Il contesto: una parodia

ISBN: 8806010999
ISBN 13: 9788806010997
By: Leonardo Sciascia

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About this book

Intorno a un caso di cronaca si dipana la storia di un uomo che va ammazzando giudici e di un poliziotto che diventa il suo alter ego, in un paese del tutto immaginario e che tuttavia ricorda molto da vicino l'Italia, la Sicilia. Qui non vi sono più idee, i principi vengono calpestati, le ideologie si risolvono in mere denominazioni del gioco delle parti in politica, e su tutto domina un potere che "sempre più digrada nella impenetrabile forma di una concatenazione che approssimativamente possiamo dire mafiosa". Quello che doveva essere un "divertimento", una parodia, diviene un racconto molto serio via via che si delinea la successione di assassinii e funerali che scandisce la vita pubblica.

Reader's Thoughts


This was recommended bu a Goodreads friend. (Thanks.) I've been hooked on foreign police procedurals for a while now, Mankell, Leon, Larsson, Turston, Eriksson and some other unspellables from Norway and Sweden. I guess what I really like about them is the sense of grayness and dark. There's a gloom, a sense of constant struggle, particularly in the Italian police procedurals, of labyrinthine bureaucracy, the little guy seeking small truths amidst a gigantic, corrupt society. British PP's are civilized, while American PP's (except for the funny ones) have a cauldron of violence just lurking beneath the surface. Enough generalizations.Equal Danger is representative of the Italian gloom but it's a fable about power that supersedes national boundaries. Rogas, a police detective, in an unidentified country, but clearly patterned on Sicily on the 70's?, has been assigned, against his better judgment, to investigate the serial killing of judges and prosecuting attorneys. His approach is extremely methodical. Rogas, seems to operate almost independently of his chain of command, and outside the corruption of the system.Rogas is the man of principles, the man without opinions; it's the only way he can stay with his job. His investigation leads him to the top levels of government. He is told to "sort of" drop the case. His boss says in a classic display of bureaucratese, "But right track or wrong,stay on it, stay on it." Rogas is supremely confident, but as the author says, "one can be cleverer than another, not cleverer than all others". The ending came as a shock.The author, in a note at the end of the book, calls it a fable which he didn't submit to his publisher for two years. His explanation? "I began to write it with amusement, and as I was finishing it, I was no longer amused. " Neither is the reader.You'll also learn about Black Rice.


Equal Danger is an obstuse, Kafkaesque fable (if Kafka wrote crime fiction) filled with suffocating disgust. Confusing but intriguing on first read.

Susana Case

I found this difficult to read in the Italian version, but think I would have found it difficult to read in the English version as well. There are a number of characters. Many get killed. I like the cynical tone of Sciascia's work, but I also believe that if you are writing what he calls at the beginning "a parody," then you have an obligation to provide some clarity for your readers and this was too obscure, at least for me. I would normally enjoy a book about the collusion among government and economy and crime. But the writing is not accessible enough, sadly. Perhaps if I were more knowledgeable about the political situation in Italy in the 1970s, I would have gotten more from reading this. But he never even explicitly says that he is writing about Sicily, although, of course, he is. As he suggests in the note at the end, everything is about Sicily--even if I paint an apple, it is about Sicily.


In quello che è il suo quarto romanzo, lo scrittore siciliano è esplicito fin dal sottotitolo: ‘una parodia’. In un Paese immaginario, qualcuno dà il via a una serie di assassinii che hanno in comune solo il mestiere delle vittime, tutte appartenenti a vario titolo alla magistratura. Il caso viene affidato al miglior investigatore a disposizione, l’ispettore Rogas, che riesce a trovare quel che pare il bandolo della matassa individuando la presunta vittima di un errore giudiziario – Sciascia doveva avere una fissa con i farmacisti… - ma finisce impaniato sempre più nei segreti non confessabili delle connessioni fra magistratura e politica. L’inizio è fulminante e tutta la prima parte, quella dell’investigazione vera e propria, mantiene una brillantezza sostenuta da una scrittura accattivante e intessuta di sottile umorismo: quando l’azione si sposta nella capitale e i piani di lettura iniziano a sovrapporsi man mano che la storia si ingarbuglia, il ritmo scende e con esso la qualità, che non riesce a mantenersi all’altezza delle pagine precedenti. Sarà forse perché, a quel punto, l’autore ‘non ne poteva più’, come scritto nella nota in fondo al libro, di una storia che aveva iniziato ‘divertendosi’: l’allegoria della giustizia e delle sue storture si è ormai trasformata nella rappresentazione di tutto un sistema di potere che Sciascia vedeva tanto incombente e immutabile da rendere vano qualsiasi tentativo del singolo di bloccarne gli ingranaggi. Quello che era la mafia in ‘A ciascuno il suo’, qui è, in fondo, lo stato: un organismo chiuso in se stesso, completamente autosufficiente e indifferente al mondo esterno. Negli oltre quarant’anni trascorsi dall’uscita del romanzo, il lucido pessimismo dell’autore ha dimostrato di essere quanto mai attuale, perché assai poco è cambiato e, se possibile, pure in peggio. Il Paese senza nome lascia scorgere in filigrana la Sicilia e, soprattutto, l’Italia oggi così come accadeva agli inizi degli anni Settanta: una sensazione di amarezza e ineluttabilità profonda, accentuata da un finale in cui molte restano le domande senza risposta (quanti sono i misteri italiani rimasti irrisolti?). Tutto questo in meno di centoventi pagine, a dimostrare ancora una volta la forza della scrittura e della capacità di raccontare di Sciascia: a causa della ‘difficile’ seconda parte, ‘Il contesto’ non è all’altezza di altre sue opere, ma si legge comunque con grande piacere, grazie alla lingua scorrevole eppure mai banale, malgrado lasci un indistinto malessere offerto dalla caustica rappresentazione di cosa voglia dire essere italiani.


