Era un cretino

Detective story or socio-political analysis? Which perspective is more appropriate to the interpretation of ‘A ciascuno il suo’? Discuss. Leonardo Sciascia was born in 1921, in a Sicilian town called Racamulto. Beginning in the 1950s, he established himself in Italy not only as a respected novelist, but also as a controversial observer and commentator on the socio-political condition of the country, particularly that of Sicily.

Sciascia’s famous novel ‘A ciascuno il suo’, published in 1966 by Einaudi, was written at a time of political and social unrest and cynicism due to the failure of the of the 1964 coalition of Socialists and Christian Democrats, which had inspired hope for a balanced, stable, reasonably honest government. A classical detective novel is typically a celebration of human intelligence; and the ability to know, to interpret, and decipher: The sharp and cunning detective overcomes the obstacles laid for him to unravel the mystery and solve the dastardly crime: Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot immediately spring to mind.

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‘A ciascuno il suo’ is placed firmly within this genre; as a ‘libro giallo’; and indeed, Sciascia appears to deliberately convey the impression to the reader that this is how he wants the novel to be read: it corresponds in many ways with the aforementioned stereotypes, containing murder, intrigue and suspense, and above all his preface to the novel is a quote from ‘I delitti di rue Morgue’ by Poe, a novel considered pivotal in defining the genre of mystery writing.

But ‘A ciascuno il suo’ is what is known as a ‘scarto’ – something that refers to a prototype but does not quite fit with it: Sciascia uses the mould of a ‘giallo’, but in fact he gives the reader far more than a murder-mystery story: principally it is a subtle but fierce critique of Sicily’s society and traditions. ‘A ciascuno il suo’ is a twist on stereotypical detective stories – the mystery proves insoluble because everyone involved except the investigator is duplicitous.

This investigator, a professor, lacks the necessary scepticism to be able to explore the crime effectively, and is not committed to the problem – he lacks passion and determination. He is motivated purely by interest; “Curiositi?? , semplice curiositi?? ” (P85), but not particularly concerned about justice. Laurana is not a typical detective at all, indeed he is where the major ‘scarto’ between traditional mystery writing and Sciascia’s work lies – he is not supremely intelligent, and he is utterly nai?? ve – ironically it is he who is left in the dark; “…

la testa nel sacco… ” (P81), when all those around him know who was responsible for the murders of the pharmacist and the doctor. The degree of involvement of those around him astounds Laurana: “<Davvero? > Si meraviglii?? il professore” (P86), and ultimately it is his ignorance that leads to his death, along with the fact that he has allowed his desire for Dr Roscio’s beautiful widow to cloud his investigation and his judgement: he gets carried away: “… trasportato da un’ondata di gioia… ” (P128).

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