Leonardo Sciascia

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The Honourable
Leonardo Sciascia
File:Leonardo Sciascia.jpg
Member of the Italian Chamber
In office
20 June 1979 – 10 July 1983
Member of the European Parliament
for Southern Italy
In office
10 June 1979 – 16 June 1984
Personal details
Born (1921-01-08)8 January 1921
Racalmuto, Sicily, Kingdom of Italy
Died 20 November 1989(1989-11-20) (aged 68)
Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Nationality Italian
Political party Italian Communist Party
Radical Party[1]
Spouse(s) Maria Andronico (m. 1944–89); his death
Children Laura,
Anna Maria
Parents Pasquale Sciascia and Genoveffa Martorelli
Residence Palermo, Sicily
Profession Writer, novelist, journalist, political activist
Religion Deism[2]

Leonardo Sciascia (Italian pronunciation: [leoˈnardo ʃˈʃaʃʃa]; January 8, 1921 – November 20, 1989) was an Italian writer, novelist, essayist, playwright and politician. Some of his works have been made into films, including Open Doors (1990) and Il giorno della civetta (1968).


Sciascia was born in Racalmuto, Sicily. In 1935 his family moved to Caltanissetta; here Sciascia studied under Vitaliano Brancati, who would become his model in writing and introduce him to French novelists. From Giuseppe Granata, future Communist member of the Italian Senate, he learned about the French Enlightenment and American literature. In 1944 he married Maria Andronico, an elementary school teacher in Racalmuto. In 1948 his brother committed suicide, an event which had a profound impact on Sciascia.

Sciascia's first work, Favole della dittatura (“Fables of the Dictatorship”), a satire on fascism, was published in 1950 and included 27 short poems.[3] This was followed in 1952 by La Sicilia, il suo cuore, also a poetry collection, illustrated by Emilio Greco. The following year Sciascia won the Premio Pirandello, awarded by the Sicilian Region, for his essay "Pirandello e il pirandellismo."

In 1954 he began collaborating with literature and ethnology magazines published by Salvatore Sciascia in Caltanissetta. In 1956 he published Le parrocchie di Regalpetra, an autobiographic novel inspired by his experience as an elementary school teacher in his home town. In the same year he moved to teach in Caltanissetta, only to move again to Rome in 1957. In the autumn of that year he published Gli zii di Sicilia, including sharp views about themes such as the influence of the US and of communism in the world, and the 19th century unification of Italy.

After one year in Rome, Sciascia moved back to Caltanissetta, in Sicily. In 1961 he published the mystery Il giorno della civetta (The Day of the Owl), one of his most famous novels, and in 1963, the historical novel Il consiglio d'Egitto (The Council of Egypt), set in 18th-century Palermo. After a series of essays, in 1965 he wrote the play L'onorevole (The Honorable), a denunciation of the complicities between government and mafia. Another political mystery novel is 1966's A ciascuno il suo (To Each His Own).

The following year Sciascia moved to Palermo. In 1969 he began a collaboration with Il Corriere della Sera. That same year he published the play Recitazione della controversia liparitana dedicata ad A.D., dedicated to Alexander Dubček. In 1971 Sciascia returned again to mystery with Il contesto (The Challenge), which inspired Francesco Rosi's movie Cadaveri eccellenti (1976). The novel created polemics due to its merciless portrait of Italian politics. Same was the fate of Todo modo, in this case due to its description of Italian Catholic clergy.

At the 1975 communal elections in Palermo, Sciascia ran as an independent within the Italian Communist Party (PCI) slate, and was elected to the city council. In the same year he published La scomparsa di Majorana, dealing with the mysterious disappearance of scientist Ettore Majorana. In 1977 he resigned from PCI, due to his opposition to any dealing with the Christian Democratic party. Later he would be elected to the Italian and European Parliament with the Radical Party.

