Top Sicilian Literature and Stories About Sicily

Explore classic and contemporary stories from Sicily

View of the mountain village Calascibetta from Enna
View of the mountain village Calascibetta from Enna. Westend61

Sicilian literature has evolved in a curious way: nowhere has dialect been used as a literary language for such a long time and in such an uncompromising way as on this island. This is so much the case that it has given rise to two linguistically different parallel options -- often present in the same author with one form being written in Italian and the other in the Sicilian dialect.

If you’re interested in exploring the literature, here are some of the top suggestions.

Mary Taylor Simeti presents the recollections of Maria Grammatico's bleak upbringing in an austere convent orphanage. A renowned pastry cook and shopkeeper in Erice, Sicily, Grammatico continues to make the traditional pastries she learned as a girl in an orphanage run by nuns. At one time, convents all over Sicily were known for their special pastries. Now making the special marzipan creations and other cookies Grammatico sells is almost a lost art.

After learning that his father has abandoned his mother, a son returns to his roots and is reintroduced to the land and people of his past. Elio Vittorini was arrested and jailed by the fascists on account of this 1941 novel.

I Malavoglia, published in 1881, represents a pinnacle of realist style depicting a story of Sicilian fisherman. It adopts Sicilian syntax, cadences, peasant speech, and folk narrative.

04
of 10

Il Gattopardo (The Leopard)

Il Gattopardo is a classic of modern fiction. Set in the 1860s, The Leopard is the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, also an astronomer and a Sicilian prince, was 58 when he started to write The Leopard, though he had had the idea for it for 25 years. The author died at the age of 60, soon after finishing The Leopard, though he did live long enough to see it rejected as unpublishable.

Peter Robb, a native Australian, lived in Italy for more than 14 years and writes an entertaining expose of the place during those times. Having resided mostly in Palermo, he offers firsthand accounts of life that include goings-on with the Mafia. He also gives insight into events of the mid-1990s when seven-time Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti came to trial for corruption and murder.

06
of 10

Night's Lies

Four prisoners, who are condemned for plotting against the Bourbon king, spend the hours before their execution telling one another tales of love, war, vengeance, loyalty as each man decides if his life has had any meaning and to what, if anything, he owes his allegiance. It was written by Gesualdo Bufalino who became famous late in life, in 1981 at the age of 61, when his friend and celebrated writer Leonardo Sciascia discovered his talents.

07
of 10

On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal

On Persephone’s Island is an excellent journal by by Mary Taylor Simeti depicting the social life and customs of Sicily. Using the seasons as a guide, she takes the reader on a year-long visit, comparing and contrasting various aspects of daily life, especially holiday customs. Simeti also touches on the history of Sicily as well as politics geography, and horticulture.

08
of 10

Six Characters in Search of an Author (Sei Personaggi in Cerca D'Autore)

The most famous work of Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello was first published in 1925. The intellectual comedy contrasts illusion with reality by introducing six individuals to a bare stage occupied by actors in rehearsal. Proclaiming themselves the incomplete creations of an author’’s imagination, the six demand dialogue for the story of their lives. Pirandello won the Nobel Prize in 1934.

John Julius Norwich's The Normans in Sicily and Kingdom in the Sun are the well-researched story of the Normans' explosive entry into the south of Italy, dealing with their creation in Sicily of one of the most brilliant medieval European civilizations. It’s full of fascinating anecdotes and background to Sicily's glittering eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Leonardo Sciascia gives insight into the complicated world of Sicilian thinking and Mafia culture with this collection of his best short stories. The works offer a capsule history of Sicily, ranging through several hundred years and engaging the country's events from their exhilarating and terrible underside.

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Filippo, Michael San. "Top Sicilian Literature and Stories About Sicily." ThoughtCo, Dec. 20, 2016, thoughtco.com/top-sicilian-literature-and-stories-about-sicily-2011655. Filippo, Michael San. (2016, December 20). Top Sicilian Literature and Stories About Sicily. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-sicilian-literature-and-stories-about-sicily-2011655 Filippo, Michael San. "Top Sicilian Literature and Stories About Sicily." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-sicilian-literature-and-stories-about-sicily-2011655 (accessed November 22, 2017).