Two of the finest works of post-war Sicilian fiction were published in Italy in 1958: Giuseppe di Lampedusa's novel The Leopard and Leonardo Sciascia's Sicilian Uncles, a collection of three (in subsequent editions four) stories dealing with themes from Sicily's history and experience of foreign intervention which had also interested Lampedusa.[*] Sciascia, however, did not see any connection between the two books. In a review of Lampedusa's novel he accused the dead prince of having had a 'congenital and sublime indifference' towards the peasants and of sharing his protagonist's view of them as ants. Unlike Verga, who could not finish La Duchessa di Leyra because he was unable to manage aristocratic dialogue, Lampedusa could not make the poor talk because he knew nothing about them. Even worse, he understood little about Sicilian history. It was absurd, according to Sciascia, for Lampedusa's Don Fabrizio to talk about Sicilians in the days of the 'Muslim imams' as if their character had hardly changed over the subsequent millennium - a perfectly reasonable point, though one that came oddly from Sciascia, who in a contemporary essay on Pirandello was writing: 'Undoubtedly the inhabitants of the island of Sicily began to behave like Sicilians after the Arab conquest.'
LRB 1 October 1987 | PDF Download