** spoiler alert ** Hard to understand what point the author was trying to make. In a fictitious country meant to resemble contemporary Italy, the inspector Rogas examines the murders of several high court judges, then experiences political obstruction and is finally assassinated himself by secret service agents. Typical story of "corrupt powers always win!", without anything being explained in the end. Neither is the novel very tense or engaging. I wouldn't read it, it's boring and doesn't bring any new idea.


An intriguing book, covering many big ideas in a very small space of just over a hundred pages - and yet this is a novel. Felt the need to familiarize myself with some of the other books referred to, and then read again.

Tyler Jones

Having read three other Sciascia books, I opened this novel with high expectations. I closed the book in awe.Of all Sciascia's work now available to English readers through the NYRB, Equal Danger is the one that is the least hyped. Perhaps this is because it is in many ways a strange book and one does not want to scare off potential readers and I can see how some fans of Sciascia who come to the book hoping for "more of the same" might be disappointed. I suppose whether this is a great book or not depends on who is judging it - a fitting thing since "judging" is a central theme of the novel. I judge it a work of genius. I was amazed by both the complexity of the novel and the delicate balance it achieves between an almost venomous cynicism and playfulness. It is certainly the most ambitious novel of Sciascia's I have read - confidently striding through territory mapped out by Borges, Chesterton and Marias and I highly recommend this book to fans of these other writers. I had a great deal of respect for Sciacia before this and I hold him in even higher esteem now.Update (May 14,2014): In my original 5-star review of this book, which you can read above, it is clearly obvious that I am a drooling idiot of an admiration when it comes to Sciascia, and rightly so. However, I have to make a confession here - the ending of Equal Danger confused me. A lot. At the time I put my bafflement down to my own thickness, rather than blame the author for perhaps not communicating very clearly. After all, if the blame was to lie either with Sciascia or me, then the smart money is on me. Flash forward to today, where I am faithfully plugging through the letters of Italo Calvino. I just read a letter from Calvino to Sciascia (Sept.14, 1971) in which he heaps praise on Sciascia for Equal Danger, but then confesses that he was completely puzzled by the ending. Well! Maybe it wasn't me after all. So, in a fit of anger at myself for having giving permission to Sciascia to bamboozle me, I will lash out at this long-dead Sicilian and demote him to four stars.That'll show him!


I should probably qualify this review by saying that I'm a sucker for detective novels that are secretly big honking metaphors for the human condition, so if you're not into that sort of thing Sciascia might not be for you. But if you are, I can guarantee that you will like this book. Set in a fantasy country suspiciously reminiscent of Sicily, it concerns a police investigator trying to catch a murderer who is assassinating judges, only to have his own investigation derailed by corrupt officials. It starts out quick and satirical, wets its feet in some philosophical discussion, and then ends on the perfect cynical note. Fair warning: you need to follow along pretty closely to understand exactly what happened at the end, and even if you do, there's still some muddiness. This particular edition has an introduction by Carlin Romano, the Inquirer book critic, and it's a great addition, explaining Sciascia's relationship to Sicilian politics and the Mafia.


Not my favorite Sciascia. Did like the twist where the protagonist dies before the end.


The first NYRB book I've really disliked. Somehow manages to fail being interesting as a both a detective plot and as literature. Another nail in the coffin of 'literary' genre fiction.


Quite good, although I think I would appreciate it more were I more familiar with contemporary Sicilian politics. Although the main character here is a detective, and the main action is an investigation into a series of crimes, this falls outside my immediate definition of a "detective novel"; to me it's more of an exploration of a certain political mindset, or even (as in the author's note, which I apparently read and then forgot) a sophisticated fable.


I confess to being sort of confused by this novel, probably because I'm fairly ignorant of Italian history and politics, but I still found it intriguing. There's almost no character development and the whole thing revolves around the corruption of government ministers, police, and revolutionaries. I suppose you'd call it an existential-political noir thriller. There was one really funny part, but I won't spoil it for anyone by saying what it was.


Equal Danger is a short book that is long on ideas. The author keeps his writing lean and loaded with thought-provoking discussion and context.The plot focuses on a Police Inspector investigating the deaths of an (ever-growing) number of Legal Officials (Judges mostly) in an unnamed country. During the investigation, Inspector Rogas' leads force him to wade into the political area at both the top levels of the government, and the top levels of the revolutionary groups. As a Detective who simply follows the facts, he is ensnared in the politics that truly control things. The murders in the book come fast, and are given minimal factual attention, alerting the reader that more than traditional crimes are in play here. While this plotline may sound familiar, this book exceeds virtually every other crime tale I've read in its adherence to the ever-changing political caste system that pervades any bureaucracy. In typical crime novels, the protagonist usually is given special privilege, special backing and special dispensation to rise above his station. Sciascia offers no such help here. Beyond the criminal investigation plotline, and what really separates this book from other crime dramas, are the free-flowing ideas, references and discussions on society, justice, politics and government. The ending turns things upside down, but could it have been any different and be honest to the points raised in the book?Highly recommended.


Zaczęło się wesoło, skończyło się smutno i absurdalnie. Tak to już bywa.


I found this giallo harder to get into a follow than I did 'A Ciascuno il Suo', however, I find the subject matter and the hidden tales fascinating. I will go on to study this for my exams so I look forward to analysing it in more depth.

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