Sciascia last works include the essay collection Cronachette (1985), the novels Porte aperte (1987) and Il cavaliere e la morte (1988). He died in June 1989 at Palermo.

Work summary

File:Leonardo Sciascia2.jpg
Sciascia as Member of the Chamber of Deputies, 1979.

A number of his books, such as The Day of the Owl (Il giorno della civetta) and Equal Danger (Il contesto), demonstrate how the Mafia manages to sustain itself in the face of the anomie inherent in Sicilian life. He presented a forensic analysis of the kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro, a prominent Christian Democrat, in his book The Moro Affair. Sciascia's work is intricate and displays a longing for justice while attempting to show how corrupt Italian society had become and remains. His linking of politicians, intrigue, and the Mafia gave him a high profile, which was very much at odds with his private self. This high profile resulted in his becoming widely disliked for his criticism of Giulio Andreotti, then Prime Minister, for his lack of action towards freeing Moro and answering the demands of the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades).

Sciascia was part of a House of Deputies investigation into Moro's kidnapping, which stated that there was a certain amount of negligence on the part of the Christian Democrat Party in their stance that the state was bigger than a person and that they would not swap Moro for 13 political prisoners, even though Moro himself had stated that the swapping of innocent people for political prisoners was a valid option in negotiations with terrorists. However, senior members of the party disagreed with this stance and were of the view that Moro had been drugged and tortured to utter these words.

Sciascia's books are rarely characterized by a happy end and by justice for the ordinary man. Prime examples of this are Equal Danger, in which the police's best detective is drafted to Sicily to investigate a spate of murders of judges. Focusing on the inability of authorities to handle such investigation into the corruptions, Sciascia's hero is finally thwarted.

Sciascia wrote of his unique Sicilian experience, linking families with political parties, the treachery of alliances and allegiances and the calling of favors that result in outcomes that are not for the benefit of society, but of those individuals who are in favor.

His 1984 opus Occhio di Capra is a collection of Sicilian sayings and proverbs gathered from the area around his native village, to which he was intensely attached throughout his life.


His tombstone in Racalmuto
  • Le favole della dittatura (1950)
  • La Sicilia, il suo cuore (1952)
  • Il fiore della poesia romanesca. Belli, Pascarella, Trilussa, Dell'Arco (1952)
  • Pirandello e il Pirandellismo (1953)
  • Le Parrocchie di Regalpetra (1st ed. 1956, 2nd augmented ed. 1963)
  • Sicilian Uncles (Gli zii di Sicilia, short stories, 1st ed. 1958, 2nd augmented ed. 1961)
  • The Day of the Owl (Il giorno della civetta, 1961)
  • Pirandello e la Sicilia (1961)
  • The Council of Egypt (Il consiglio d'Egitto, 1963)
  • Santo Marino (1963)
  • Morte dell'inquisitore (1964)
  • L'onorevole (1965)
  • Jaki (1965)
  • To Each His Own (A ciascuno il suo, 1966)
  • Racconti siciliani (1966)
  • Recitazione della controversia liparitana dedicata ad A.D. (1969)
  • La corda pazza (1970)
  • Atti relativi alla morte di Raymond Roussel (1971)
  • Equal Danger (Il contesto. Una parodia, 1971)
  • The Wine-Dark Sea (Il mare color del vino, 1973 - collected short stories)
  • Todo modo (1974)
  • The Mystery of Majorana[4] (La scomparsa di Majorana, 1975)
  • I pugnalatori (1976)
  • Candido, ovvero, un sogno fatto in Sicilia (1977)
  • The Moro Affair (L'affaire Moro, 1st ed. 1978, 2nd augmented et. 1983)
  • Dalle parti degli infedeli (1979)
  • Nero su nero (1979)
  • Il teatro della memoria (1981)
  • La sentenza memorabile (1982)
  • Cruciverba (1983)
  • Stendhal e la Sicilia (1984)
  • Occhio di capra (1st ed. 1984, 2nd augmented ed. 1990)
  • Cronachette (1985)
  • Per un ritratto dello scrittore da giovane (1985)
  • La strega e il capitano (1987)
  • 1912+1 (1987)
  • Open Doors (Porte aperte, 1987)
  • The Knight and Death (Il cavaliere e la morte, 1988)
  • Alfabeto pirandelliano (1989)
  • Fatti diversi di storia letteraria e civile (1989)
  • Una storia semplice (1989)
  • A futura memoria (se la memoria ha un futuro (1989)


