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Entries in Giuseppe Genco Russo (3)

Saturday
Aug022014

Bad Bambino: A Chat with a Sicilian-Englishman about His New Mafia Memoir

Author Francesco Scannella was groomed for a life in the Sicilian mob from age seven

by Carl Russo

Francesco ScannellaTHE ENGLISH GRAPHIC ARTIST Francesco Scannella has always felt the pull of a childhood spent in the land of his Sicilian immigrant parents. Sicilian Shadows, his newly published memoir of that period, reveals a fascinating dual citizenship of the mind. At a tender age, “Frank” was torn from the suburban idyll of 1960s Surrey and thrust into a Mafia backwater in Sicily’s blazing interior. All the passions, superstitions and ancient codes of the island were openly displayed in Mussomeli, Frank’s new home for several years, but mention of the Mafia was punishable.

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Saturday
May072011

Pompous Circumstance

by Bluto Ray

Some years ago, an old man opened a musty little shop of Mussolini souvenirs in the abandoned ruins of lower Ragusa. All your Fascist needs were priced and on display, from a painted antique trunk commemorating the dictator to postcards depicting his visit to the baroque city to black cigarette lighters bearing his face. In the collective memory of Sicilians, the Fascist reign over the island was an epoch of extreme repression and violence that followed Mussolini’s 1922 inauguration as the Prime Minister of Italy. But many old-timers still hold a flame for the Blackshirts who struck a decisive blow against the Mafia.

Cesare MoriThe crime bosses enjoyed a boost of prestige as the politicians they controlled were courted by early Fascists eager to align themselves with Palermo’s conservative leaders. But Mussolini’s suspension of electoral democracy in 1925 suddenly choked off their access to local politics.

Sicily was an unruly child in the mind of the Duce, and the only cure would be the firm hand of Fascist discipline. His methods had subdued the left-wing parties of the north--a success that increased support for him on the mainland. But reforming Sicily was essential if the strongman were to realize his dream of a totalitarian state. He had caught a glimpse of the island’s unique power structure a year earlier on the official state tour that passed through Ragusa.

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Thursday
Dec302010

Bigger Than the Mafia

by Bluto Ray

The poet from the north returned to Trappeto because he was haunted by memories. Haunted by images of emaciated children dying while government officials grew fat, images of people subsisting on beans and insects and wild greens, fathers forced into banditry to feed their families. He was incensed by the Mafia's feudal control of farms and water irrigation in a land where “sewer” didn’t exist in the local dialect.

Danilo DolciWhen Danilo Dolci stepped off the train in 1952, he was ready, as a peasant who knew him wrote, “to share the life of the poor.” As a teen he had seen these things while visiting his father who was posted as Trappeto’s wartime stationmaster. And now, at age twenty-eight, he was back to help.

Dolci arrived with five cents to his name but rich in experience. Though violently abused by his father as a youth, the wide-eyed poet grew up to be a full-time activist and committed pacifist. He cared for orphans in the north under the tutelage of a priest whose social work rankled the right-wing Church of the postwar years. His credo: “Participate in order to understand.”

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