A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year
From the author of M and A Death in Brazil comes Midnight in Sicily.
South of mainland Italy lies the island of Sicily, home to an ancient culture that--with its stark landscapes, glorious coastlines, and extraordinary treasure troves of art and archeology--has seduced travelers for centuries. But at the heart of the island's rare beauty is a network of violence and corruption that reaches into every corner of Sicilian life: Cosa Nostra, the Mafia. Peter Robb lived in southern Italy for over fourteen years and recounts its sensuous pleasures, its literature, politics, art, and crimes.
This is not a travel book, but rather a sophisticated attempt to make sense of the on-going prosecution of the 78-year-old seven-time prime minister, Giulio Andreotti, and of the intimate ties between the mafia and postwar Italian politics. An Australian by birth, Robb is not just parachuting in to gawk at the corruption that traded in votes, money, government contracts and even assassinations. A longtime resident of Naples, Robb adeptly puts the elusive world of organized crime (both Neapolitan and Sicilian) in a historical context that stretches back to the 19th century. In Sicily, however, organized crime is not an isolated institution and its pervasiveness is suggested by Robb's brilliant interweaving of writers such as Leonardo Sciascia, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the artist Renato Guttuso. Many artists saw a connection between the rich food of Sicily and the mob, which Robb expertly exploits, even repeating an ironic quote from Andreotti himself: "I found myself with my stomach full of marvelous but terrible food, the pasta con le sarde, the cassata and not only did I not understand a thing there but I was ill too. I wonder whether there's a connection between food like this and the growth of the mafia." Those who treasured Excellent Cadavers, Alexander Stille's magnificent study of magistrates Giovanni Falcone, Paolo Borsellino and the mafia "maxitrial," will appreciate Robb's epic story of evil and nobility.