Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Adrift in the Wine-Dark Sea

The idea is so enticing for a vacation, both the adriftness and the ancient, ancient allusion to both the Illiad and the Odyssey, where "the wine-dark sea" first appears.

Scatter, now, some glory on this island, which the lord of Olympus,
Zeus, gave Persephone and bowed his head to assent, the pride of the blossoming earth,

Sicily, the rich, to control under towering cities opulent,
Kronion granted her also
a people in love with brazen warfare,
horsemen, a people garlanded over and again
with the gold leaves of olive Olympian.

Pindar, First Nemean Ode (via Mary Taylor Simeti's On Persephone's Island)

I have been dipping into the work of Sicilian writers, none of whom is as well-known as Luigi Pirandello. I am bring Lampedusa's The Leopard, and have read Leonardo Sciascia's short story collection, The Wind-Dark Sea, which I highly recommend. It it O Henry dark. The stories are deeply clever while capturing the nature of a fascinating peoples on many level. Here is a good description of the writer and his island from Alberto Mobilio's introduction:

"A latter day Voltaire, Sciasia is at heart a cynic, a descendant of an ancient culture who, in his own lifetime, has witnessed his homeland occupied by the Fascists, the Germans, the Americans, and then returned to the Mafia. History has made him the poet of disillusion. In The Wine-Dark Sea, the specimens come unadorned, dug straight from rocky Sicilian turf, and amply reflect the island's soul, a barbed composite of honor and treachery, brutality and wit."

A Happy 4th to everyone! Be back in a few weeks.


Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Very envious! (Although it's not yet two years since J. and I were there.) We found an absolute must among lots of other absolute musts was Noto, in the SE corner - like wandering about in a set of Don Giovanni. Happy hols.

Tom W. said...

It's also the title of the 16th volume of O'Brian's brilliant Aubrey-Maturin series. It begins like this:

"A purple ocean, vast under the sky and devoid of all visible life apart from two minute ships racing across its immensity."