Sicily is the myth island… Here Ulysses, Homer’s epic hero, was drawn by the mermaids singing while his long journey back home.

This island has always exerted a strong magnetism, maybe due to its triangular shape or because of its position in the hub  of the Mediterranean sea. Probably  what appeal most   is a wide variety of landscapes  found, from  valleys to hills, from shores to mountains,  to the abrupt and  vigorous nature of volcanoes,  hellish and heavenly at the same time.

Its three sides face almost all the emerging continents:   Africa, Asia and Europe. In Sicily nobody has passed by without leaving sign of his passage, even genetically! That’s why the Sicilian does not have  its own classifieable features: dark, oriental, Arab, or blonde, tall with green eyes and red hair.

So the literature, so varied and multiple,  Literature is various, numerous, lengthy, and Baroque,  it cannot be called “Sicilian” but European; dry and vigorous like described  in one of its fathers’ prose, Giovanni Verga,  the disputed writer between Vizzini,  where it is supposed he was born, which recurs in his works and his pictures, and Catania, where his birth was officialy registered and where the house of his stay is.

The great writer, father of the Verismo, reinvented the Italian language with a taste of dialect, a language that inspires, lives, delights and suffers with the characters of his several works. The novels Mastro Don Gesualdo , turned into a great italian fiction by the director Giacomo Vaccari, I Malavoglia, transposed by Luchino Visconti into La terra trema, set in the village of Acitrezza, as well as  the Cavalleria Rusticana, played by the great Mascagni, which  introduce Verga and the opera to the whole world, are the works that best represent his Sicily.

All the great Sicilian writers are unconceivable without their poetic universe made of sets and places.  This happens for Luigi Capuana as well, a writer from Mineo, small Village in Catania area, great giant of literature and a very productive author with several interests, from literature to local tradition, to fairy tales, until the emerging art of photography, a passion shared with Verga, who was bounded to with a fond friendship and common ideals.

Verga, Capuana and Federico De Roberto, , created the Verismo , which borrows, for some ways, some themes of the french naturalism.  De Roberto makes a detailed description of Catania in his novel “I Vicerè“, and the kind of style carried out, with a particular referring to the Monastero dei Benedettini on one hand, and to the big family of the Uzeda Princes on the other. A choral novel, a saga composed of three great novels.

Who born in Sicily seems to suffer from a thinking and writing incontinence, which, connected to a historic pessimistic  and melancholy,  makes this people disillusioned and resistant to change but curious and leaky about  novelties carried out by the winds! Càlati iuncu ca passa la china! (Lean over, little cane, as the river is flooding!)

Drawing a rich geo-literary map of Sicily, tracing an itinerary of writers, it is like outlining a Baroque plot.

For example, the writer Vitaliano Brancati  born in Pachino, near Syracuse. He was much from Catania, for his literature studying and living, father of  the saga gallismo, he used to make fun, through a farce caricatural the supermanhood of the fascism hero, cloaking him in the Sicilian playful habit.

From Capo Passero let’s move to Capo Peloro: in Alì Terme, close by Messina, the city from the golden dock to the sailors reaching its coasts, Stefano d’Arrigo was born, writer of the Horcynus Orca, a detailed portrait about Sicilian fishermen’s hard life.

Remaining in Messina, in Roccalumera, we find the life places of Salvatore Quasimodo, representative poet of the European Hermetism, which tells, in his verses, about the themes of existential loneliness and the exile from the birth land, where the island becomes the embleme of the lost happiness.

In  a sleepy and royal  Palermo, the capital of the island,  we find out its own universe: Muslim, Federico  II , Spain viceroyalty cosmopolitan, anarchic and contradictory,  stunning of beauty and ancient of opulence, so that many noble families wanted to live there.

Within those families, the one of Don Giuseppe Tomasi, duke, prince, baron  of few feuds, and even grand of Spain, represents almost a symbol: his Gattopardo, famous thanks to the film version of Luchino Visconti, tells about the stories of the Prince of Salina during the Garibaldi’s armed forces.

Beautiful European libraries have been available in Sicily for many years; indeed, its literature has never been provincial neither wrote by the so-called minor authors.

