"(H)aving to write down the things he saw and the anxiety this caused him sharpened his ability to select, to pare down, to express things pithily, so that only what was sound and perceptive remained in the net of his writing. Such may be the case with Italian writers from the south, especially Sicilians — in spite of school, university and lots of reading."That's from A Simple Story, a novella by the late, great Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia newly reissued by Hesperus Press, and I'm eager to see how the wittily self-reflective sentiment of the last sentence will play out in the story.
For now, the passage's meditation on the power of spare expression reminds me that stripped-down writing can induce shivers of recognition, a feeling that the author is onto something essential. Jean-Patrick Manchette does this and, based on my recent reading of the Continental Op stories, I'd say Dashiell Hammett does, too.
Who's your favorite creator of stripped-down prose? And is Sciascia's narrator right? Do Sicilian authors have a special talent for expressing the essential?
(Howard Curtis, who translates from French and Italian, has carved out a nice niche in hard-boiled and neo-noir. In addition to A Simple Story, his translations include Caryl Férey's Zulu, Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles trilogy, and works by Gianrico Carofiglio.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2010