Mario Puzo claims his fame and fortune with The Godfather. He exerts his mastery of writing and storytelling in The Sicilian.
This book offers nearly every addictive literary substance for which the reader’s neuro-transmitters scream. Puzo offers action, suspense, national heritage, generational character, moral integrity, filial piety, brotherhood, loyalty, ethical conflict, the power of conviction, and so much more. Turi Giuliano represents the kind of archetypal hero for which every common citizen of every common country dares to hope and dream.
Ever since watching The Godfather films years ago, I have tried to articulate exactly why I find them so unbelievable. After reading The Sicilian, the same idea, or theme, creeps further out of the shadows and permits the light to artfully sketch its image. I imagine Puzo wrestling with this idea and experimenting with it. He carefully crafts the histories of each major character, including Sicily, which inspires the reader to consider those historical circumstances as the masters of personal fates and destinies. These histories and current circumstances create a sort of volatile microcosm which only a certain character can ignite and reinvent. A seemingly autonomous Nurture pairs with a character’s Nature – devastating a once confused idea of control. I wanted this character to be Michael Corleone.
So with the appearances of the Corleone Family in this story, I come closer to understanding Puzo’s experimental hypothesis. In The Godfather, Michael Corleone succumbs to the life of his father, Don Corleone. He learns to control the most powerful Mafia family America has ever seen. But more importantly, he learns to survive. The Sicilian asks whether these aspirations shrivel to the heroic will to inject life and happiness into a society rather than to conquer it. Michael Corleone, as we view him in this book, did not live the life he would have chosen. He chose loyalty to his family, which history and circumstances may have forced him to do considering the nature of his brothers and the world Don Corleone had built around him, which brings about the sad tragedy of his life.
He survived tragically – dying a lifelong death – whereas Turi Giuliano lived even beyond his last breath; the final reward of the mythical hero, the archetypal conqueror of death who lives the life that every common citizen of every common country would choose for their children. In dying he lives while in life the Mafia Don exists as an empty vessel. Michael Corleone would have lived if he hadn’t needed to survive. He is the hero who ignored his calling.
And perhaps the burden falls to Sicily, the histories and circumstances, for creating a world which demands that we choose to survive tragically by its methods or live heroically by our own.