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The Day of the Owl Paperback – 26 Apr 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (26 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862074186
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862074187
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Brief, haunting and unforgettable’ -- Sunday Tribune

‘Granta Books are to be congratulated on making available again in English one of Europe’s most challenging twentieth-century writers’ -- TLS

‘His prose is crisp... He writes with an unerring precision and can penetrate the heart of the matter immediately’ -- Herald

‘The undercurrents of human behaviour have rarely been explored with such intelligence’ -- Crime Time

‘This slender novel exemplifies crime-writing at its most sophisticated and polished’ -- Daily Mail

About the Author

Leonardo Sciascia was born in Sicily in 1912 and died there in 1989. Like Joseph Roth, Sciascia worked with deceptively simple forms - books about crime, historical novels, political thrillers - and was a master of lucid and accessible prose. This polished surface conceals great depths of sophistication and an intense engagement with the moral and historical problems of modern Italy, especially of his native Sicily. His books are rooted in a particular culture; they speak to anyone who has ever wondered how people can endure unbearable injustice.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By ormt2@cam.ac.uk on 23 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
Sciascia is one of those Sicilians who don't like pleasing themselves. His prose is crisp and precise, direct as some glances Sicilian people give are. He does not want to talk about Sicily justifying its people; he has never intended to deny the presence and the influence of mafia, reducing Sicily to an island of dream, where nothing else matters but the sea, the memories of Greek gods and its beautiful women.
On the contrary, Sciascia has wanted -since his beginnings- to stand on the difficult side of the story. That is, the side of those who describe Sicily with the love of sons and still find some pride and honesty for accusing its people.
The Day of the Owl is a book of this latter category. Written during the sixties, it describes the situation of poverty and conspirancy of silence of a small fictional village. When a man is misteriously murdered, the young police captain just come from the north has to struggle against the barrier of fear, silence and ignorance that has led to the brutal act, learning at his expenses the secret laws that rule this land.
Far from being a black-or-white account of Sicily, the book investigates- with its open end that can sometimes leave the reader unsatisfied- the interaction between evil and good in Sicilian society. Perhaps the topic moment of the story is when the policeman interviews the local mafia boss- and gets a lesson on Sicilian life and on the division between 'galantuomini' (good men, sirs) and quaquaraqua' (stupid useless men).
This is not a book for those who want to get an easy account of mafia as a criminal association. Rather, it is a sensitive and accurately balanced analysis of feelings and moods in the Sicilian society of the sixties.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth J. Blackie on 13 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
Leonardo Sciascia uses the mafia killing of a local building contractor as a vehicle on which to describe the ills that, at that time (1961), pervaded Sicily and were creeping ever northwards up the Italian peninsular. "this palm tree line, this strong black coffee line, this scandal line, rising up through Italy and already passed Rome".
Captain Bellodi finds that his investigation is not only hampered by lack of evidence or witnesses, but is being actively impeded by corrupt government influences working in conjunction with those that it should be opposing.
Here he finds no witnesses only fear. Here he finds no truth only lies. Here he finds no hope only despair.
Wonderfully written, as all his detective novels are, it offers no conclusion, it merely states the facts and allows the reader to make their own judgements.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
Leonard Sciascia's Sicily is a dark place, even while it basks under a hot noonday sun. In "The Day of the Owl", Sciascia's native Sicily (he was born in Racalmuto, Sicily in 1921) is a place where there is crime but no punishment, at least no official punishment. Sciascia's Sicily is a place where the code of silence trumps the penal code and where crimes are seen by all and witnessed by none. In Sciascia's Sicily the mafia enjoys such a symbiotic relationship with the local and federal power elite that they are effectively an independent if unacknowledged branch of government. This is not fertile ground for a detective investigating a murder but very fertile ground for a writer such as Sciascia.

"Day of the Owl" opens with a murder. A local building contractor is shot down with a sawn-off shotgun as he runs for a bus on Saturday morning. Captain Bellodi, recently arrived from the mainland, is assigned the case. Since a sawn-off shotgun is the typical instrument of mafia-ordered murders Bellodi's inclination is to look for an organized crime link. It doesn't take long for Bellodi to figure out the motive behind the murder, the identity of the murderer, and the identity of the man who ordered the murder. But knowledge alone does not equate to evidence and as the story progresses we see Bellodi painstakingly and diligently obtain the evidence necessary to indict the perpetrators. Bellodi's task is not an easy one. In addition to the wall of silence that meets him as he begins his investigation, his status as a fair-haired mainlander marks him as even more of an outsider.

Sciascia takes a multi-layered approach to telling his story. His narrative of the crime and investigation is straightforward, terse, and engaging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 100 REVIEWER on 29 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sicily in the mid-20th century and an honest man is gunned down in the street in plain view of dozens of witnesses - but no one saw a thing. Such is the extent of the fear the mafia exerts over everyone - except to outsiders. Captain Bellodi is assigned this frustrating case and quickly realises that everyone covers for everyone else for fear of being next on the list of the Mafiosi. Until a lucky break will lead him to head of the crime family... but will he survive the consequences?

Leonardo Sciasca does a decent job of establishing an atmosphere of claustrophobia to this lovely rural landscape cut through with bullets and blood but when the book becomes a police procedural, the writing and story become a bit dry. The main character Bellodi spends most of his time trying to incriminate the criminals against each other in interrogation rooms and it's a lot of "he said this, he said that" kind of stuff. If you're a big crime fiction fan maybe you'll enjoy it but chances are it's not nearly as sophisticated as the kind of interrogation techniques used today.

It was interesting to see that people of this time weren't aware of the mafia on any large scale and that many in government questioned its existence. Even when the book came out in 1961 I don't think people were aware of the mafia like people today are. The dialogue is the best feature of the book, Sciasca's writing is at its best when the dialogue between characters is the central focus. Other than that, there wasn't much to the story and it expects in much the way you would imagine it would. One annoying aspect was the inclusion of so many Italian words. Why translate the vast majority of them into English and then leave others behind for the reader to guess what it means? Strange choice.
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