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Equal Danger (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 31, 2003
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Among Sicilian writers Leonardo Sciascia is supreme. His books are both lucid and mysterious; they address complex, public subjects with clarity and elegance; they move with the pace of thrillers, and have the resonance of poetry.
— Philip Hensher, The Spectator
The accessibility and beauty of Sciascia’s prose suggest he wanted it to be an antidote to the silent complicity and self—deception confronting both him and his heroes. When he wrote about crime, he was also writing about truth, solitude and belonging.
— The Observer
About the Author
Leonardo Sciascia (1921-1989) was born in Racamulto, Sicily. Starting in the 1950s, he established himself in Italy as a novelist and essayist, and also as a controversial commentator on political affairs. Among his many other books are Salt on the Wound, a biography of a Sicilian town, The Council of Egypt, an historical novel, and Todo Modo, a book in a genre that Sciascia could be said to have invented: the metaphysical mystery.
Carlin Romano is a critic at large for The Chronicle of Higher Education, and a former president of the National Book Critics Circle. He is also the author of America the Philosophical, and divides his time between teaching at Ursinus College and the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.
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In any event, the previous reviews for "Equal Justice" have pretty well nailed the essence. I would only add that Leonardo Sciascia is a pleasure to read in any format and this book is no exception.
As the movie Casablanca draws to a close, Capt. Renault witnesses the shooting of a German officer by Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart). Capt. Renault turns to his minions and says "Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects."
In Leonardo Sciascia's "Equal Danger" the command to round up the usual suspects comes at the beginning of the story. Local District Attorney Vargas has just been murdered and Inspector Rogas is put in charge of the investigation. Soon after Rogas begins this investigation two judges are murdered. Rogas senses that the victims and the murders are related but he is soon told to forget his investigation and round up the usual revolutionary suspects. Despite this admonition, and while paying lip service to his orders, Rogas' investigation continues. He identifies a suspect and sets out in pursuit.
Although this sounds like a fairly straightforward detective story, in the hands of Leonardo Sciascia it is anything but formulaic. Sciascia, born in Sicily in 1921, sets Equal Danger (as he states in a note to this book) in an imaginary country; "a country where ideas no longer circulate, where principles - still proclaimed, still acclaimed - are made a daily mockery." However, Sciascia also acknowledged that one can think of the story as being set in the Italy or Sicily of the 1970s. For Sciascia, the Italy (and Sicily) of the 1970s was a time when the center fell apart, when political instability proved a wonderful breeding ground for a dysfunctional triad of terror (the Red Brigades), crime (the Mafia) and corruption (the entire political and judicial system). It was a place where those three pillars of dysfunction seemed to share more common interests than differences and where cynical, if short-lived alliances amongst the power elite created the cold inside game that Delillo describes as a grand conspiracy.
Rogas is aware of the existence of the closed inside game and seems determined to beat it. He spots the surveillance placed on him and seems to believe his skeptical nature will keep him out of trouble. Rogas is clever, to be sure. He can cite Rousseau, Diderot, and Montaigne, much to the surprise of erudite witnesses seeking to speak down to a lowly inspector. But, as Sciascia writes of Rogas as the book progresses, "one can be cleverer than another, not cleverer than all others". The result of the investigation stunned me. I sat there reading and asked myself, "did Sciascia really do that?" I won't reveal a key plot element but simply say that this surprise took "Equal Danger" beyond the detective genre and into another realm of fiction altogether.
While "Equal Danger" begins like a straightforward detective story the reader is aware almost immediately that he/she will be taken down a less traveled road during the story. However, the path Sciascia does take truly took me by surprise. "Equal Danger", ultimately, is one of those few books I may enjoy reading again. Recommended. L. Fleisig
Leonardo Sciascia's Equal Danger comes from another tradition. The Latin Detective Novel has some procedural elements in it but the focus is a meditation on the nature of society. Sciascia begins his novel by quoting Rousseau, "...Tell me where on earth their exists a country where it is a crime to keep one's given word and to be generous, where the good man is despised and the wicked man is honored."
As a Scicilian, this world of corruption and silent complicity is all too familiar to Sciascia. On the surface, Equal Danger is story about the search for a serial killer of judges and prosecuting attorneys. Below the surface, this is metaphysical detective novel that tries to give insight into a failed civil society.
Although elegantly written, Equal Danger is not light reading. If one is interested in the Latin Detective Novel, read the more accessable Michael Dibdin, Rubem Fonseca or Paco Ignacio Taibo. Sciascia is more difficult to read and understand but he is well worth the effort.