In Italian on Sciascia's works

  • Leonardo Sciascia, a cura di Sebastiano Gesù, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania 1992
  • Narratori siciliani del secondo dopoguerra, a cura di Sarah Zappulla Muscarà, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania, 1990
  • Cadaveri eccellenti, a cura di Sebastiano Gesù, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania, 1992
  • V. Fascia, F. Izzo, A. Maori, La memoria di carta: Bibliografia delle opere di Leonardo Sciascia, Edizioni Otto/Novecento, Milano, 1998
  • V. Vecellio (a cura di), L'uomo solo: L'affaire Moro di Leonardo Sciascia, Edizioni La Vita Felice, Milano, 2002
  • V. Vecellio, Saremo perduti senza la verità, Edizioni La Vita Felice, Milano, 2003
  • G. Jackson, Nel labirinto di Sciascia, Edizioni La Vita Felice, Milano, 2004
  • L. Palazzolo Leonardo Sciascia deputato radicale 1979-1983, Kaos edizioni, 2004
  • L. Pogliaghi (a cura di), Giustizia come ossessione: forme della giustizia nella pagina di Leonardo Sciascia, Edizioni La Vita Felice, Milano, 2005
  • M. D'Alessandra e S. Salis (a cura di), Nero su giallo: Leonardo Sciascia eretico del genere poliziesco, Edizioni La Vita Felice, Milano, 2006
  • P. Milone, L'enciclopedia di Leonardo Sciascia: caos, ordine e caso : atti del 1○ ciclo di incontri (Roma, gennaio-aprile 2006), Quaderni Leonardo Sciascia, 11. Milano: La Vita Felice, 2007
  • R. Martinoni, Troppo poco pazzi: Leonardo Sciascia nella libera e laica Svizzera (Collana Sciascia scrittore europeo, I, in collaboration with Amici di Leonardo Sciascia) Leo S. Olschki editore, Firenze: Leo S. Olschki editore, 2011

In English on Sciascia's works

  • Giffuni, Cathe (Spring–Summer 1989). "A Bibliography of the Mystery Writings of Leonardo Sciascia". Clues: A Journal of Detection. 10.1: 75–87.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • L. Sciascia, M. Padovani, Sicily as Metaphor, Marlboro: Marlboro Press, 1994
  • J. Farrell, Leonardo Sciascia, Writers of Italy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1995
  • G. Ania, Fortunes of the Firefly: Sciascia's Art of Detection, Market Harborough: University Texts, 1996
  • R. Glynn, Contesting the Monument: The Anti-Illusionist Italian Historical Novel, Italian perspectives, 10. Leeds, England: Northern Universities Press, 2005
  • J. Cannon. The Novel As Investigation: Leonardo Sciascia, Dacia Maraini, and Antonio Tabucchi, Toronto Italian studies. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006


  1. Lanfranco Palazzolo (January 1, 2004). Leonardo Sciascia deputato radicale 1978-1983. Kaos.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Leonardo Guzzo (December 21, 2009). "Quello dell'ultimo Sciascia fu un "ateismo religioso"". line feed character in |title= at position 28 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Leonardo Sciascia, Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. The book focuses on the mysterious disappearance of Italian physicist Ettore Majorana. Sciascia summarizes the results of the investigations, examines the facts and the documents concerning Majorana and suggests a theory about the scientist's fate, rejecting the "suicide" hypothesis.

External links