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To Each His Own (New York Review Books Classics) [Paperback]

Leonardo Sciascia , W. S. De Piero , Adrienne Foulke
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov 2000 New York Review Books Classics
This letter is your death sentence. To avenge what you have done you will die. But what has Manno the pharmacist done? Nothing that he can think of. The next day he and his hunting companion are both dead.The police investigation is inconclusive. However, a modest high school teacher with a literary bent has noticed a clue that, he believes, will allow him to trace the killer. Patiently, methodically, he begins to untangle a web of erotic intrigue and political calculation. But the results of his amateur sleuthing are unexpected—and tragic. To Each His Own is one of the masterworks of the great Sicilian novelist Leonardo Sciascia—a gripping and unconventional detective story that is also an anatomy of a society founded on secrets, lies, collusion, and violence.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: New York Review of Books (Nov 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322523
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 12.9 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,633,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

LEONARDO SCIASCIA (1921-1989) was Sicilian by birth and vocation. Sicily is the fierce locality that focuses his work and, in a peculiarly pure form, exemplifies the political, social and spiritual tensions of a Europe modern only to a degree. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a murder mystery... 17 Aug 2001
By carew
Format:Paperback
Leonardo Sciascia was once a primary school teacher, trained as a lawyer, lover of literature, a political candidate, anti-mafia proponant and a true Scicilian. All these aspects of the writer of 'To Each His Own' shine through in this thought provoking take on the detective novel. He explores the complexities of the Scicilian mentality, embedded with a long history of mafia corruption to a point where complacency is common place and even mild curiosity proves dangerous. A double murder spurs a university lecturer to do a little amateur sleuthing for his own intellectual curiosity, yet his discoveries stir up all kinds of evil and temptation in a small, corrupt Scicilian town. Sciascia's character detail, original use of suspense and other elements of the detective genre - which he takes and discards at will - make for a haunting, fascinating, insightful read. The reality of mafia intrigue is powerfully evoked, the climax a devastating finale.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
The basic principles of right are: to live honorably, not to harm any other person, to render to each his own." Digest of the Emperor Justinian.

The Latin phrase "suum cuique tribuere" or "to each his own" is one of the three fundamental maxims of the law laid down by the Emperor Justinian. The peculiar interpretation of that phrase in Sciascia's native Sicily forms the emotional core of his brilliant "To Each His Own."

"To Each His Own" begins with a double-murder. A local pharmacist, Manno, receives a death threat in the mail, compiled with words and letters cut and pasted from a newspaper. The pharmacist laughs it off. He considers the letter to be a joke and although these threats are usually taken seriously in his town, Manno leads a blameless life and simply cannot believe anyone intends him harm. So he goes off hunting the next day with his friend Dr. Roscio and, without further ado, both Manno and Roscio are shot dead in the woods.

A police investigation follows but it is doomed to go nowhere. Sciascia paints a very explicit portrait of a society in which everyone knows (or suspects) everything but says nothing, certainly not to the local police. The general consensus (on the surface) seems to be that Manno was killed by a jealous husband and Roscio was an innocent bystander. The matter would have ended there but for the curious intercession of Professor Laurana. Laurana is a history and Italian teacher at the local liceo (high school). He walks into the pharmacy where the police are reading the anonymous letter and quickly spots a clue. The police dismiss his information out of hand. Laurana, however, driven by what appears to be no more than a desire to solve a puzzle, decides to follow up on the clue.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tone-up your mental muscles 10 Dec 2010
By Lost John TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In a small town in Sicily, a pharmacist receives an anonymous letter announcing his imminent death, "to avenge what you have done". He has nothing on his conscience and he and his friends conclude it must be a joke. Nevertheless, following a day shooting game, he and his companion fail to return home. A search finds them both dead, the pharmacist shot from behind, his friend - a doctor - from in front. One of the 11 dogs they had with them was also shot dead. The rest return to alert the town to the tragedy.

Apart from the letter, which was composed of words clipped from a newspaper pasted to form new sentences, the only clue seems to be the stub of a cigar, found at the murder site. Professor Laurana, a friend of both the pharmacist and the doctor, intrigued by some words seen on the back of the newspaper clippings, but failing to interest the investigating police marshal in them, sets out to do some sleuthing of his own. His investigations lead him, and us, to meet many fascinating personalities in a variety of interesting locations.

