Leonardo Sciascia

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Leonardo Sciascia (SHAH-shah) was a prolific writer whose works in a wide variety of literary forms are unified by a passion for justice, an Enlightenment devotion to reason, and an obsession with Sicily and its violent history. Sciascia published poetry (La Sicilia, il suo cuore, 1952), drama (L’onorevole, pb. 1965), and short stories (Gli zii di Sicilia, 1958 [Sicilian Uncles, 1986]; Il mare colore del vino, 1973, including work by others [The Wine-Dark Sea, 1985]) in addition to his novels, but he was particularly productive as a writer of nonfiction. The concerns of his novels, most of which adopt the form of the mystery or detective novel and are based on real incidents, are reflected in his accounts of true crime, La scomparsa di Majorana (1975; The Mystery of Majorana, 1987), I pugnalatori (1976), and L’affaire Moro (1978; The Moro Affair, 1987).

Among Sciascia’s many other books are several works dealing with Sicilian history, two studies of his fellow Sicilian Luigi Pirandello, and several collections of essays and miscellaneous prose, including Le parrocchie di Regalpetra (1956; Salt in the Wound, 1969), La corda pazza (1970), and Cruciverba (1983).


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Leonardo Sciascia is widely acknowledged as one of the major voices of postwar Italian literature, a gifted novelist, essayist, playwright, and social critic and the preeminent contemporary chronicler of his native Sicily. His novels combine a sophisticated awareness of literary form—like many postmodern novelists, he appropriates and often parodies the conventions of the mystery genre—with an aroused social conscience. His novels, neither affectedly literary and self-referential nor clumsily didactic, resemble the most accomplished fictions of Voltaire and Denis Diderot, with their blend of philosophical inquiry, social indignation, and playful wit.

Among the many literary honors awarded to Sciascia are the Premio Crotone, the Premio Libera Stampa Lugano, and the Premio Prato.


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Cannon, JoAnn. The Novel as Investigation: Leonardo Sciascia, Dacia Maraini, and Antonio Tabucchi. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2006. Cannon examines detective novels by Sciascia and two other writers whose works denounce social ills in late twentieth century Italy. Cannon focuses her discussion on Sciascia’s Open Doors and The Knight and Death, examining how these works condemn the death penalty and abuses of power.

_______. Postmodern Italian Fiction: The Crisis of Reason in Calvino, Eco, Sciasca, Malerba. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989. Cannon devotes one of the four essays in her book to an analysis of Sciascia’s postmodern novels, placing these works within the social and intellectual context of post-World War II Italy.

Farrell, Joseph. Leonardo Sciascia. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 1995. The first critical study of Sciascia. Farrell examines the man, the writer, and the politician, treating both his detective fiction and his historical novels.

Glynn, Ruth. “Il Consiglio d’Egitto, Leonardo Sciascia.” In Contesting the Monument: The Anti-Illusionist Italian Historical Novel. Leeds, England: Northern Universities Press, 2005. Glynn analyzes The Council of Egypt and novels by other writers in her examination of the historical novel, which was popular in Italy from the mid-1960’s through the early 1990’s.

Jackson, Giovanna. Leonardo Sciascia, 1956-1976: A Thematic and Structural Study. Ravenna, Italy: Longo Editore, 1981. Jackson provides a comprehensive study of Sciascia’s work completed between 1956 and 1976.

“Leonardo Sciascia.” In Dictionary of Italian Literature, edited by Peter Bondanella and Julia Conaway Bondanella. Rev. ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. The entry on Sciascia in this collection on Italian literature examines his life and works.

Wren-Owens, Elizabeth. Postmodern Ethics: The Re-Appropriation of Committed Writing in the Works of Antonio Tabucchi and Leonardo Sciascia, 1975-2005. Newcastle, England: Cambridge Scholars, 2007. Owens examines current debates about the role of the intellectual in Italian society by studying the works of the two authors. She argues that Sciascia uses his writings as a form of dialogue with society and a means of commenting on terrorism, justice, and other social issues.

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