Of Valiant Knights and Labyrinths: Leonardo Sciascia's Il cavaliere e la morte

by Susan Briziarelli
Of Valiant Knights and Labyrinths: Leonardo Sciascia's Il cavaliere e la morte
Susan Briziarelli
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Of Valiant Knights and Labyrinths: Leonardo Sciascia's I1 cavaliere e la rnorte

Todas las cosas son palabras del
Idioma en que Alguien o Algo, noche y dia,
Escribe esa infinita algarabia
Que es la historia del mundo. En su trope1
Pasan Cartago y Roma, yo, tu, el,
Mi vida que no entiendo, esta agonia
De su enigma, azar, criptografia
y toda la discordia de Babel.

Jorge Luis Borges "Una Bruiula"

eonardo Sciascia's recent novel I1 cavaliere e la morte, published by Adelphi in 1988, once again picks up the thread of the detective novel which in his latest books the author had put aside in favor of historical reconstruction (L'affaire Moro 1978,Porte aperte 1987, La strega e il capitano 1988). The pattern is a familiar one to readers of Sciascia's works: the murder of a public figure, a detective who is as cultured as he is uncorrupted, an unsolvable puzzle. Unsolvable, that is, because the network of power surrounding it is far too enormous an obstacle for one honest investigator. The ending is predictable as well: readers familiar with A ciascuno il suo, I1 contesto, and Todo modo, recognize the Sciascian pattern in which the death of those who come too close to the truth becomes inevitable. The death of the detective, who is known in this novel only as the Vice, comes in the last two pages of the book, by means of a gunshot issuing from some- one claiming to represent the group "figli dell'ottantanove."

What sets the Vice apart from Sciascia's previous protagonists is that this investigator is suffering from cancer. Even if he had not met his violent death, this would have been his last assignment. In a man- ner reminiscent of Garcia-Marquez' Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the end of the protagonist is one which is expected. In his novel, Sci- ascia reverses the situation: unlike Santiago Nasar, who is alone in not suspecting his impending death, the Vice makes the reader his accomplice in visualizing and participating in his acknowledged end.' What differentiates the novel as a whole from Sciascia's other detective novels is the motif which accompanies the reader through- out the book. The dust cover, which reproduces Albrecht Durer's 15 13 print "Knight, Death, and Devil," confirms the title's suggestion that Sciascia's narrative is intertwined with Durer's pictorial one. In fact, the print itself hangs on a wall in the Vice's office and dominates the space of the room as it asserts itself in the space of the novel as a whole. The initial apposition of title and print underlines the incon- gruity generated by the fact that in Sciascia's title the figure of the devil is conspicuously absent. Before ever opening the book, the reader becomes unintentionally drawn by the disappearance of the Devil, and immediately becomes engaged in an act of detection. With his omission, which promises to play a significant part in the novel, Sciascia challenges and at the same time undermines the traditional and formulaic detective genre.

This essay unravels the meaning behind the book, the print, the knight, and the missing devil, and explores the relationship between literature and the visual arts as Sciascia perceives it. If, as Maurice Blanchot points out, both author and narrator undertake a journey on several levels, I1 cavaliere ela morte echoes and emphasizes the con- cept of journey in the pictorial representation of the wandering knight.2

Sciascia's interest in the link between art and literature had already become evident in I1 consiglio d'Egitto (1963) in which the protaga- nist, Don GiuseppeVella, forges with great skill, imagination, and pa- tience an ancient Arabic manuscript which has the potential to rev- olutionize the political and social structure of Sicily. Underneath a story which brings to light questions of power and of historical truth, lies the equally elusive issue of the shared space of painting and lit- erature, literature and truth, truth and history. These points take con- crete form in Don Giuseppe's very significant act of double creation. In producing the fictitious Arabic codex he is engaging in creation and in deception on two levels, for he is both inventing the narrative, and constructing the material forgery, as he alters the existing manu- script with gold-leaf motifs and pseudo-Arabic lettering of his own invention.

