With its citrus groves, seascape and vibrant, bright colours Sicily has always been either loved or hated by its writers but has never let them escape its grip.
Some have attempted to leave her behind, maybe just for a while, but she has left her stamp on all of their works.
There are so many intriguing contradictions to be found in this land full of beauty and misery, rooted in a complicated history of injustice and superstition; this land of ancient splendor and Greek tragedy, always at the margins of the great cultural, religious and social movements that have shaped Europe.
Using language both distant and realistic, they explored the inevitable flow of Sicilian history: the aristocracy in search of new riches after the unification of Italy in 1861 and the defeated and lonely peasant class and their “resigned humility”, presenting the raw, harsh facts with the simple words of the common people.
Such was the initial method used by Luigi Pirandello whose characters are filled with a growing sense of revolt, and who fight on behalf of all those who refuse to accept their given lot in life.
It is with bitter-sweet love towards his land that the writer creates, finding his own voice among these contradictions. Pirandello gives life to his characters, he judges them, talks to them, condemns them, laughs, satirizes, and on occasion, absolves them.
Vitaliano Brancati also describes the Sicilian bourgeoisie in an ironically grotesque manner: with their responsibility for the ascendance of fascism on the one hand and their characteristic machismo on the other.
Non ci vuole niente, sa, signora mia, non s’allarmi! Niente ci vuole a far la pazza, creda a me! Gliel’insegno io come si fa. Basta che Lei si metta a gridare in faccia a tutti la verità. Nessuno ci crede, e tutti la prendono per pazza!
Il berretto a sonagli, Luigi Pirandello
One of the most prolific writers of detective novels, Leonardo Sciascia described (in a unique style that Calvino called “a detective novel that isn’t a detective novel”) the intricate relationship between the power and feelings of mafiosi.
He dedicated his literature to the problems of Sicily and of his contemporaries, depicting people stifled in their aspirations but who nonetheless strive to overcome these obstacles and achieve social liberty.
A despondent fatalism pervades The Leopard the only work by Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. In the novel Sicily is destined to remain as it is, unable to change.
The failure of the Risorgimento acts as a metaphor for human affairs which are also destined for failure. The central theme of the novel isn’t the triumph of change but the futility of searching for meaning in life.
Sicilian writers remain trapped by the fascination and contrasts of their island like characters in a vibrant, colorful painting – obsessed or even possessed.
Those, who like Salvatore Quasimodo, tried to escape forever, were forever slaves to Sicily, destined to exist in an eternal state of exile.
Even Andrea Camilleri writes of his island from afar. Vigata, the city of Commissioner Montalbano, is not a real place and, as a fantasy, remains fully in this writing tradition: for these writers, Sicily lives only in their hearts.