The expression 'Sicilian uncle' has the same sense in Italian as 'Dutch uncle' does in English, but with sinister overtones of betrayal and inconstancy. The four novellas in Sicilian Uncles (1958) political thrillers of a kind - are the first fruits of Sciascia's maturity. In these stories, illusions about ideology and history are lost in mirth, in suffering, and innocence is abandoned. Each novella has its historical moment: the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Spanish Civil War, the death of Stalin, the 'events' of 1948. These occasions and their consequences are registered in the lives of Sciascia's wonderfully drawn characters. Each has voice, wit, and a private history which open out onto the wider circumstances of his time, and hint towards the later work of Sciascia.
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(198mm x 129mm x mm)
Publisher: Granta Books
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US Kirkus Review »
Four long stories, almost novellas, that accentuate Sciasia's political mordancy, an element that shows up in his Sicilian crime fiction as well. In "The American Aunt," a small Sicilian village family is all but controlled by a living-in-Brooklyn sister who writes stem letters filled with pro-Mussolini, then rabid anti-Communist sentiments during and right after the war. When she finally arrives for a visit, to top it all off. she swindles the poor relatives out of property (the allegory here is hardly faint). In "The Death of Stalin," a Sicilian true-believer, Calogero, must twist this way and that to keep up with his beloved "Uncle Joe" 's perverse caprices. "Forty-Eight" is a 19th-century historical vignette - the foul-up after the naming of the "two Ferdinands" as kings in 1848 and how it impacts a small village. And "Antimony" is the recounting of a Sicilian who'd gone to fight with Franco's Phalangist forces (Mussolini's ally) during the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately, only this last piece has some grit to it, some poetry. The rest seem like mere exercises from a writer of Stendhalian cynicism but stenographic impatience as well. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Leonardo Sciascia
Leonardo Sciascia was born in Sicily in 1912 and died there in 1989. Like Joseph Roth, Sciascia worked with deceptively simple forms - books about crime, historical novels, political thrillers - and was a master of lucid and accessible prose. This polished surface conceals great depths of sophistication and an intense engagement with the moral and historical problems of modern Italy, especially of his native Sicily. His books are rooted in a particular culture; they speak to anyone who has ever wondered how people can endure unbearable injustice.