In I1 contest0 (1971), painting appears significantly, albeit briefly, in the last pages of the novel. Inspector Rogas, the protagonist, has found the key to a series of murders. He arranges a meeting in the Na- tional Gallery with the only man who can confirm his suspicions. There, under a portrait by Velazquez, he and his contact are shot and killed. As Tom O1Neill notes, the portrait "perhaps not surprisingly in a work of parody, is fictitiou~".~

By mentioning, in apparent seri- ousness, a nonexistent work by a known painter, Sciascia casts doubt on the validity of any attribution of authorship, and on the reliability of appearance.

Elaborating on his iconographic game, Sciascia places figurative art in a central position in Todo modo (1974).~

The protagonist (whose name we never learn) is a well-known painter who, while travelling aimlessly about the countryside, arrives quite by chance at a monas- tery which is run as hotel and retreat by the monks that still inhabit it. A strange painting which hangs, not incidentally, in the chapel, heart of the monastery, catches the narrator's eye. The painting shows a saint (the fictitious Zafer) holding an open book, and a bespec- tacled devil standing behind, looking over the saint's shoulder. A saint, a devil, a book, a pair of eyeglasses: all are objects whose sym- bolic value may be explained within the context of Christian theol- ogy. When these same symbols are inserted into the framework of the novel, the reader is forced to re-examine them in a different light, for suddenly they assume an exegetical function with regard to Sciascia's text. Don Gaetano, head of the convent of Zafer and founder of the hotel, is by analogy the modern-day, lay equivalent of Zafer. In a con- scious attempt to establish a link between himself and the painting of Zafer and the devil, Don Gaetano wears an identical pair of spec- tacles. In the legend, the devil offers the spectacles to the saint to help him read his Bible. The spectacles, of course, are not offered uncon- ditionally, for they have a "diabolica qualita" (29):the person who reads with them will see the Koran instead of the Scriptures. Along with the narrator then, the reader must wonder whether Don Gaeta- no, this modern hermit, saint, and fraud, has accepted the offer that the legendary Zafer declined. All the elements shown in the painting reappear later in the narrative and play a significant role in it. The devil remains obscure however, an oppressive presence through his very absence from the discussion.

In I1cavaliere ela morte finally, iconography retains its central role in the interplay between picture and word. In this final assignment, the Vice investigates the murder of Sandoz, a prominent and powerful industrialist. Suspicions logically fall on Aurispa, head of a large con- glomerate and the victim's longtime business adversary, until a tele- phone call from someone claiming to be a member of a revolutionary group takes credit for the killing. It is also revealed in the course of the investigation that before his death Sandoz had received several threatening telephone calls from the "figli dell'ottantanove," calls which he had never taken seriously. Not long after the murder, the police arrest a purported member of the group. But as Sciascia points out in Un caso di coscienza:

Che un delitto si offra agli inquirenti come un quadro i cui elementi materiali e, per cosi dire, stilistici consentano, se sottilmente reperiti e analizzati, una sicura attribuzione, e corollario di tutti quei romanzi polizieschi di cui buona parte dell'umanita si abbevera (53).

The Vice is reluctant to accept the "figli dell'ottantanove" as the ex- ecutioners of Sandoz; indeed, he is reluctant to believe that such a group exists. The "figli dell'ottantanove" are nonetheless a key to making sense of the murder case, but just what that key may reveal eludes the investigator, at least in the initial stages of the book. Sim- ilarly, in "Death and the Compass," Jorge Luis Borges'detective, Lonn- rot, embarks on a complex investigation which has little basis in re- ality and, he later discovers, is a fabrication. It is a carefully designed trap that leads him to his own death: when the investigator reaches the end of the trail he has been following, he is met by Scharlach, the man responsible for the trap, who says, "I knew that you would make the conjecture that the Hasidim had sacrificed the rabbi; I set myself the task of justifying that conjecture" (85). The name of the "figli del- l'ottantanove" is equally enigmatic, and lends itself to a number of conjectures which only need a justification:

[PIoichC si era a1 1989, quasi tutti i giomali diedero a quella denomina-

zione il significato di una neonata, e nuova, e diversa, eversione. Ma

una telefonata anonima, arrivata a1 giornale piu diffuso, tacciando d'ig-

noranza e cecita polizia, magistratura e cronisti, diede la meglio a1 1789


Unlike the more trusting Lonnrot, the Vice is aware of the possible trap inherent in the name of the revolutionary group: "Questa asso- ciazione non esiste, ma la si vuole fare esistere: schermo e spettro di tutt'altre intenzioni" (33).

