20/11/2023 04:00:00

Sicilian Literary Titans: A Journey Through Time and Words

 Sicily has always stood as a distinct entity from the rest: from its earliest settlements in Lipari, Ragusa, and Levanzo, through the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Swabians, and so on, crystallizing a history unparalleled. In a place with such historical magnitude, it's only natural to find an equally vast array of literature. Today's article takes us on a journey through the 10 Sicilian authors who, in my opinion, have solidified the value of our island over the centuries.

10th Place: Epicarmo (VI-V century B.C.) - One of the earliest playwrights in the history of Greek literature, Epicarmo's legacy survives in titles and fragments. Plato considered him the greatest of Greek comedy, appreciated even by Ennius, the father of Latin literature.

9th Place: Elio Vittorini (1908-1966) - A man deeply engaged in politics, Vittorini gained prominence for his exceptional prose. His notable novels include "Men or Not," the first prose narrative about the Italian Resistance, and, especially, "Conversation in Sicily," a brilliant novel intertwining a journey to the homeland with a dreamlike quest for identity.

8th Place: Stesicoro (VII-VI century B.C.) - Regarded by many as the precursor of tragic theater, Stesicoro's depth in characterizing figures and innovative use of dialogic and choral structures are only glimpsed through the few remaining fragments of his 26 works, spanning from epic to erotic poetry.

7th Place: Gorgias (V-IV century B.C.) - Perhaps the greatest exponent of the rhetorical-philosophical Sophistic movement, Gorgias's surviving works include the oration "In Defense of Palamedes" and the renowned "Encomium of Helen." His philosophical concept of "Nothing exists; if it does, it's unknowable; if knowable, it can't be communicated to others" from "On Non-Existence" remains significant.

6th Place: Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) - A major figure of Verismo and one of the greatest prose writers in Italian literary history. His works like the gray novella "Rust Malpelo" and the novels "The House by the Medlar Tree" and "Mastro-don Gesualdo" underline a sincere pessimism partially overcome only through family, environment, and work.

5th Place: Empedocles (V century B.C.) - Among the greatest philosophers of ancient Greece, Empedocles holds the 5th spot. Though few treatises remain, extensive fragments of his epic-philosophical poems "On Nature" and "Purifications" reveal his cosmogonic theory of the four elements and a more mystical take on Pythagorean metempsychosis.

4th Place: Giacomo da Lentini (XIII century) - The most famous poet of the Sicilian School, Giacomo da Lentini, is the father of the sonnet. His poetry, mainly centered on profoundly internalized love themes, elevated the feminine figure to an almost spiritual-ethical level, earning Dante's recognition as the poet par excellence.

3rd Place: Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968) - One of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Quasimodo's works like "Submerged Oboe" and "And Suddenly It's Evening" juxtapose his Sicilian childhood with the corrupted life of post-industrial north, enriched by a hermetic and poignant style. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959.

2nd Place: Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) - Despite a controversial political stance, Pirandello is considered by many as the greatest writer of the 20th century. His monumental impact on global theater with the invention of "metatheater" sets him apart. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1934.

Before announcing the winner of this extravagant ranking, let's acknowledge some great authors who couldn't make it to the Top Ten: Formide, Tisia, Cielo D’Alcamo, Stefano Protonotaro, Leonardo Sciascia, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and Andrea Camilleri.

1st Place: Teocrito (IV-III century B.C.) - The Syracuse poet is credited with inventing the bucolic genre, influencing great poets like Virgil, Tasso, and Sannazaro. With 30 idylls and 25 epigrams attributed to him, Teocrito's poetic prowess arguably makes him the greatest poet in classical literature.