Farewell to Vincenzo Consolo

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Vincenzo Consolo, a great writer and a passionate chronicler of his native Sicily, has died at age 78. Leoluca Orlando – ex-mayor of Palermo; he visited UM in 2009 to talk about his own struggles against the mafia – wrote: “The death of Vincenzo Consolo is a major loss for the culture, the literature, and the conscience of Italy. His book The Smile of the Unknown Sailor is a true masterpiece, in continuity with the paintings of Antonello da Messina and with the theatrical writings of Luigi Pirandello: all profoundly Sicilian, all authentically universal. Vincenzo Consolo has been, for so many of us, an almost-transcendent point of reference, like a spiritual father, a priest, a lay pastor. He leaves, for our nation’s historical record, a number of splendid books and the witness of a man of intransigent ethical focus.”

Consolo was representative of a generation of writers who walked the tightrope between regionalism and universal values. It remains to be seen – in a new era of federalism without a true sense of confederation – whether the writers of the new millennium will follow their path. The universal values, though debated, remain; will writers of the next generation recognize the importance of linguistic and geographical distinction, and maintain the strong sense of place as the rosette at the center of the moral compass, that informed the fiction and poetry of regional writers like Consolo?

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