He confides later in Doctor Giovanni Rieti, whose friendship has been frowned upon by the police, because of Rieti's suspected deal- ings with "intrallazzi economici e finanziari, rivalita all'interno dei partiti, farsi e disfarsi di alleanze, fatti di curia e fatti di terrorismo" (54). The Vice voices a question which he feels is crucial to the inves- tigation: "il problema e se i figli dell'ottantanove sono stati creati per uccidere Sandoz o se Sandoz e stato ucciso per creare i figli dell'ottan- tanove" (59). By debunking the symbolic value of the name "figli del- l'ottantanove," the Vice casts doubt on the authenticity of the group and on the validity of making conjectures around the date. Already from the beginning pages of the novel Sciascia is laying the ground- work for a work of detection that rejects the clear-cut definition of the "romanzo giallo."

Shortly after his conversation with Rieti, the Vice, whose health is deteriorating, takes a leave of absence and abandons the case, but his interest and indignation are renewed only days later when the "figli dell'ottantanove" resurface to claim another victim: Rieti has been murdered. Compelled that same day to go to headquarters to learn more, he never reaches his destination, for he too is shot to death by an unknown assailant.

The mystery remains unsolved: the open-endedness of the text oc- curs on the level of the investigation, as well as within the subtext of the Durer print as metaphor for the Vice. It is the subtext of the print which provides important keys to understanding Sciascia's novel from the opening pages, where Sciascia explains how an orig- inal Diirer print came to hang on the wall of the Vice's office. The logic is what Sciascia refers to as the link of Kantian derivation, of "causalita e ~asualita."~

The "casualita" in this case is the completely incidental manner in which the Vice came to own the print. He had seen it at an auction and had been so drawn to it that he had offered the final bid, which "corrispondendo a1 suo stipendio di due mesi, a1 momento di pagarlo gli diede un certo sgomento" (1 1). In recounting the episode Sciascia establishes the long standing connection be- tween the Vice and the print, and the possibility of the Vice's own recognition of himself in it from the very beginning. While the link of "casualita" is quite evident, that of "causalita," which is at the out- set the missing part of the equation for both protagonist and reader, does not however remain hidden for long.

Sciascia does not go on to describe the print itself, but it is not im- mediately clear whether he assumes the reader to be already familiar with it, or whether he is reserving comment for a later chapter (as it turns out, a description of the print will indeed follow some seventy pages later). What Sciascia does describe in the beginning pages is the identifying and authenticating documentation commonly found on the back of original works: "Dietro, sul cartone di protezione, c'erano i titoli, vergati a matita, in tedesco e in francese: Ritter, Tod und Teu- fel; Le chevalier, la mort et le diable." Underneath the title an un- known hand, perhaps that of a previous owner, has penciled in the words "Christ! Savonarole!," reflections which puzzle the Vice with disturbing insisten~e.~

As he ponders the identity of the figure in the print, and the thesis that the mysterious hand has silently offered, in a very literal and fundamental sense the Vice "reads" the painting in order to discover what truths it holds for him, and is unable to find a satisfactory answer. No clarity exists for the Vice either in reality or in art: ambiguity constitutes the unifying characteristic of both the murder investigation and the attempt to trace his identity and his des- tination through the Knight.

