Sebastiano Vassalli: Il cigno (The Swan)


The latest addition to my website is Sebastiano Vassalli‘s Il cigno (The Swan). This is Vassalli’s Mafia novel, for which he got some criticism, not least because he is a Northerner and was accused of not understanding Sicilian culture. It tells the story of a historical event – the murder of Emanuele Notarbartolo, carried out by and for the Mafia, as Emanuele Notarbartolo was planning to stop the Mafia controlling the Bank of Sicily. The story tells both of the half-hearted investigation and trial of the culprits as well as of the other activities of the Mafia at that time (late nineteenth/early twentieth century). Vassalli paints an entirely negative picture of the Mafia, as they are corrupt and vicious, exploiting the poor and weak. He also exposes the politicians who assist the Mafia for their own gain and many of the people of Sicily who, for obvious reasons, refuse to stand up to the Mafia. Indeed many of them deny the existence of the Mafia saying that it is a Northern invention. It is not a great book but still an interesting one, telling of a key event in Sicilian history and one that Vassalli clearly believes continues to have ramifications to this day.

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