Open Doors and Three Novellas Essay - Critical Essays

Leonardo Sciascia

Open Doors and Three Novellas

When Leonardo Sciascia died in 1989 at the age sixty-eight, his reputation among English-speaking readers was largely based on his idiosyncratic detective fiction. In his native Italy and throughout Europe, however, he was highly esteemed for a broad range of literary activities, from journalism to essays to a wide variety of short fiction and novels, including the form he invented, known as the “investigative story.”

Of the four stories collected here, “Death and the Knight” and “A Straightforward Tale” show Sciascia’s approach to detective fiction, in which mysteries are to be experienced rather than solved. The sense of mystery is more than usually complicated by the moral and intellectual sophistication of the investigating officers.

The volume’s other two stories provide intriguing and substantial variations on Sciascia’s interest in crime. Both take a celebrated murder case as a means of meditating on the nature of Italian society at a particularly revealing moment—the Fascist era, in the case of the title story, and the period immediately before World War I in “1912 + 1,” a fine example of the “investigative story.” In both of these stories, the crimes in question indicate how complex and fragile is the moral fabric of society, particularly at moments of apparent uniformity and strength. Like all of Sciascia’s work, the stories in OPEN DOORS AND THREE NOVELLAS are notable for their psychological subtlety, meditative tone, and high-powered intellectual allusions. The best of them—“1912 + 1” and the title story—will repay the patient, attentive reader.

Sources for Further Study

Boston Globe. August 9, 1992, p. 37.

The Christian Science Monitor. September 1, 1992, p. 13.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, August 30, 1992, p. 10.

The Village Voice. September 22, 1992, p. 68.

The Washington Post Book World. XXII, November 8, 1992, p. 7.