Sicilian Lives by Danilo DolciSicilian Lives by Danilo Dolci

Sicilian Lives

byDanilo Dolci

Paperback | December 12, 1981

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When Danilo Docli, peace worker, organizer, educator, first arrived in 1952 in Trappeto, a village of peasants and fishermen in western Sicily, there were no streets, just mud and dust, not a single drugstore, not even a sewer. (In fact, the local dialect didn’t even have a word for sewer.) Like other Sicilians, the villagers, seen by many Italians as “bandits,” “dirt-eaters,” and “savages,” had, in effect, been mute for centuries.

Dolci’s years of work broke this silence. The result is Sicilian Lives, a book which reveals the intimate experiences and perceptions of a wide range of Sicilians, rural and urban, through voices that are sometimes frightening, but always fascinating and unexpected.

Danilo Dolci has collected a rich panorama of voices—the eloquent testimony of Sicilians who, at last, are speaking out to penetrate the most profound dilemmas of an impoverished land. 

With a foreword by John Berger
DANILO DOLCI (1924–1997) was an Italian author, educator, political activist, and poet. Dolci rallied the Sicilian people to fight for change by teaching, campaigning for public works, and organizing sit-ins, fasts, and ''strikes-in-reverse.'' He was one of the only figures to shed light on the Sicilian mafia’s abuse after World War II...
Title:Sicilian LivesFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:336 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 inShipping dimensions:8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 inPublished:December 12, 1981Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0394749383

ISBN - 13:9780394749389


Read from the Book

2. Leonardo  He is about eighteen, totally illiterate. We talk in sight of his flock in the Madonie Mountains, which bound Palermo Province.  When I was little, I played out in the alley, that’s all. What else could I do? I hired myself out at thirteen. My father was a shepherd, first I worked with him. When you watch over animals all year round, you get to know them. First my father did it alone, then I tended to those animals with him. At San Giorgio they didn’t want to let me milk because I did it with too much love and care. I always milked that way. See, if you pinch their udders to start with, they don’t let you milk no more. You got to be careful not to scratch them. When you milk them, each one’s different. Some are wild and others are tamer. There’s some with real good teats and others all cock-eyed. Some are harder and others are just ripe for milking. They won’t go near a lot of other folk. Me, they’ll let me hug them. I can’t count, but I can tell from a distance if one’s missing. I look real close till I know. I know them all in person. There’s this one’s mother, here’s that one’s lamb. Don’t matter how many, I know em all. I been with sheep, a hundred, maybe two. Come sunset the boss’d count em. He knew the exact amount. Me, I watch them, I’m always on their track, combing them out, petting them, gathering beans to feed them. They come right up to me. I love them and they love me. They don’t get names. If I call em, they turn and come back. When a ewe’s going to drop a lamb, I figure it all out, cause her teats swell and she don’t eat. Then she’ll sprawl on the ground, and her water’ll break. And she bleats. If everything goes OK, she’ll stop bleating. If not, I go to her, make her comfortable, and help her deliver with my own two hands. First the feet come out, then the nose, and the mother keeps licking to dry it off. When it’s born, the mother jumps up. About a quarter of an hour and the lamb gets up too. It starts to suckle. I saw lambing the first time with my father, and I lent a hand and learned to deliver sheep. The virgins are the ones that still haven’t given birth yet; we call em “ewes” when they have lambs. Goats who still don’t have kids are called “kids,” if they have one they’re called “nannies.” After that they’re just plain “goats,” Kids are different, they don’t tag along with their mothers unless they’re too scrawny. They’ll stray from her after a month, the ones you raise—the others you slaughter before that. Unless they get a whipping they never stick with the nanny. They’ll nurse at daybreak and then at dusk, that’s when you can keep em in the barn. Otherwise they like to run free, they always try to get loose. Trouble is, then they don’t get enough to eat. Their umbilical cord dries up all by itself. They’re beautiful animals. I pasture them where you find the best grass. If there’s nothing to eat they complain. Come noon, they huddle together and try to give each other shade. Later, they scatter all over the place. Do I know about towns? Well, I been in Castellana and Alimena. And money? We never touch the stuff. Sheep die off the minute they war certain flowers and wild berries, so you got to send the goats out into the fields first. They eat everything and don’t die. Nothing hurts em. After that the sheep can pasture, they won’t die cause the flowers and berries are gone. To pass time I make dummies out of clay and throw rocks at them. When shepherds have pipes, they play. But I don’t I don’t know how to make one. I make dummies or just pile up rocks as a target. I get what I need from the road. All us shepherds do it. The stars? I seen em, I don’t know what they are. They’re like pictures of the Lord. See, in pictures of the Lord there’s stars. They’re sort of like eyes, who knows? The moon is the Madonna. So I heard, and I’ll say so too. I pray to them. When it’s cold I say to the sun, “Come forth.” When it’s too hot I say, “Refresh us.”

Table of Contents

Foreword, by John Berger • vii
Prologue • xv
1. Rosario • 3
2. Leonardo • 13
3. Bastiano • 16
4. Santo • 25
5. The Honorable Calò • 35
6. Sonia Alliata of the House of Salaparuta • 38
7. Peppe Volpe, Knight of the Orders of . . . • 42
8. Salvatore Vilardo • 55
9. A Parish Priest • 61
10. The Cardinal • 63
11. Don Genco • 67
12. Rosaria • 71
13. The Healer • 84
14. Ignazio • 89
15. A Street Cleaner • 94
16. Uncle Andrea • 99
17. A Lawyer • 103
18. The Warden of the Uccardone • 106
19. E.A. • 113
20. Ciolino • 118
21. Gaspare • 129
22. Potato • 135
23. Vincenzo • 140
24. Grandma Nedda • 150
25. XX • 155
WASTE • 175
26. XY •  177
27. A Friend of Placido’s • 189
28. Salvatore • 203
29. Antonio • 205
30. Uncle Felice • 213
31. An Industrialist • 221
32. Crocifissa • 224
33. Santuzza • 229
34. Sariddu • 231
35. A Friend of Miraglia’s • 239
36. Gaetano • 250
37. Angela • 259
38. Gino Orlando • 264
39. The Children • 289
Epilogue • 291
Translator’s Note • 301

Editorial Reviews

“Mr. Dolci also listens, which is why he is called the Oscar Lewis and Studs Terkel of Sicily. For 30 years, he has written down what he hears and read it back to the teller. A story—a connection—is made; lives are rescued from silence. . . . Only the grave robbers know anything of Sicily's ancient history; only Mr. Dolci seems unbroken, nonviolent, among the children, listening, an architect of muscle and tongue. We ought to be grateful.”—The New York Times “Danilo Dolci is a wonderful man, one of those who, in purity of spirit, has cast his lot with the insulted and the injured. He is utterly free of rancor or righteousness; he is better than a saint—he is a good human being. And it all comes out in his writing.”—Irving Howe “Danilo Dolci, in living a Sicilian life, offers us, in wisdom and innocence, the hearts, minds, and dreams of his neighbors. With their own words he has painted an indelible portrait of a society.”—Studs Terkel “Danilo Dolci is not only the world’s foremost advocate of nonviolent revolution, but also a poet and a sensitive interviewer. He is often called Sicily’s Gandhi, but he has also been Sicily’s Stud Terkel and Oscar Lewis. . . .Beautifully written, Sicilian Lives is a course in the sociology, anthropology, economics, and politics of Sicily, and a moving portrait of its people.”—Herbert Gans