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Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through…
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Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart…

by John Keahey

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For someone who knows nothing about Sicily, this book might be a starting point. This is basically a record of the author's drives around the island stopping at various towns and writing about the inhabitants and famous residents. It's odd that he manages to do so much driving and totally miss Taormina, a bit turisty but a must-see for the spectacular backdrop. Other than knowing only a little Italian and one would guess no Sicilian, the author tells us little about himself. For his interviews he hires translators. The style is bland and uninteresting. The book would have benefited from editing due to the errors.

Most egregiously, he describes Antonello da Messina's famous Palermo Madonna (The "Virgin Annunciate"):
" It shows Mary being interruped at her reading by an unseen angel who informs her of her Immaculate Conception. The painting shows her expression the instant she is told she is pregnant."
The Immaculate Conception, as any Catholic knows, is the doctrine that Mary herself was conceived without Original Sin. It does not refer to the conception of Christ..

Elsewhere he describes the interior silence of the duomo in Siracusa:
"I had the same sensation in Milan when I strolled into the duomo there: absolute silence within a vastness incomprehensible to the American psyche. The world, in all its noise and grime, is completely shut out. Such a setting is a wonderful place to sit, observe the commingling of ancient and medieval, and take stock after a long and tiring day."
I have an American psyche, so please don't presume to speak for me. I subscribe to Terence's "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto" (I am a human being, I consider nothing human as alien to me". Why in the world would silence or architectural vastness be incomprehensible?

Finally there are a few short paragraphs about wine production, and though the author describes the food he eats in detail, it appears he never tasted any wine. Sicilian wines are very good and unique, so it is frustrating that they are neglected in the book. ( )
  barbharper | Oct 1, 2012 |
Cultural journey through Sicily! ( )
  SignoraEdie | Oct 1, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312597053, Hardcover)

“Keahey’s exploration of this misunderstood island offers a much-needed look at a much-maligned land.”—Paul Paolicelli, author of Under the Southern Sun

Sicily is the Mediterranean’s largest and most mysterious island. Its people, for three thousand years under the thumb of one invader after another, hold tightly onto a culture so unique that they remain emotionally and culturally distinct, viewing themselves first as Sicilians, not Italians. Many of these islanders, carrying considerable DNA from Arab and Muslim ancestors who ruled for 250 years and integrated vast numbers of settlers from the continent just ninety miles to the south, say proudly that Sicily is located north of Africa, not south of Italy.

Seeking Sicily explores what lies behind the soul of the island’s inhabitants. It touches on history, archaeology, food, the Mafia, and politics and looks to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Sicilian authors to plumb the islanders’ so-called Sicilitudine. This “culture apart” is best exemplified by the writings of one of Sicily’s greatest writers, Leonardo Sciascia. Seeking Sicily also looks to contemporary Sicilians who have never shaken off the influences of their forbearers, who believed in the ancient gods and goddesses.

Author John Keahey is not content to let images from the island’s overly touristed villages carry the story. Starting in Palermo, he journeyed to such places as Arab-founded Scopello on the west coast, the Greek ruins of Selinunte on the southwest, and Sciascia’s ancestral village of Racalmuto in the south, where he experienced unique, local festivals. He spent Easter Week in Enna at the island’s center, witnessing surreal processions that date back to Spanish rule. And he learned about Sicilian cuisine in Spanish Baroque Noto and Greek Siracusa in the southeast, and met elderly, retired fishermen in the tiny east-coast fishing village of Aci Trezza, home of the mythical Cyclops and immortalized by Luchino Visconti’s mid-1940s film masterpiece, La terra trema. He walked near the summit of Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano, studied the mountain’s role in creating this island, and looked out over the expanse of the Ionian Sea, marveling at the three millennia of myths and history that forged Sicily into what it is today.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:29 -0400)

Keahey's exploration of this misunderstood island offers a much-needed look at a much-maligned land.Paul Paolicelli, author of Under the Southern Sun Sicily is the Mediterranean's largest and most mysterious island.

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