Book review

mafia-book.jpgMafia and Outlaw Stories from Italian Life and Literature
Translated and edited by Robin Pickering-Iazzi
Toronto University Press, 180 pages Cloth $55.00. Paper $24.95

(Canscene) — “It was raining the day they killed my son.”

So begins a mother’s factual testament on the loss of her son who became an anti-Mafia activist in Sicily. It’s one of the pieces included in this valuable anthology of fact and fiction about the Mafia and other forms of organized criminal activity in Italy.

The editor and translator, Robin Pickering – Iazzi, has chosen ten short stories and four personal accounts which illustrate the role of organized crime in Italian society.

Here you’ll find such celebrated Italian verismo authors as Giovanni Verga and Grazia Deledda, together with contemporary writers. Their stories range from the 1880s to the 1990s

The personal accounts, all by women, all of whose lives have been touched by the Mafia show a determination to oppose a way of life that accepts such criminality. They include the heart-wrenching story told by a Felicia Impastato, mother of the murdered young man.

In his introduction aptly titled Not the Sopranos, Iazzi points out the difference between the “real thing” in Italy and the sometimes romanticized and sympathetic television productions, films and novels about American organized crime.

“Viewing mafiosi exhaustively through the eyes of American novels and films,” writes Iazzi, “ contributes to the tendency to take popular images of the Mafia in Italian territory for one and the same thing… it encourages the tendency to collapse crucial distinctions between image of the Mafia as produced by the American cultural imagination and the various perceptions and meanings of it in Italian culture.”

I’ve never been a fan of that much-applauded TV series The Sopranos that made family drama out of a cold-blooded killer and his brood and I’m glad to see the Mafia presented in its true and villainous Italian context.

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