Like the owl by day

This is the Shakespearean quote, taken from Henry IV, in the initial part of one of Leonardo Sciascia’s most representative masterpieces, Il Giorno della Civetta (1961). “Just as the owl is a nocturnal animal and becomes an object of wonder if it appears during the day, so the mafia in Sicily is losing its nocturnal characteristics to appear in the light of day”. In this way, the writer from Racalmuto, one of the most European and cosmopolitan intellectuals of the twentieth century, projects the mafia onto the national literary scene for the first time. From the agricultural world, the Mafia moved on to contracts, to large orders, to command apparatuses. The one that suddenly arises in full light, like a bird of darkness perched on the good morning branch. Do you also say that the mafia does not exist, that it is a “false historian”? You agree with the illustrious excellence that after Colasberna’s murder said to his followers: “The two of us, Sicilians, do not believe in the Mafia: this, to you who believe in it, should say something. But I understand you, prejudices die hard. Over time you will convince yourself that it is all a hoax”. After all, we who believe that the mafia exists, where were we when the poor businessman, guilty of having refused the “protection” of a respectable guardianship, collapsed at the foot of the morning bus like an empty sack? Were we among those who accepted the guardianship willingly and kept silent about it for a peaceful life? “The bus was about to leave, roaring deaf with sudden scrapes and sobs. The square was silent in the gray of dawn, fog on the bell towers of the Mother Church: only the roar of the bus and the voice of the panelle seller, imploring and ironic. […] The last glance that the conductor turned on the square caught the man dressed in dark who was running […]. Two blows were heard: the man dressed in dark, who was about to jump on the step, remained suspended for a moment, as if pulled up by the hair by an invisible hand; the satchel fell from his hand and slowly collapsed on the satchel”. What followed this filmic opening, one of the most beautiful in literature of all time, we know well, even if “we believe we have been absolved”. A general runaway followed, which the poor marshal was unable to stem. The same panelle seller, when asked if by chance he had seen someone shooting in an empty square, came out and asked, “Why, did they shoot?”. Such is the wonder of the appearance of the owl in broad daylight, that it is not afraid of being seen because it knows that no one will testify. And even if there were a confidant, wouldn’t he too be caught between anvil and a hammer? “But between the mafia and the carabinieri, the two sides between which he moved his gamble, death could only come from one side. On this side there was no death, there was this blond and clean-shaven man, elegant in his uniform; this man who did not make him weigh contempt as much as fearful death […]. The ‘confidant’ had never believed that the law was immutably written and the same for everyone, he could not: between the rich and the poor, between the wise and the ignorant, there were men of the law; and these men could only stretch the arm of the arbitrator on one side, the other side had to protect and defend “. More current than ever Sciascia, in this centenary, so much so that one wonders if today he would have written in favor of Antigone, condemned by the eternal opposition between Law and Justice, and if, on the other hand, he would have denounced yet another cunning aimed at denying the evidence under the sun: the diurnal owl, which wanders undisturbed.

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