The four novellas collected in Sicilian Uncles each tell a story in which larger events have concrete impacts upon the inhabitants of rural Sicily. So the arrival of allied forces in Italy at the end of the Second World War has nearly as much effect on the young narrator of the opening story as the arrival of his domineering emigre aunt, whose scheming puts to a halt his lucrative (but exploitative) business selling stolen cigarettes to his uncle. The second story, ‘The Death of Stalin’, charts the moral contortions that a loyal member of the Italian Communist party must put himself through in order to come to some acceptance of the great man’s crimes.
Later stories touch upon the Sicilian revolution of 1848 and the Spanish Civil War, and each deals with a moment of betrayal or disillusionment. Yet though the matters that the stories concern themselves with are often weighty, Sciascia’s strengths are his lightness of touch and the sympathy and humour with which he draws his characters. A superb collection in its own right and a fine introduction to the author’s work.