Ian Thomson and that conversation with Leonardo Sciascia

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By John

He was twenty-four years old Ian ThomsonEnglish journalist and writer, when in May 1985 he wrote to Leonardo Sciascia (he had provided him with the street address Italo Calvino) to grant him an interview for the “London Magazine”. And Thomson, interested in Italy, Sicily and mafia things, and an excellent connoisseur of Sciascia’s works, was determined, to interview him, to reach the writer from Rome, where he was, to Palermo or Racalmuto. They met in Palermo, in the house on Viale Scaduto di Sciascia, where a detailed conversation took place today published by Rubbettino in the Sciascia series born as an initiative of the «Sciascia Foundation» of Racalmuto and edited by Vito Catalano, the writer’s nephew: a small library that aims to publish books related to Sciascia, essays and studies on his work, his correspondence, conversations. Like this one by Thomson, edited and translated by the Racalmutese Anglicist teacher Adele Maria Troisi, linked to the Sciascias by family friendships and who, on one of the summer reading evenings at the Noce (the country house beloved by Sciascia) took up the proposal Vito Catalano, also a writer, to translate Thomson’s interview and the letters that the journalist and his grandfather exchanged before and after their meeting.
Conversation that the editor – as she warns in the note to the booklet – reports while remaining faithful to the original in English. Therefore the text maintains the freshness of Thomson’s travel notes, the landing in Sicily which «seen from Reggio Calabria (so he writes), with its large rocky hump like the back of a half-submerged Leviathan, it is difficult to believe could be a metaphor for anything” and then the train journey between “a parched and lunar panorama” and the “unnatural blue of the sea”, and, finally, Palermo, with its “centuries-old solar light of a dusty eternity, the violence of a sky that is too blue, the African wind and the streets that have an alert and violent quality.” «It seems clear that we are in another world», writes Thomson even if then Sciascia, who welcomes him elegantly at the door of his house («a curious cross between Albert Camus and Humphrey Bogart»), and his interesting room-study with , among other things, the framed photo of Pirandello next to the portable Olivetti and a large piece of sulphur, give the meeting the right direction: a cultured conversation on Sciascia’s production and on the great denunciatory themes of his books, his honest word that looks at «Voltairian skepticism as the safety valve of reason». And his Manzonianism, and Simenon, and Daniel Defoe and Graham Greene, among his favorite English authors, and, again, his admiration for the illustrator Arthur Rackham (he had illustrated «Alice in Wonderland»). From London, in 1987, Thomson would have sent Sciascia, who thanked him, the interview in the London Magazine and an illustrated book by Rackham, together with information, to satisfy the writer’s curiosity, on his studies and activity as a painter of English illustrator.