Home > 1970, 20th Century, Highly Recommended, Italian Literature, Novella, State of the Nation > 20 Books of Summer #13 : Equal Danger by Leonardo Sciascia – A masterpiece

20 Books of Summer #13 : Equal Danger by Leonardo Sciascia – A masterpiece

Equal Danger by Leonardo Sciascia (1971) French title: Le Contexte. Translated from the Italian by Jacques de Pressac, revised by Mario Fusco.

After my trip to Sicily and after reading The Wine-Dark Sea by Leonardo Sciascia, I bought his novel Equal Danger. (Il Contesto, literally translated as Le Contexte in French) This book was made into a film directed by Francesco Rosi, with Lino Ventura as the main character. Equal Danger made a lot of noise when it was published. It is a thinly veiled attack towards the Italian political scene, on both side, the party running the country and the opposition.

Inspector Rogas investigates a series of murders. All the victims are judges. The more Rogas digs into the judges’ personal lives, the more he unveils muddy relationships between the judges and the political milieu. Nothing is fully honest, nothing is clean. The dice of the political game are loaded, just like they are in Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu.

Equal Danger is built as a crime fiction novel and written as a parody. It is a mix between Candide and political crime fiction. Sciascia blends the two genres perfectly and his book is like a literary bombshell thrown at the Italian ruling class.

The beginning is humorous, as we see Rogas start his investigation, tackle politics and navigate between what he wants to do and what his hierarchy wants him to do. We root for him and hope he’ll beat the system at its own game. But will he?

In the afterword, Sciascia says that he kept this book in his drawer for two years before publishing it, probably because when he started to write it, he was amused but when he was finished, he didn’t feel like laughing anymore. And that’s how I felt as a reader too.

Very highly recommended.

  1. August 22, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    Ooh, good one. “mix between Candide and political crime fiction” – good line.

    There seems to be a lot more Sciascia in French than in English, but luckily we have this one.


    • August 22, 2020 at 9:58 pm

      All of Sciascia’s work is available in French. Italian literature is often translated into French and vice versa.
      I think you’d like this one, with the literary policeman.


  2. August 22, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    I thought I had this one and I checked. Yes I do. I really liked To Each His Own, so I will have to get to this sooner than later


    • August 22, 2020 at 9:56 pm

      It’s worth reading and it’s short. That should make it go down from the shelf to your reading table.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. August 23, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    Interesting! I have read one of his books, “A Simple Story” which is anything but and was a clever and engaging short crime tale. Intriguing, the book also had another short work “Candido” which I haven’t read yet…


    • August 23, 2020 at 8:51 pm

      There are several of his works available in English, then.
      This one is really excellent, and kind of depressing. You watch the system work poorly and there’s no real hope of improving it.


  4. August 23, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    This sounds excellent. I’ve not read this author but I really enjoyed Sword so your comparison with that is really tempting.


    • August 23, 2020 at 8:53 pm

      It shows what happens behind the scene and how the system works. It’s a different tone than Sword but it has the same purpose: show to the public how politics are done and how the elite who runs the country stick together.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. August 25, 2020 at 5:10 am

    I like Sciascia’s « serious » novels more than his parodic ones so far, but it’s been a while since I’ve read anything by him other than some nonfiction. I would watch just about any movie with Lino Ventura in it, though, especially if it’s a Sciascia adaptation!


    • August 25, 2020 at 10:20 pm

      I really liked this parody, it’s so spot on. Imagine what he could have done with the current presidential campaign in the US.


  6. August 26, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    Nice blog Emma


  1. August 31, 2020 at 10:32 pm

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