This is a highly literary detective novel, employing a vocabulary (ably brought to us by translator Adrienne Foulke) likely to flex parts of our own not exercised on a daily basis. Should we be so inclined, we can also follow-up some literary and artistic references with which we are unlikely to be wholly familiar. Leonardo Sciascia (pronounced Sash-arr), who took a notably jaundiced view of policemen, politicians, the church and other institutions in Italy, Sicily in particular, leads us to some interesting reflections on human nature, life and death. Highly recommended.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece of the genre 20 Aug 2002
By stackofbooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Set in a small town in Sicily, the novel "To Each His Own," starts with a death threat: "..." But the town pharmacist who receives the threat, Manno, is convinced he has done no wrong and dismisses the threat as a joke. The next day, he and his hunting companion, Dr. Roscio, are found dead. There are no obvious suspects and no obvious motives. After a perfunctory investigation by the town marshal, the local Professor Laurana takes up the case only to have it all end badly.
The author, Leonardo Sciascia, is widely considered a prominent Sicilian author, a master who pretty much invented the form of the "metaphysical mystery". This dazzling page-turner is ample evidence of the master's craft. The book (as are all of Sciascia's works) is also a social commentary on Sicily with its culture of secrets and violence. When the pharmacist and doctor are done in, there is hardly much of a stir in the local populace. The marshal comes down from the county seat to briefly investigate the "big headache", speculations are tossed around and life goes on. The silence and nonchalance are chilling.
The New York Review of Books recently reprinted "To Each His Own" under its "classics" issues (and what a great service that is!). I am eager to read the rest of the talented Sciascia's works. A word of caution--the edition published by the New York Review of Books has a wonderful introduction to the novel in the beginning. Save this for after you have read the book. While the introduction is good, it gives too much of the plot away!
The final word must belong to the absolutely haunting painting on the book cover. Called "Night in Velate" and rendered by the Italian painter, Renato Guttuso, the picture is the perfect choice for the dark, wonderful book.
If you look closely enough, you can almost see the evil lurking and doing its thing under the cover of a deceptively beautiful Sicilian night.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Justice is a steady and enduring will to render unto every one his right 6 Aug 2007
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The basic principles of right are: to live honorably, not to harm any other person, to render to each his own." Digest of the Emperor Justinian.

The Latin phrase "suum cuique tribuere" or "to each his own" is one of the three fundamental maxims of the law laid down by the Emperor Justinian. The peculiar interpretation of that phrase in Sciascia's native Sicily forms the emotional core of his brilliant "To Each His Own."

"To Each His Own" begins with a double-murder. A local pharmacist, Manno, receives a death threat in the mail, compiled with words and letters cut and pasted from a newspaper. The pharmacist laughs it off. He considers the letter to be a joke and although these threats are usually taken seriously in his town, Manno leads a blameless life and simply cannot believe anyone intends him harm. So he goes off hunting the next day with his friend Dr. Roscio and, without further ado, both Manno and Roscio are shot dead in the woods.

A police investigation follows but it is doomed to go nowhere. Sciascia paints a very explicit portrait of a society in which everyone knows (or suspects) everything but says nothing, certainly not to the local police. The general consensus (on the surface) seems to be that Manno was killed by a jealous husband and Roscio was an innocent bystander. The matter would have ended there but for the curious intercession of Professor Laurana. Laurana is a history and Italian teacher at the local liceo (high school). He walks into the pharmacy where the police are reading the anonymous letter and quickly spots a clue. The police dismiss his information out of hand. Laurana, however, driven by what appears to be no more than a desire to solve a puzzle, decides to follow up on the clue. In short order he seems to have solved the mystery. Laurana is oblivious to the fact that his musings on the crime pose more of a threat to the murderers than a typical local police investigation. Events play out to their natural conclusion, and in Sciascia's Sicily natural conclusions are not quite so neat and tidy as say in Agatha Christie's parlor room England.

The enjoyment to be found in reading "To Each His Own" is not the mystery itself. The fact of the matter is that, for Sciascia, solving a mystery doesn't require great insight. Rather, it simply requires a willingness to actually see that which is self-evident. As blind as Laurana may be to the danger he puts himself in, he can see well enough to understand why Manno and Roscio were murdered and who murdered them. Laurana's problem is not that he knows more than anyone else in town, Sciascia makes it clear that the actual events do not seem a surprise to anyone. No, Laurana's problem is that unlike everyone else in town, he doesn't bother to hide his knowledge.

