Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To Each His Own, Leonardo Sciascia

"Please don't go," the old man said, alarmed that the rare opportunity for conversation might escape him so fast. Again he seemed to doze off, to slip into sleep, turning toward Laurana the fine, medallion-like profile that generations of students would see on a bronze bas-relief in the entrance hall of the university, with one of those inscriptions underneath that, if ever they are read, make people laugh. "He'll slip in to death like that," Laurana thought, and sat watching him with some anxiety until the old man, still motionless, spoke out as if he were developing a thought that had been absorbing him: "Somethings, some facts, are better left where they are, kept in the dark... There's a proverb, a maxim, that runs, 'The dead man is dead; let's give a hand to the living.' Now, you say that to a man from the North, and he visualizes the scene of an accident with one dead and one injured man; it's reasonable to let the dead man be and to set about saving the injured man. But a Sicilian visualizes a murdered man and his murderer, and the living man who's to be helped is the murderer. What a dead man means to a Sicilian-well, maybe Lawrence understood that; he helped drive Eros into a cul-de-sac. A dead man is a ridiculous spirit in purgatory, a little worm with human features writhing on a hot brick. But when the dead man is our own flesh and blood, then, of course, we must do everything to send the live man-the murderer, that is-to join him forthwith in hell-fire... I'm not a Sicilian to that extent. I've never had any inclination to help the living-the murderers, that is-and I've always thought jails were a more solid purgatory... But there is something about my son's death that makes me think about the living, makes me a little concerned for the living-"
"The murderers, you mean?"
"No, not the living men who personally, physically killed him. The living who alienated him from life, who brought him to a point where he saw certain things in life and did others..."

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