Accustomed as he is to searching even the most private recesses

of other people's lives, the Vice has not examined his own life with

equal meticulousness. Similarly, never before has he given much

thought to the Durer, nor does he have any idea why he bought it to

begin with. It is only in his present state of illness and weariness that suddenly he becomes aware of certain affinities between himself and the knight. Thus the print effectively becomes for the first time a mir- ror for the Vice, in which he sees his own worn image reflected in the proximity of a hovering death; finally he knows why the print came into his hands: "Ma ora, la testa appoggiata all'orlo dello schienale per la stanchezza e per il dolore, la guardava, estraendo significato dal fatto di averla anni prima acquistata. La morte; e quel castello lassu, irraggiungibile" (12). The missing link of "causalita" falls into place as the knight illustrates the recent developments of the Vice's life: the nearness of Death, the weariness, and the long and frustrating in- vestigation, the solution of which, like the distant castle, seems al- most impossible to reach. Sciascia gives his novel a Kafkian dimen- sion in the similarity he establishes between the Vice and the Knight, and K., the Land Surveyor of The Castle.Each is a traveller whose des- tination is elusive and inconcrete, whether it is the mysterious castle, or the identification of the "figli dell'ottantanove."

The print becomes crucial in the Vice's introspective search, and he approaches the print to discover its secrets just as he approaches his case: the gesture is a parallel one which attempts to read and in- terpret the given signs: "E il Cavaliere: dove andava cosi corazzato, cosi fermo, tirandosi dietro lo stanco Diavolo e negando obolo alla Morte? Sarebbe mai arrivato alla chiusa cittadella in alto . . . ? Cristo? Savonarola? Ma no, ma no" (70).It is not by looking at the identifying information on the back of the print that the Vice can most success- fully find the meaning behind the figures, but by reading the image within the framework of his own experience. Indeed it is the context itself which assigns value to the print and justifies its existence as it becomes a text. Just as the reading of the print creates the text, the Vice's investigation of the "figli dell'ottantanove" constitutes the at- tempt to read a text which has been neither written nor read before, and which only becomes text as the Vice uncovers it.

The Vice's appropriation of the pictorial image, his identification with the knight, gives it relevance and value. Years before, an art forg- erer who had been arrested and brought to the Vice's office had been the only one who had ever lingered over the print to examine it "e ad apprezzarla, proprio ad apprezzarla, second0 i piu recenti cataloghi dei mercanti di stampe zurighesi e parigini" (12). For the forgerer the work has an importance proportional to its market value; whether or not it is a forgery becomes secondary to what the buyer believes it to be. On the other hand, market value is insignificant to the Vice, and the issue of authenticity, therefore of value, assumes a different form for him. While the forgerer searches the picture for signs that betray authenticity or forgery, the Vice's reading of the picture gains relevance only when he reads it within the context of his own expe- rience, and when he sees it as a key to self-knowledge.

The act of reading the text marks its coming into being as an au- tonomous body which is no longer a part of its author, but a free- standing entity, whose existence is granted only through its being read. As Maurice Blanchot writes, "the book that has been exhumed, the manuscript that is taken out of a jar and enters the broad daylight of reading, is born all over again" (93). In this manner, the figure of the travelling knight is removed from his Renaissance context as he now comes to represent the Vice's experience.

If "the person who enjoys simply listening to music becomes a mu- sician as he listens" (91), Blanchot continues, then the person who reads becomes a writer as he reads. As the Vice appropriates the image he becomes at once its reader, protagonist, and author. As writer, reader, and protagonist of the story, he adds a verbal text to the pic- torial one. Such a juxtaposition adds to the spatial dimension of the picture the temporal dimension of the text. The shifting perspective provides a multidimensional locus in which the Vice moves about as both originator of the character and the character being originated. The Vice performs the same act of creation with regard to the "figli dell'ottantanove." By searching for a justification, for aBorgesian con- jecture, The Vice reads the group into being despite his strong reser- vations with regard to their existence as a goup.'

The trait shared by the knight, as mirror of the Vice, and by the Vice, as investigator of the "figli dell'ottantanove," is that each is un- dertaking a journey whose end is characterized by death as the only certainty. Like Ingmar Bergman's knight in "The Seventh Seal," Scia- scia's protagonist cannot stop death, only come face to face with it and, in the losing battle against time, struggle to find truth. '"I want knowledge, not faith, not suppositions, but knowledge' " (Bergman 28).' It is Diirer's as well as Bergman's castle, the "castello delltestre- ma veritii, delltestrema menzogna," and it is the nebulous identity of Sciascia's "figli dell'ottantanove" which define the outer limit of the journey toward discovery.

