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23 December 1999

Sciascia Exhibition "La Sicilia, il suo cuore" Opens at the University of Heidelberg on 13 January 2000

6 p.m. in the foyer of the Old University (University Square) – Sciascia best known for crime novels set in the milieu of the Sicilian Mafia – Exhibition previously shown in Rome, Milan, Paris, Grenoble, Salamanca and Madrid

"Name: Leonardo Sciascia. Profession: writer. Home: Sicily. Distinguishing features: intrepid and investigative; analyses power structures with the unremitting acuity of a sleuth." One could hardly find a terser, pithier, more accurate pen-portrait of Leonardo Sciascia than this mini-CV provided by Italy expert Peter Kammerer. The Sciascia exhibition La Sicilia, il suo cuore opens in the entrance hall of the Old University at 6 p.m. on 13 January 2000. Previously it was on show in Rome, Milan, Paris, Grenoble, Salamanca and Madrid.

Born in Racalmuto (Agrigento) in 1921, Sciascia was not only a best-selling author with a strikingly cohesive and unified body of work to his name but also a political force to be reckoned with. Elected to the Municipal Council of Palermo in 1975 as an Independent on the list of the (former) Communist Party of Italy, he represented Marco Panella's Partito Radicale in the Italian and European Parliament from 1979 to 1983.

A member of the Committee of Enquiry investigating the kidnapping and murder of the Secretary General of the Christian Democrat Party, Aldo Moro, he presented his conclusions on the case in book form in 1978, suggesting that Moro had been consciously sacrificed by members of his own party for reasons of political opportunism. The book caused a major stir at the time in Italy. Called the "Cassandra of Racalmuto" by French journalist Marcelle Padovani, Sciascia was a stalwart champion of justice, tolerance and good sense and soon attained the status of a moral authority in a country that has only really started coming to terms with its criminal past in the last few years.

Works filmed by famous directors like Damiano Damiani, Francesco Rosi, Elio Petri and Gianni Amelio

But it was as the author of numerous crime thrillers set in the Mafia milieu that Sciascia was best known. Many of them were made into films by such eminent directors as Damiano Damiani, Francesco Rosi, Elio Petri and Gianni Amelio. The menacing atmosphere of a ubiquitous system where church, state, politics and organised crime are inextricably intermeshed is communicated in masterly fashion in books like The Day of the Owl, To Each His Own, Death and the Knight, One Way or Another, Death of an Inquisitor and Open Doors, spare, starkly realistic stories about the orchestration of crime, intrigue and corruption, vested interests, the failure of human reason, the downfall of justice and the triumph of evil.

"Writers," Sciascia once said in an interview, "are always squaring up to reality. It's the unpleasant confrontation with reality that makes them write. Someone who's content with himself and the world is hardly going to spend his time sitting at a typewriter." Sciascia's works are a moral and literary settling of scores with a social order that has long since transcended the boundaries of Sicily and whose malignant presence looms as large as it ever did.

Alongside his social and political commitment, Sciascia was notable for his personal modesty and reticence. A former primary school teacher from a humble background, he spent a brief period working for Italy's Ministry of Education before in the early 60s the success of his first two books, the autobiographical Communities of Regalpetra and the Mafia novel The Day of the Owl prompted him to devote all his time first to writing and later also to politics. Sciascia died on 20 November 1989 after a severe illness. This year sees the 10th anniversary of his death.

In Italy a number of events have been organised in memory of Leonardo Sciascia, one of them being the exhibition La Sicilia, il suo cuore which will soon be coming to Heidelberg. The exhibition opens at 6 p.m. on 13 January 2000 in the entrance hall of the Old University. Among the guests present will be the Italian Consul-General, Dr. Bernardo Carloni. In collaboration with the Leonardo Sciascia Foundation (Racalmuto) and the Whitaker Foundation (Palermo) and at the joint initiative of the Italian Institute of Culture (Stuttgart) and Heidelberg's University Archives and Museum, Heidelberg will be the first port of call in Germany for this exhibition, which has already been shown in Rome, Milan, Paris, Grenoble, Salamanca, Madrid and elsewhere.

Following Luigi Pirandello, to whom the University of Heidelberg devoted an exhibition in 1986 (its 600th anniversary) to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, Leonardo Sciascia is the second major Sicilian writer to have been honoured in this way in Heidelberg. Alongside a presentation of the first editions of his many works and their translations (into German, French, Spanish, etc.) there will also be an exhibition of photographs. Most of the black-and-white pictures (40x50) are snapshots of the author taken by his personal friend, the important photographer Ferdinando Scianna.

Direct and indirect links with the University of Heidelberg

There are a number of links both direct and indirect between Leonardo Sciascia and Heidelberg. The author was here in person in 1981 when the Institut FranVais, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and the Department of Romance Studies invited him to come and talk to the students not only about his literary oeuvre but also about his political convictions. In 1984, at the suggestion of Sciascia, the Laterza publishing house (Bari) published the Italian translation of the book by Henner Hess: The Mafia. Central Rule and Local Resistance, which in its original form (title: Mafiosi and Mafia Behaviour) had been accepted by the Heidelberg Faculty of Philosophy in 1967 as a doctoral dissertation. In his Preface, Sciascia stressed the importance of the book for a true understanding of the Mafia phenomenon, calling it the best work he knew on the subject of the "honourable society".

To coincide with the exhibition, the Universitätsverlag C. Winter (Heidelberg) is bringing out the first ever German-language collection devoted to the Sicilian author, assembling articles by such leading Romance Studies scholars and Sciascia cognoscenti as Helene Harth (Potsdam), Susanne Heiler (Heidelberg), Ulrich Schulz-Buschhaus (Graz), Richard Schwaderer (Kassel), Martin Neumann (Regensburg), Titus Heydenreich (Erlangen), János Riesz (Bayreuth), Hinrich Hudde (Erlangen), Frank Baasner (Mannheim) and others. (Price during the exhibition DM 26, later DM 34).

Sandro M. Moraldo

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Sandro M. Moraldo

or: Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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