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Literature / The Sicilian

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"Ah, we love where we are born, we Sicilians, but Sicily does not love us."

"Live your life not to be a hero, but to remain alive. With time, heroes seem a little foolish."
Don Vito Corleone

The Sicilian is a 1984 novel by Italian-American author Mario Puzo. It is the literary sequel to The Godfather. Set in 1940s and 1950s Sicily, the novel follows Salvatore "Turi" Guiliano, a Robin Hood style bandit who dreams of freeing Sicily from the corrupt government and The Mafia, with the help of his second in command and best friend, Gaspare "Aspanu" Pisciotta. The novel is based on the real life Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano. (Yes, all Puzo did was move the "i" around.) To save Guiliano's life, Michael Corleone is ordered by his father, Don Vito Corleone, to take Guiliano with him as he returns to the United States after his exile in Sicily.

It was adapted into a film in 1987 that was directed by Michael Cimino and starred Christopher Lambert as Guiliano, John Turturro as Pisciotta and Joss Ackland as Don Croce. However, all Godfather references and characters were removed from the film due to Paramount Pictures owning the copyright.

See also Salvatore Giuliano, an Italian-language biopic of the bandit.

The Sicilian provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Besides all Godfather references being removed from the film adaptation for copyright reasons, the entire plot is simplified for the film adaptation, subplots are dropped, and most characters besides Guiliano, Pisciotta and Don Croce are reduced to background roles.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Don Croce Malo in the novel becomes Don Masino Croce in the film.
    • Prince Ollorto becomes Prince Sandro Borsa.
    • Justina Ferra becomes Giovanna Ferra.
    • For some reason, Cpl. Canio Silvestro had his first and last names switched in the film.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Don Croce is a more sympathetic character in the film adaptation, although he still betrays Guiliano and arranges his murder.
  • Affably Evil: Don Croce Malo.
  • Audience Surrogate: Michael Corleone, who despite living in Sicily for almost four years during his exile, is still an outsider in Sicily. He is also not familiar with the intrigue and the complex backstories and must learn about them along with the audience. He even admits to his father after he returns to America that he is still confused about what was going on most of the time while he was being ferried around Sicily.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The novel ends with most of Guiliano's band being murdered, and Guiliano is betrayed and killed by his best friend Aspanu Pisciotta. The release of Giuliano's Testament, which would have led to the downfall of the corrupt Christian Democratic party government, is suppressed by Don Corleone, disillusioning Michael. The story ends with Don Croce and the Mafia stronger than ever, enriching themselves at the expense of the Sicilian people.
  • Bad Habits:
    • The Abbot Manfredi, who smuggles goods and makes and sells fake religious artifacts for a living along with the rest of the monks in his monastery. He introduces Guiliano to the professional criminal side of Sicily and further disillusions him.
    • After Guiliano foils one assassination attempt, The Mafia send a hitman disguised as a priest, who tries to get Guiliano alone to "hear his confession". Guiliano laughs and points out that his sins are all over the newspapers, so what's the point of confessing them in private? Pisciotta then searches the priest's effects and finds a silenced pistol. The priest assumes that he'll be released unharmed, as the previous assassins were, but Guiliano is angered by this violation of the confessional and tells the hitman he's got thirty seconds to make his peace with God before he dies. After Guiliano kills him, he has his body crucified and left for the men who ordered the assassination to find.
  • Big Bad: Don Croce Malo.
  • Confessional:
    • Stefan Andolini reports to Don Croce Malo by confessing to his brother, Father Benjamino Malo.
    • Giuliano is also offered the opportunity to confess to a priest, but refuses. Good for Giuliano, as on at least one occasion the priest was actually an assassin sent to kill him.
  • Convenient Misfire: Happens when Corporal Canio Silvestro fires his pistol directly at Guiliano's head and it jams. The incident helps cement Guilaino's reputation and Guiliano takes it as proof of the righteousness of his cause and spares Silvestro, later even allowing him to join his band. In the movie this becomes Dramatic Irony when Guiliano tries to shoot Don Malo only for his weapon to misfire also.
  • The Don:
    • Don Croce Malo, the boss of all bosses of Sicily, who is believed to be based on the powerful real life post-World War II Sicilian Mafia chief Calogero Vizzini.
    • Don Vito Corleone, who is the boss of all bosses in America. As most of the story takes place in Sicily, he only appears in person after Michael returns to America alone.
  • Downer Ending: Giuliano is murdered by Pisciotta and Don Croce and the Mafia emerge more powerful than ever.
  • The Hero Dies: Guiliano is shot and killed by his best friend, Aspanu Pisciotta, after he betrays him to Don Croce.
  • Historical Domain Character: Salvatore "Turi" Guiliano (Giuliano) and Gaspare "Aspanu" Pisciotta were both real people.
  • Historical Fiction: A fictionalized take on the life of Salvatore Giuliano in post World War II Sicily.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Arguably Puzo's take on Guiliano.
  • Interquel: Most of the story takes place during Michael Corleone's exile in Sicily, which is in the middle of The Godfather.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Guiliano's band steals from the powerful and the wealthy, and gives a good portion of their ill-gotten gains to the peasants of Sicily.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Guiliano develops a system by which he allows his victims to kneel and say their final prayers to God before he or his men shoot them. Only the hardest Mafia Dons refuse his offer.
  • The Mafia: Serves as Sicily's unofficial, arguably more powerful and definitely more brutal, second government. Additionally, nearly all the characters are members of the Mafia, or closely associated with the Mafia.
  • Meaningful Name: Don Croce Malo- Malo literally means "bad" in Italian.
  • Sand In My Eyes: In the film adaptation, Don Croce being taken to a meeting with Guiliano. As they drive to the meeting place, Guiliano's men are lining the road, cheering this "man of honor". Don Croce cites the dusty road as the reason he has to take off his glasses and wipe his eyes.
  • Took a Level in Cynic:
    • Guiliano after he is shot by the police and realizes the extent of the corruption in Sicily and decides to become a freedom-fighting bandit.
    • Michael Corleone after he finds out that his father made a deal with Don Croce to suppress Guiliano's testament in exchange for Croce protecting Michael as he left Sicily. Michael learns from his father that staying alive is more important than being honorable, a lesson which causes Michael to make decisions in the future that make his life miserable.
      Don Vito Corleone: A man's first duty is to keep himself alive. Then comes what everyone calls honor.
  • Turncoat: Turi Guiliano's best friend and cousin, Gaspare "Aspanu" Pisciotta, betrays and kills him.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Guiliano realizes he has been this to Don Croce after the Portella della Ginestra massacre.
    • Aspanu Pisciotta also serves as this when he is manipulated by Don Croce into betraying and killing Giuliano. Don Croce then promptly abandons him to rot in jail, and helps when Hector Adonis decides to assassinate him in prison.
    • Michael realizes he was this to his father and Don Croce after he realizes that by giving the Testament to his father, who suppresses it after Guiliano's death, he had been unknowingly working against Guiliano the entire time.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Based on the life of real life bandit Salvatore Giuliano.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Portella della Ginestra massacre -when Guiliano's band kills 11 Sicilian peasants attending a Communist parade to try to intimidate them from voting. Despite the fact that Guiliano had specifically ordered his men to shoot above the heads to get the crowd to disperse, and he later finds out that Don Croce had bribed one of his men to intentionally shoot low, Guiliano can no longer think of himself as a hero after this.
  • Why Are You Not My Son?: Don Croce feels this was towards Guiliano, wanting to make him his successor, as he disowned his real son after he decided to become a missionary and do charity work in South America. It doesn't work out for either Croce or Guiliano.