Along with the knight, the Vice confronts the labyrinth that sep- arates him from the veiled truth which lies at its end:9 the path is a deceptive one for, according to Borges, the labyrinth can be a straight line. The Vice enters the labyrinth that could lead him to the iden- tification of the murderers; as protagonist of his own odyssey, his journey is leading him to a place of mystery which he will not com- prehend until the moment of arrival, and where, like for Borges' Lonn- rot "a punctual death awaits" (86).

In his role as readerlcreator of his own story and of his investiga- tion, the Vice makes his way in a maze at the end of which resolution and death occupy the same space. At the very instant in which the Vice is shot, the two paths of inquiry, the personal and the profes- sional, become one as he finds in the moment of death a single dis- covery and a single ending. Resolution and dissolution occur in the same brief moment as the text is at once resolved or made complete, and at the same time is dissolved in its having reached the limit of its life, of its possibilities.

Nowhere in his novel does Sciascia equate this final discovery with the discovery of a single, indisputable truth: even the knight's castle is described as being at the same time "suprema verita" and "suprema menzogna." As the Vice lies dying, the truth he reaches is analogous to clarity: "La vita sene andava fluida, leggera; il dolore era scomparso . . . E tutto era chiaro, ora . . ." (90).What Sciascia suggests is the ab- sence of a universal truth in the world as we know it. Subverting and rejecting the traditional absolutes of truth and fiction that generally characterize the detective novel, he replaces them with the Heideg- gerian equation of truth as disclosure or unconcealment. Discovery and clarity at the end of the protagonist's journey draw the limit be- yond which the language of the text, and consequently the Vice him- self, cannot continue.

To read Sciascia's novel is to take part in the maze of journeys that he creates. The reader's way through the text is reflected, as in a de- ceptive yet revealing hall of mirrors, in the Vice's own path through the text of his twofold search. The Vice is reflected in the image of the knight who in turn is a mirroring of Sciascia himself, as the in- visible yet central player in the novel. As Borges says at the end of Lonnrot's search: "I know of one Greek labyrinth which is a single straight line. Along that line so many philosophers have lost them- selves that a mere detective might well do so, too" (86-87). The lab- yrinthine paths converge in all cases in a single and straightforward ending, as death remains the inevitable price to be paid. In Sciascia's narrative death represents the only condition in which truth can be approached. Truth is as elusive as the identity of the "figli dell'ottan- tanove," and the difficulty of attaining it within the world we know becomes increasingly clear. In Umberto Eco's I1 nome della rosa frate Guglielmo says: ". . . non tutte le verita sono per tutte le orecchie, non tutte le menzogne possono essere riconosciute come tale da un animo pio" (45).Truth and knowledge as Sciascia illustrates them in the novel, exist outside of our own imperfect sphere of existence, and to reach this state means to go beyond all which can be expressed by language. The common end of the Knight and the Vice, as well as that of Don Gaetano of Todo mod0 and Inspector Rogas of I1 contesto, cannot be explained away simply within the context of a cloak-and- dagger story, or within that of the Sicilian underworld's suppression of justice. Death in each of these cases must be seen not strictly as an end, but as a simultaneous reaching of truth and finitude. It is not accidental that Todo mod0 should begin with an expression of the link between truth and transcendence, when Sciascia quotes Dionigi Aeropagita's De mystica theologia:

[L] a causa buona di tutte le cose si manifesta senza veli e veramente a coloro che trapassano tanto le cose impure che quelle pure, e in ascesa vanno oltre tutte le cime piu sante e abbandonano tutti i lumi divini e i suoni e le parole celesti, e si immergono nella caligine . . .

