Sunday 8 May 2016

Candido or A Dream Dreamed in Sicily by Leonardo Sciascia becomes A Dream Dreamed in Inniscarra as the season of reading outdoors begins. Sicily is easily Italy and then slips out to be part of North Africa. Or Inniscarra.

Leonardo Sciascia is another Italian writer of the mid-twentieth century with a clean receding hairline.
Time was when you couldn't google an Italian writer's hairline. You could only read his books and peruse his name: Scia Scia.

Sciascia's Candido is facile and touching, clean-run and impervious. You don't feel for him but you feel for his trajectory, his will to truth, which looks like blindness or naiveté, idiocy in the old sense, silly in the old sense too: of the soul.

All this under a clean plain hairline. Of all the Italian writers I've read recently, Bassani is probably best on women (although that could be De Sica speaking). Sciascia is like Moravia: his forthrightness on housekeepers and whores is defensive and chilly.

But there are ideals. Candido wants to give away land in order that a hospital be built by the town gates. You do not give away land, says the gombeen man, that cuts out the swathe of intrigue and profit on which politics is built, Candido learns.

Reading about Sicily in Ireland is about right. Within the last half-century. Apart from fascism and communism. We're not talking Fine Fail and Fine Gael. We're talking Voltaire. Vol Taire. Flight silenced, as Mallarmé noticed.

'Then it was clear to him that perhaps he had indeed not known how to read many things, but others he had not understood precisely because he had understood them; that is, he had denied that Marx had meant to say and had said precisely what he had said.'

And: 'the very people who preferred to talk little, whose family and social life was made up of silences more than of words, loved long preachments and speakers who made themselves least understood. "My soul understands him", a little old woman said.'

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