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A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean

by John Keahey

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-59705-4
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Veteran newspaperman Keahey continues his exploration of Italian civilization with an appreciation of the rich, vibrant surroundings of Italy’s largest autonomous island.

Having previously explored both the Ionian Sea region and the disastrous fate of an ever-sinking Venice (Venice Against the Sea: A City Besieged, 2002), the author turns his journalistic eye toward Sicily, a “strange, magnificent, brooding island." Keahey meticulously observes the history, colorful customs and culture of Sicilians with boundless curiosity. He climbs the rickety scaffolding in capital city Palermo to capture the best view of the palazzo compound of taciturn Sicilian novelist Giuseppe di Lampedusa. He shares a stroll through a cuisine cornucopia at Vucciria marketplace and observes the region’s many unwieldy, grandiose festivals and processions honoring patron saints and Easter Week. After illuminating the island’s varying economic strata, Keahey retraces the fascinating history of village squares once used for public burnings and the restoration of a local prison. Some of his sightseeing is informally guided by indigenous “Siciliani,” an assemblage of prideful natives whose characteristics the author describes with the same spirited deliberation as chapters on myths, food, native dialects and the histrionics of the Sicilian Mafiosi. In a superbly sensory chapter, Keahey marvels at variations in Sicilian cuisine with mouthwatering descriptions flooding the pages of this lush travelogue.

With extensive details and a fond admiration of its people, Keahey effectively articulates why the people of this charming island “are Sicilians before they are Italians, and why no amount of time under the control of Rome will ever change that.”