Four long stories, almost novellas, that accentuate Sciasia's political mordancy, an element that shows up in his Sicilian crime fiction as well. In ""The American Aunt,"" a small Sicilian village family is all but controlled by a living-in-Brooklyn sister who writes stem letters filled with pro-Mussolini, then rabid anti-Communist sentiments during and right after the war. When she finally arrives for a visit, to top it all off. she swindles the poor relatives out of property (the allegory here is hardly faint). In ""The Death of Stalin,"" a Sicilian true-believer, Calogero, must twist this way and that to keep up with his beloved ""Uncle Joe"" 's perverse caprices. ""Forty-Eight"" is a 19th-century historical vignette--the foul-up after the naming of the ""two Ferdinands"" as kings in 1848 and how it impacts a small village. And ""Antimony"" is the recounting of a Sicilian who'd gone to fight with Franco's Phalangist forces (Mussolini's ally) during the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately, only this last piece has some grit to it, some poetry. The rest seem like mere exercises from a writer of Stendhalian cynicism but stenographic impatience as well.