Every society produces the particular kind of imposture that suits it best, so to speak

From Leonardo Sciascia’s Council of Egypt (Il Consiglio d’Egitto). The crime referred to is the wholesale invention – through forged manuscript written in nonsense Arabic script – first of Sicilian history during the Islamic period and then during the early Norman occupation. The latter project touches on the inherited rights of the nobility.

“It’s true,” Di Blasi said, “every society produces the particular kind of imposture that suits it best, so to speak. Our society is a fraud, a judicial, literary, human fraud – yes, I would say human too, for it is fraudulent in its very essence. So our society has produced, quite simply and naturally, a reverse fraud—”

“You are squeezing philosophy out of a common crime,” Don Saverio Zarbo said.

“Oh no, this is no common crime. This is one of those facts which help define a society, a historical moment. If culture in Sicily were not, more or less consciously, a fraud, if it were not a tool in the hands of the barons, and therefore an imposture, an endless imposture and falsification of reality – well, I tell you this, Abbot Vella’s adventure would have been impossible. I’ll say more: Abbot Vella has not committed a crime; reversing the terms, he has produced a parody of a crime, of the crime that we in Sicily have been committing for centuries.”

“In effetti“ disse l’avvocato Di Blasi ”ogni società genera il tipo d’impostura che, per così dire, le si addice. E la nostra società, che è di per sé impostura, impostura giuridica, letteraria, umana… Umana, sì: addirittura dell’esistenza, direi… La nostra società non ha fatto che produrre, naturalmente, ovviamente, l’impostura contraria…”

“Voi spremete filosofia da un volgarissimo crimine” disse don Saverio Zarbo.

“Eh no, questò non è un volgarissimo crimine. Questo e uno di quel fatti che servono a definire una società, un momento storico. In realtà, se in Sicilia la cultura non fosse, più o meno coscientemente, impostura, se non fosse strumento in mano del potere baronale, e quindi finzione, continua finzione e falsificazione della realtà della storia… Ebbene, io vi dico che l’avventura dell’abate Vella sarebbe stata impossibile… Dico di più: l’abate Vella non ha commesso un crimine, ha soltanto messo su la parodia di un crimine, rovesciandone i termini… Di un crimine che in Sicilia si consuma da secoli…”

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