To speak of the journey through the text, finally, is to speak not only of the journey toward finitude and truth, but it is to speak on several levels of a journey toward authorship. To the extent that au- thenticity of the Durer print is irrelevant until it enters the frame- work of the observer's reality, and that it enters the observer's reality only when it gains in some way relevance or value (for the forgerer it is monetary value which grants authenticity, while for the Vice it is the value of self -revelation), it may also be said that the reader gives authenticity and subjective value to the text through appropriation of it. As the text gains value to the reader and becomes a part of hislher experience, it may be said that it is 'exhumed' to breathe new life, and new authorship. When the Vice reads the print he inserts it into his own framework of reality and by interpreting it within this context, makes it a part of his own text. Along with the Vice's, the reader's task is not simply that of reading an experience which has already been; his gesture is that of making the text happen at the precise mo- ment of that particular reading, and therefore it is necessarily a ges- ture of writing, of discovery and of appropriation of the text. In his role as investigator of the murder as well, the Vice repeats the same gesture, which is in turn repeated by every reader, of the reading of signs and of creating a text.

The notion of identity and authenticity, which builds a framework for a reading of I1 cavaliere e la morte also provides the connecting thread between Sciascia's vision of painting and literature. Carefully wending his way through images of illusion and reality that he cre- ates, the task he sets himself is to maintain the precarious balance between the two. The one figure which illustrates Sciascia's game of truth and self-deception is that of the devil, whose ambiguous pres- ence or non-presence, reality or non-reality, is the mystery with which the author ultimately leaves his reader. Present, but too present to be believed, the devil as Durer represented him is "troppo orribilmente brutto per essere credibile."

To the modern observer, some four hundred years later, the devil appears as a pathetic and tired figure, not simply because in the knight's wake he has embarked on a long journey, but because his presence has become redundant. If in 1513Diirer's Devil did indeed accurately describe a Renaissance vision of evil, today the lines of

demarcation have been at least partially erased. From a modern, or post-modern perspective, Sciascia notes that "I1 diavolo era talmente stanco da lasciare tutto agli uomini, che sapevano fare meglio di lui" (70).He takes the observation a step further when he adds, referring to the knight: "Dentro la sua corazza forse altro Durer non aveva messo che la Vera morte, il vero diavolo . . ." (70).

In the title I1 cavaliere e la morte, which clearly echoes that of Dii- rer's print, mention of the Devil become superfluous. Sciascia's insis- tence on this omission underlines and defines his unspoken and per- meating presence, even as it makes a declaration of ambiguity. The boundaries of illusion and reality are no longer clear-cut, and the realm of truth borders and intersects with that of fabrication: no longer a question of absolutes and of objectivity, justice like truth be- comes a matter of authorial responsibility. The identification of the subversive "figli dell'ottantanove" becomes a virtually impossible task at the very moment that its existence is allowed and accepted. Roles suddenly reverse themselves in Sciascia's narrative, as the real responsibility falls on those who would bring justice.

Umberto Eco poses a very similar instance in I1 nome della rosa:

"Ecco, forse l'unica Vera prova della presenza del diavolo e l'intensita

con cui tutti in quel momento ambiscono saperlo all'opera . .."

"Voi quindi," disse 1'Abate in tono preoccupato, "mi dite che in

molti processi il diavolo non agisce solo nel colpevole ma forse e sopra-

tutto nei giudici?" (39)

Sciascia's declaration of ambiguity in justice, in authenticity, in literature, undermines in a most fundamental sense the traditional concept of linearity and unified truth. His subverting of the tradi- tional detective novel is only a part of the whole: the realm into which Sciascia inserts his novel is that of complete ambiguity, in which the difficulty lies in isolating a unified truth and therefore a linear vision of history itself. It reflects what Gianni Vattimo signals as the strong- est symptom of post-modernity:

. . . non c'e una storia unica, ci sono immagini del passato proposte da punti di vista diversi, ed e illusorio pensare che ci sia un punto di vista supremo, comprensivo, capace di unificare tutti gli altri (come sarebbe "la storia", che ingloba la storia dell'arte, della letteratura, delle guerre, della sessualita, ecc.) (9-10).

