"The island of the Sicani ", a novel by Nino Belvedere

An author's first novel is always particularly difficult. The problems along the difficult pathway to be followed can be both numerous and varied. The worst (and inevitable?) one is that in the first novel there is the danger that many, even too many and confusedly, things are put together, such as motives, narrative notatations of the widest range that were thought up here and there during the long and painful maturation that can last an entire lifetime. Passions and real fixations that the author is unable to free himself of, to do without, or perhaps manages to do so through writing, enthusiastic preferences for a certain style or a certain author rather than for another. Recollections, personal experiences, places recalled from the memory, dearest thoughts: often, almost always, this is the case. This rule is not broken even by Nino Belvedere with his novel "L'Isola dei Sicani" ("The Island of the Sicani"), published. by Edizioni Tracce and presented at the recent Turin Book Fair. His love for the land where he was born, Novara di Sicilia, but he has worked for many years in Piedmont at Castiglione, and recollections from his infancy, a foreshortened adolescence are perhaps the most important passages in these beautiful pages. "Way back in the past I saw with my eyes a thousand times and over the aurora that again this time will slowly fill the valley with its glow that will uncover the lake of roof tiles, the terraces and alleys, throwing light onto the stream and the fast rising mountain sides, filtering through into the leaves of the pines and walnut trees ... but in the nightmare a few nights back ... everywhere I looked I could see only a burnt land covered with corpses crushed by devastated houses, crucified or raised to the ground." This nightmare was hell. Dreams, whether good or bad, of the mother of the author, both open and close the novel, almost seeming to mean that there is a strong link that still remains with his family, his closest friends that have stayed at Sperlinga (as St Basilio is called), at Pietramuigna (in reality, Novara di Sicilia) or who went away, as he did, to find work. But here the author distances himself from the narrative stereotype that we based ourselves on above, thanks to his extraordinary and inborn sensitiveness and an always unrewarded curiousity in the widest range of things that leads on to looking on as a to recount everything he sees from the passion for film cameras in which every scene filmed or everyone examined becomes the protagonist in the line up for the story board that is never completed, and this is where the fascination lies in clear, but at the same time, vague outlines. For the sense of a contagious mystery, that leads Giuseppe (the protagonist) to look absolutely everywhere, with us along with him. Behind each gesture and everywhere there lies something else that is vague and unsaid... "In a blink our rising gaze was stunned by the pale blue reflections of the perennial snow patches on the mountains ... still as beautiful as the day in which God had created them. Running along, following the thick roots of the Turkey oak) snaking along the pathway, we arrived worn out among the fresh silven grades of a thick wood. The golden disc of the sun lit up the huge brazier of Etna while setting behind the Nebrodi Mountains. "The Island of the Sicani" is therefore an internal pathway of a soul returing to its own origins. It is a loving tribute to a land that had never been forgotten. The novel is extraordinarily well wriitten and lends itself to several parallel readings as it is, with its thousand and more facets, open to a wide range of interpretations. After overcoming the dangers of a whole lot of nostalgia and oleography in literature, it takes us along the path of experimenting immediate effects and great modernity, (above all in moments, as in mountain climbing or descending into the basements of monasteries...) in the moments of greater and warmest participation.

Matteo Pappalardo