Take for  example  Lucio Piccolo,  Baron of Calanovella and one of Tomasi’s cousins. He was a almost clandestine poeT, living anonymously; but his poetic cosmos, even he spent his between Palermo and Capo D’orlando, over a hill overlooking Capo Tindari and Cefalu’, to the two poles at the horizon, he kept strong European roots.  This is evidenced by the intense correspondence he had with the Irish poet Yeats,  whom he shared his esoteric inclination with.

We are still in Palermo, and we cannot miss to talk about the prolific Luigi Natoli, writer and historian and  one of his most famous novel: I Beati Paoli. The story, set between 1698 and 1719, is an attempt to track down and explain the origin of Sicilian society problems and peculiarities. I Beati Paoli is a secret club  that defends the weaks and those oppressed by the nobles dominance and harrasment. It is   “the novel”  par excellence, of Palermo, the sumptuous city, full of contradictions, of dangers and luxuries, of ravines and tunnels, full of “qanat”, a work of hydraulic engineering built beneath the city during the Arab domination. And through the qanat, still opened to visitors, the famous secret club would move and act quietly.

We need to talk about Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, born in Polizzi Generosa, but taken up by Palermo, creator of Rubè, an extremely  fragile character and post D’annunzio anti hero par excellence, in a social balancing during the literary realism.

Luigi Pirandello is a literary giant lying in a beautiful place of the Sicilian inland,   Valle dei Tempi in Agrigento.  Luigi Pirandello is such a big and versatile character that describing him in few lines is not possible. He wrote 250 novellas, theather plays which have characterized the Italian and European theatre  in the 900’s as Sei personaggi in cerca di autore. His novels characters as in Il fu Mattia Pascal and Uno, nessuno e centomila, are tragic masks with the feeling for the opposite and which can cause hilarity, but even a great sense of  melancholy. He won the premio nobel in 1934.

In the inner part of Sicily a must to talk about Leonardo Sciascia, from Racalmuto   He was an author with great consciousness and civic awareness. His shrewd works of charge, not even that implied, in Todo Modo and Il giorno della Civetta, are part of the literary and cinematographic  imaginary and the one created, nowadays, the prolific and famous Andrea Camilleri.

He is famous for the exaltation of Sicilian dialect, the environments, and the characters  painting something out of the time, but within  a defined space thanks to the filmic transposing, as in his most famous character Commissario Montalbano.

An almost geographical original novel is Conversazione in Sicilia, by Elio Vittorini,  born in Siracusa. It is about a train trip from the North to the South of Italy. He also describes in detail places and stations  seen between Messina and Siracusa. This literary device, besides to remind us the writer childhood, son of  a railway worker, often following his father during his trip by train  introduces the theme of travelling. For the writer, travelling is not only an opportunity to record r new impressions,  but it is  a means to restore a human dimension as much as the own identity,

Pier Maria Rosso from San Secondo was a journalist and playwright born in Caltanissetta. He chased his homeland myth, despite its inevitable escape towards the continent. His plays  characters are often marked with loneliness and  the conflict between passion and  rationality. Such feelings are symbolically expressed in the comparison between the rational and gray life LED  in the North of Italy and the passional coloured  one,  and dreams in the South.

Our journey through the Sicilian writers could turn into a long rediscovering of suggestive romance atmosphere process. Let’s now think about Salvatore Quasimodo from his  magnificent Modica, in Ragusa  province,)   where it is possible to visit hi s birth house and the so called stanza della poesia (poetry room), once seat of the calbrera county. The city is also the set In Argo il cieco, a love statement by Gesualdo Bufalino, despite is bond for the city of Comiso.

In a split applegranade shaped place, close to the sea, but countrified, half  set on a hill of rock, the other beneath it, with many staircases in between, like peacekeepers, and clouds in the sky from a belltower to another, breathless as king cavalleggeri  (…). the village was a theatre, a pink stoned downstage, a mirabilia feast, jasmine scented at night.

All sicilian writers, or most of them exiles from the island but always homesick and desperately in love with their island. Vincenzo Consolo, Bufalino and Sciascia’s friend, runs away from Sicily but ideally goes back to his land IN his work with a dreamy and bitter vision of it, like in Lunario, Retablo, L’olivo e l’olivastro. These are just some of his works.

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Tour of the Authors

Perhaps for him, as for the others, this island has a magic fluid: wheter you born or live even for a while there you can never really leave the  island.