BLACK GRAPES by Livia de Stefani


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An Italian prize-winner makes a believable, doomed figure of Casimiro Badalamenti who, at thirty, leaves his vineyard to make his way in the seaport of Cinisi and there, accruing wealth, gives Concetta, his mistress, the children she demands only to put them in foster homes when they are born. High in Mafia circles, when the time comes, he marries Concetta, reclaims three of his children, and returns to the vineyard there to try to instill in his son Nicola the need to survive through the land and to insist on his dominion over the boy when he withdraws and eventually tries to run away. Keeping Nicola chained, Casimiro maintains his mastery over Rosaria and little Gentilina, arranges a marriage for Rosaria to the son of visiting Italians from America, and with his last subjugation drives Nicola to find comfort in Rosaria. Rosaria's pregnancy, the need to cover the shame of incest, hurries Casimiro into taking Nicola far from home to work; spurs him to condition Rosaria to suicide and, when she has twice failed, to make sure she succeeds. The girl's death brings madness to Concetta and unwittingly reveals to the police -- not the murder -- but the crime of incest for which Nicola will be jailed. Sicilian pride coupled with personal tyranny weave a detailed pattern that is its own destruction. A translation, this has a strong touch for a feminine author.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1958
Publisher: Criterion