Fortunes of the firefly: Sciascia's art of detection

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Ania, GF
  • Publisher: University Texts / Troubador
  • Subject: DG | PN | mem_text_and_place

Two of the principal features of Leonardo Sciascia’s works are the treatment of historical events and the adoption of the techniques of the detective novel. It is the latter characteristic which is the object of this study, for which I shall examine in particular the five novels, Il giorno della civetta, 1961 (The Day Of The Owl), A ciascuno il suo, 1966 (To Each His Own), Il contesto, 1971 (Equal Danger), Todo modo, 1974 (One Way Or Another), and Il cavaliere e la morte, 1988 (The Knight and Death), and the short story, Sciascia’s final ‘giallo’ (detective story), Una storia semplice, 1989 (A Straightforward Tale).
  • References (7)

    Ambroise, Introduction to L. Sciascia, Opere 1984-1989, p.XXV-XXVI.

    See Giovanna Jackson, Leonardo Sciascia: 1956-1976: A Thematic and Structural Study (Ravenna: Longo, 1981), pp.9-10.

    Claude Ambroise, 'Sciascia e il giallo', in Antonio Motta, Leonardo Sciascia: La verità, l'aspra verità (Manduria-Bari-Rome: Piero Lacaita, 1985), p.233.

    21 In his 'Appunti sul “giallo”', Nuova Corrente, no. 1. June 1954, p.23, Sciascia acknowledges the presence of 'spunti polizieschi' [detective traits] far earlier, as in Aesop's fable of the sly fox following and correctly interpreting a trail of prints leading to the lion's den (see also his quotation from Montaigne on the frontispiece to Il contesto: “Bisogna fare come gli animali che cancellano ogni traccia davanti alla lora tana” [“One must do as the animals do, who erase every footprint in front of their lair”]), although Sciascia accepts that seeking such examples is “un'indagine più brillante che utile” [“an investigation which incites admiration rather than serving a useful purpose”]. Others too have suggested earlier origins, such as the Bible, Aristotle, or Sophocles. For a history of early detective fiction, see Howard Haycraft, Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective Story (London: Peter Davies, 1942).

    See his article, 'Letteratura del “giallo”', Zibaldone, Letteratura, 3 (1953), 65-66.

    23 'Breve storia del romanzo poliziesco' in L. Sciascia, Cruciverba, p.217. For a most informative interpretation of the detective genre, see Peter Hühn, 'The Detective as Reader: Narrativity and Reading Concepts in Detective Fiction', Modern Fiction Studies, 33, 3 (autumn 1987), 451-66.

    S. H. Steinberg, ed., Encyclopaedia of World Literature (London: Cassell, 1973), p.163.

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