Sciascia's writing is both precise and enjoyable. He seems to have a keen eye and affection for his native place, but that affection does not diminish, but likely enhances, the despair he feels for a culture in which silence is golden and in which "to each his own" does not bring to mind Roman traditions of equity but, rather, the critical importance of minding ones own business. "To Each His Own" is a cynical, but highly-entertaining piece or work.

Highly recommended. L. Fleisig
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime, Detection and Cultural Commentary on Sicily 8 Jan 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
W. S. Di Piero, in his introduction to Leonardo Sciascia's "To Each His Own," aptly comments that Sciascia "used storytelling as in instrument for investigating and attacking the ethos of a culture-the insular, mafia-saturated culture of Sicily-which he believed to be a metaphor for the world." He did this as a political journalist, as a short story writer (notably in his fine collection, "The Wine-Dark Sea," which I also have reviewed here at Amazon) and, perhaps most effectively, as a writer of a unique type of detective story, one in which the usual investigation and solution of a crime is occluded by the lie, the secret, the collusion, and the murder that seemingly pervade Sciasica's Sicily.
In "To Each His Own," a pharmacist receives a simple, threatening and anonymous letter: "This letter is your death sentence. To avenge what you have done, you will die." The threat is apparently soon carried out, for a few days later the pharmacist and a close friend, Dr. Roscio, are found murdered. The two men had been hunting and their pack of dogs returned to the town without the men, prompting much speculation and a typically Sciascian commentary on the Sicilian code of silence:
"The return of the dogs set the whole town to disputing for days and days (as will always happen when people discuss the nature of dogs) about the order of Creation, since it is not at all fair that dogs should lack the gift of speech. No account was taken, in the creator's defense, that even had they had the gift of speech, the dogs would, in the given circumstances, have become so many mutes both with regard to the identity of the murderers and in testifying before the marshal of the carabinieri."
From this point forward, "To Each His Own" narrates the personal investigation of the crime by Professor Laurana, a sexually repressed high school teacher who lives alone with his mother in the same house he has lived in all his life. Professor Laurana undertakes the investigation not because he really cares to bring the perpetrator to justice, but "rather like the man in a living room or club who hears one of those stupid puzzles volunteered by the fools who are always eager to propose and, what is worse, to solve them, and who knows that it is a futile game and a waste of time, yet who feels obliged to solve the problem, and doggedly sets about doing so."
Professor Laurana methodically follows the clues and, along the way, provides a narrative that illuminates the corruption, the secrecy, the complicity, and the silence that make any effort to bring a criminal to justice in Sicily "a futile game and a waste of time." It is a narrative sharply critical of every institution in society-the Government, the Police, the Church, the Family-and laden with commentary and erotically charged innuendo on the relationship between men and women in a patriarchal and overtly sexist, if not misogynistic, culture. "To Each His Own" is, ultimately, a tale that ends grimly for those who seek the truth, even as the perpetrators celebrate their crimes in Sciascia's cynical Sicilian world.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sciascia's Mystery Still Engaging 31 Jan 2001
By miriam dow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Leonardo Sciascia's To Each His Own (1968) is a complex and absorbing mystery with a political and social agenda. Admirers of Arturo Perez Reverte will find much to enjoy in this book and its combination of mystery and social/political criticism, which is not hammered home but is muted and emerges from the narrative. Most importantly, it's a very good read. Not a police procedural or conventional mystery in any way, To Each His Own focuses on character, principally on the character of Professor Laurana, and his growing interest in the murder mystery he slowly begins to unravel. A sexually repressed young man still living with his mother, he finds himself extremely vulnerable to the beautiful and shapely widow of one of the murdered men, a widow whom her too-short mourning clothes fit strangely. As usual in his work, Sciascia explores the heartless cynicism of a brutalized, corrupt society--one which he sees as a metaphor for the world.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Il ciascuno il suo 14 Nov 2006
By livingtowrite - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Having read "To Each His Own" (or rather, "Il ciascuno il suo") twice, once in Italian and once in English, I find that each time I found new interesting nuances.

Rich, ambiguous characters fill the novel and leaves one wondering who is considered intelligent and who is considered an idiot in Sicilian terms. It also leaves one wondering what exactly is the crime: the killer or the one that deems himself the investigator? Is it the one who deals in politics or the one breaking the law of "omerta"?The novel explores the mafiosi as an institution, as a family, what it is in the government, the church, the peasant village.

Sciascia's novel is a page-turner for both those who want an easy read detective thriller and also for those wanting to dig deeper into the story's message.
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