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    The salt pan area in Nubia, Trapani
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    Citrons and tangerins at the market in Catania
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    A corner of the 18th century village of Marzamemi, Syracuse
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    The stunning Scala dei Turchi near Realmonte, Agrigento
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    A colorful wall again in Marzamemi, Syracuse
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    Local folklore in the Medieval town of Gangi, Madonie area

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From the Realism period to nowadays


Only with Realism (about 1870), the Verismo, Sicilian literature experienced a new Golden Age.

Realism theorised and produced a fiction that was particularly attentive to human and social problems. Its major exponents were Luigi Capuana and Giovanni Verga.

Though Capuana was Realism’s principal theorist, the most prestigious was Verga authors of masterpieces such as Storia di una capinera, Novelle rusticane, I Malavoglia and Mastro Don Gesualdo.

Till the early 20th C. realistic or bourgeois theatre was the most common form; it tended to reenact everyday life, especially where love was concerned. The best and liveliest works were in dialect, the first successful popular plays. Apart from Luigi Capuana, who was also a playwright, Nino Martoglio was a master of Sicilian dialect.

The world war set in motion changes that affected culture. Gothic theatre apperead in Italy. Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) is one of the greatest Sicilian playwrights of the period and though his style came close to Gothic theatre it eludes classification to the extent that one can describe it as pure Pirandellian theatre. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934. With implacable clarity he treats and analyses the existential problems arising from duality and the life-form conflict. Pirandello’s characters are personae driven by obsessive doubts, unsolved and unsolvable problems, prisoners of appearances that overlap reality, suffocated by masks (Pirandello in fact called his collection of plays Maschere nude or naked masks). His enormous and varied output includes the novels, a collection of numerous short stories and Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore, probably Pirandello’s most original work, a compendium of all the problems of his theatre.

In the wake of Verga and Pirandello, Sicilian literature remained concerned with social and moral questions, interested more in content than form, quick to document and often make an outcry. Although regional words were far more commonly used in prose, in verse the poets used a vocabulary that was much closer to Italian, aiming at the delivery of universal themes.

There is no question that Sicily, after the realists and Pirandello, remained a land of great writers. Sensitive to Hermetism, which gradually tended to soften also as a result of contact with Greek poetry, Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968) dedicated his early poems to the contemplation of Nature at the turn of the season, to childhood memories and his beloved homeland which he transfigured in vast images of myth. In his second phase, the poet wrote about wider historic and social themes treating the contemporary dramas of war and the Resistance movement, as well as man’s eternal dilemmas: love, sorrow, solitude and the meaning of existance. Beautiful verses are those in the collection Ed è subito sera, some are very short, clearly musical, where the words are almost split into syllables. With sensitivity and accuracy Quasimodo translated Shakespeare and Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet, as well as Greek and Latin lyrics. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959.

Early information about Giuseppe Tomasi, Duke of Palma and Prince of Lampedusa (1896-1957) is to be found in the preface to his novel Il Gattopardo (” The Leopard “), published posthumously in 1958.
Il Gattopardo is set in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies at the time of the “Mille” landing. It was immensely successful both with critics and the public, and for the first time ever in Italy over 100.000 copies were sold Luchino Visconti, the film director, made a famous film from it.

Leonardo Sciascia (1921-1989), another important Sicilian writer, deeply attached to and rooted in his own land, is a writer motivated by civic and political commitment. A keen and clear-headed observer, he makes Sicily the main theme of political as well as literary activity being a member of the Italian and European Parliaments and his works are courageous acts of accusation. His most known works include Il giorno della civetta, A ciascuno il suo, Il contesto and Il cavaliere e la morte.
In each book Sciascia analyses and describes real life and its endemic ills: he discusses the causes and tries to explain the reason for this unchanged and unchangeable “way of life “.

A mention must also be made to the “newcomers” to of the literary scene. Newcomer in the sense of recent and tardy discovery of his highly successful unpublished work, La diceria dell’untore. Gesualdo Bufalino’s (1920-1996) best work is, however, certainly Le menzogne della notte which won him the prestigious Strega Prize in 1988: a metaphor of life in the story told by four condemned men who, in a Bourbon stronghold, tell each other before execution about the most memorable event of their lives, the one “that can lend sense to their fate”.

Vincenzo Consolo (1933-) is a writer with a great rigour of style. His Il sorriso dell’ignoto marinaio was one of the finest novels of the Seventies and one of his best works in which language and political commitment are fused in a unicum the like of which is rarely found.

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