets out to exploit the Sicilian aristocracy by making reference to a fictitious ancient Arabic chronicle that enhances the rights of some families and justifies the claim of Naples over the island community.

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Sicilian Uncles (Paperback)


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Open Doors and Three Novellas (Paperback)

“A miniature masterpiece [by] one of the most distinctive voices in 20th-century European literature.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
From one of modern Italy’s greatest writers come four flawless novellas that combine history and fiction while mapping the treacherous relations between individuals and the state. Whether set amid the paranoia of the fascist past or the criminal and political labyrinths of present-day Italy, the novellas in Open Doors are thrillers of Kafkaesque moral gravity, beautifully written and relentlessly engrossing.
 
“During the last quarter century, Sciascia has made of his curious Sicilian experience a literature that is not quite like anything else ever done by a European.”—Gore Vidal
 
“Sciascia has claimed a niche in the critical pantheon comparable to [that of] Pirandello and Borges.”—Washington Post Book World
 
“Combining fiction, historical meditation, philosophy and intellectual detective work . . . these novels [are] a poignant gleam of the elusive gold standard in literature.”—Newsday
 
“Our century’s most brilliant writer-detective.”—Village Voice

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One way or another (Hardcover)


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A Simple Story (Hesperus Modern Voices) (Paperback)

The first translation into English of the acclaimed mystery-writer’s final detective novel serves as the perfect introduction to an important Italian writer. Published just before his death, this novel refines and condenses Sciascia’s analysis of the mafia and the crucial part it plays in Sicily’s political system. In a small Sicilian village, a young and inexperienced policeman receives a strange phone call from a retired diplomat. On investigating the matter, he finds the diplomat dead. What at first appears to be a simple case of suicide turns into an intricate tale of corruption that involves the Mafia, the head of police, and the entire Sicilian establishment. Sciascia’s novella Candido is also included.

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