In I1 consiglio d'Egitto Sciascia rejects the idea of a unified and "true" vision of history, while in Todo mod0 he introduces through its fig- ural representation, the idea of an elusive but present devil, and in A ciascuno il suo he rejects the formulaic detective novel. In I1 cava- liere e la morte, using once again figurative art and a network of intertextual references, he brings together the elements that he had

sketched out in previous works. This novel remains, then, the work in which Sciascia encloses and completes his previous ones, and es- tablishes him firmly as a post-modern writer.''

As a final note, the ultimate irony with which Sciascia leaves his readers is one which once again reiterates the concept of a veiled truth and the labyrinthine intricacies of the straight line, the text. That the death of the Vice is a death foretold is clear from the opening pages: less evident is that I1 cavaliere e la morte gives in many ways the ev- idence of another foretold death, that of Leonardo Sciascia himself. Revoking and reversing once again Chronicle of a Death Foretold he walks toward his own death while his readers remain unaware, like Santiago Nazar, even though all the signs were there and "there had never been a death more foretold" [Garcia-Marquez 57).

The story of the Vice, the modern knight who, already ill with an incurable disease still continues his search to find order and truth in his universe, is strangely analogous to the story of Leonardo Sciascia. The year 1989, meaningless and all-meaning, on which Sciascia so curiously insists, strikes an odd note as well, but to interpret it as an anticipation of his own death is perhaps to become guilty in turn of "justifying the conjecture." All roads nonetheless converge in one certainty, the only point of unity and of contact: Sciascia's Vice, Borges' Lonnrot, Bergman's and Diirer's Knights and, finally, Sciascia himself.


'In A ciascuno il suo Laurana follows a pattern similar to that of Santiago Nasar in Garcia-Marquez'narrative. Only at the end is it revealed that everyone in the town had predicted, and ultimately had not been surprised by, Laurana's murder.

'See Alberto Moravia's discussion titled "I1 cavaliere di Sciascia" in Corriere della


"See Tom O'Neill's critical edition of I1 contest0 (138).

4After having read the manuscript of Todo mod0 for Einaudi, Italo Calvino wrote

Sciascia a lengthy letter in which he proposed in detail a number of possible solutions

to this detective novel ("Lettere a Sciascia" 70-73). He was apparently unable, how-

ever, to solve the mystery in any definitive way, and it is not known what reply, if any,

was offered by Sciascia.

'Sciascia frequently refers to the theory of causality (see for example Todo modo),

which Kant discusses in The Critique of Pure Reason. The principle is one which sys-

tematizes the necessary sequence of concept and experience. Once again then, Sciascia

undermines the traditional causeJeffect structure of the traditional detective story by

introducing a metaphysical element.

6The Knight is generally accepted among art historians as a representation of Chris-

tian fortitude, as described in 1504 by Erasmus in Enchiridion militis Christiani: "In

order that you may not be deterred from the path of virtue because it seems rough and

dreary. . . and because you must constantly fight three unfair enemies-the flesh, the devil, and the world-this third rule shall be proposed to you: all of those spooks and phantoms which come upon you as if you were in the very gorges of Hades must be deemed for naught after the example of Virgil's Aeneas. . . . Look not behind Thee" (Qtd. in Snyder 336).

'The creation of the "figli dell'ottantanove" through language evokes Heidegger's thesis of the control that "idea" exercises over "truth" and of the power of language to call into "thingness."

'One of Bergman's models for the knight in "The Seventh Seal" was indeed Diirer's "Knight, Death, and Devil" (Gado 205).

'Borges' "Death and the Compass" follows a pattern very similar to 11 cavaliere e la morte. The detective, who like the Vice is searching for an elusive, if not fictitious murderer, must wend his way through what is literally a labyrinth of clues, only to find that death has been waitingfor him at the end of it. Borges' search, like Sciascia's, takes the form of a journey at the end of which simultaneously lie death and discovery.

'OSciascia's last novel, Una storia semplice, published in November 1989,only days before his death, is considerably shorter than his other novels. 11 cavaliere e la morte can therefore be considered his last full-length novel.


Bergman, Ingmar. The Seventh Seal. Trans. Lars Malmstrom and David Kush- ner. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960.

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