Mafia Killer's Memoir Prompts Literary Critic's Resignation

From IBT: The autobiography of a jailed Mafia killer has been selected as finalist for a Sicilian literary award, prompting the resignation of a juror who claimed the choice offended the memory of the author's victims.

Literary critic Gaspare Agnello said that the decision to admit a book by Cosa Nostra affiliate Giuseppe Grassonelli (titled Malerba) to the final has soiled the name of the prize dedicated to Leonardo Sciascia, a late Sicilian writer who helped raise awareness on Mafia issues through his work.

Noting that the mobster never repented of his crimes, Agnello said that awarding him "would be an offence to his many victims, whose blood is still fresh".

To add to the controversy, one of the other selected finalists, Caterina Chinnici, is the daughter of a prosecutor killed by the Mafia in a 1983 bomb attack in Palermo.

Malerba's co-author, journalist Carmelo Sardo, dismissed the criticism as fuelled by "unexplainable envy" and accused the literary critic of failing to understand the book's value and message.

The president of the jury, Gaetano Savatteri, said that the names of the three finalists were agreed to by all board members, including Agnello. [Ed. note: Can you say: Grandstanding?]

The winner is to be announced at the weekend in the picturesque Sicilian town of Racalmuto, near Agrigento.

Grassonelli, from the southern port town of Porto Empedocle, was arrested in the early 1990s over a series of murders he allegedly committed in revenge for the killing of members of his family during a turf war.

The 49-year-old Mafioso was sentenced to life without parole, as he refused to cooperate with Italian authorities as a pentito (informer).

His book, Malerba - Italian for "bad grass", the nickname Grassonelli was given in his youth - tells of his vengeance and criminal life.

Almost illiterate when he entered jail, the mobster has dedicated time behind bars to study and recently graduated in literature and philosophy, the book publisher said.

According to critic Agnello, the killer's new life however did not cleanse his past atrocities.

"How is it possible that a life convict who committed brutal crimes ... takes part in a literary award that had in Sciascia one of its leading figures?" Agnello wrote in a letter announcing his resignation to newspaper La Sicilia.


  1. To be accurate, Grassonelli was a member of Stidda, which was a breakaway of members from Cosa Nostra. Also, he was not illiterate when entering jail, on the contrary. He was very intelligent. He had been in the army in Germany, came home and got caught up in the turf war between Stidda and Cosa Nostra.

  2. This sounds amazing!!!! Is it in English? I live for this kind of literature!!! Far and few between do I find gems but this is exactly what I've been searching for.

  3. This guy's story (Giuseppe Grassonelli) is extremely interesting. There was an interview with him on Italian tv last year. He was making his usual appeal to be released. However, as Ed's piece correctly states, he has never repented. He is in a max security, but not as sever as 41-bis, like Riina and Provenzano are held. The author of the book that was interviewing Grassonelli became very close with him, pointing out how extremely intelligent he is. Grassonelli, in his interview said, he feels like he has been rehabilitated, but if the State feels he's still a threat, they should keep him where he is, but he will never repent. And what would be the point 20 years later? Anyone he could talk on, is either dead or in jail for life from those wars. He's of no use to them to repent at this point. It is a very very interesting book for anyone that is interested in the wars between Stidda and Cosa Nostra in the 80's...and can understand Italian, of course.

  4. Arrrgh! Bummer!!! I've been looking for a book covering somewhat modern Italian LCN. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.....

  5. Correction: apparently I was wrong about him being literate before entering jail. He wasn't, just like the article stated; although, extremely street smart intelligent.

  6. As an FYI, this book won first place this weekend.


Post a Comment