The Best Revenge

Bella Sicilia, Clara e Oscura

The rugged mountains lifting into the vaporous cloud cap that repeated their tumultuous form on the aerial plane looked familiar enough—sky islands, we call them in the American Southwest.  Only these were real islands, rising from blue sea rather than sere desert floor, and the clouds surmounting them were more than atmospheric; they were Homeric.  If Icarus had made it as far as Sicily from Crete before his unscheduled descent into the Icarian Sea, then this is how the island would have appeared to him from the air.  By some miracle of physics, the intense Brownian motion produced by a few score of Sicilian schoolchildren returning home from spring break in Paris failed to melt the wings of the Aero Meridiana jet, and we landed toward the knife-blade Egadi Islands—on schedule at Aeroporto Falcone Borsellino, named for two of the Mafia’s more prominent contemporary victims and engineered on a land spit hard between a limestone cliff and the Mediterranean Sea that offers the only flat piece of ground surrounding the ancient insular capital city of Palermo.

The island of Sicily has always been a place seemingly divided in equal parts between light and dark, on account not of geography only but also of its stature, lasting many centuries, as the center of civilization and the epicenter of Globalpolitik: quite literally, the most important place in the world.  Sicily’s significance...

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