The expression 'Sicilian uncle' has the same sense in Italian as 'Dutch uncle' does in English, but with sinister overtones of betrayal and inconstancy. The four novellas in Sicilian Uncles, originally published in 1958, are political thrillers of a kind - the first fruits of Sciascia's maturity. In these stories, illusions about ideology and history are lost in mirth, suffering and abandoned innocence. Each novella has its historical moment: the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Spanish Civil War, the death of Stalin, the 'events' of 1848. These occasions and their consequences are registered in the lives of Sciascia's wonderfully drawn characters. Each has voice, wit and a private history which opens out onto the wider circumstances of his time.
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.