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Professor Translates Capuana’s Plays

Santi Buscemi

Santi Buscemi

One is a riveting courtroom drama, another a thriller in which a woman, who took the rap for a murder actually committed by her husband, comes looking for him. Themes of class and betrayal, these are only two of nine plays by the Sicilian author Luigi Capuana (1839-1915) that have been translated into English by Middlesex Professor Santi Buscemi.

“It was a new challenge for me,” said Professor Buscemi, who has translated other works by Capuana. “I grew up speaking Sicilian but had less familiarity with the written word. But I was fascinated by the plays. Some of the characters in them were very familiar to me – I grew up with them – figuratively. That was the fun of it.”

The work, “Nine Sicilian Plays by Luigi Capuana Translated from Sicilian into English,” was published in February by Mellen Press. Aimed at research and university libraries, the book retails for $100.

Not only did Professor Buscemi translate the work, he also took the photograph on its cover. It is a photo of a 12th Century Monastery, St. John’s of the Hermits in Palermo.

Professor Buscemi has become an expert on the life of Capuana, the father of “verismo,” the literary philosophy that maintains that humans are pawns of outside influence – economic, political, social, biological – that leaves little room for free will.

“Capuana was a prolific author of novels, short stories, fairy tales, criticism and plays – with plays coming more toward the end of his life,” Professor Buscemi said. “He did 12 plays and I used the nine best and most famous in the book.”

Capuana wrote in both Italian and Sicilian and Professor Buscemi credits him and others such as Nino Martoglio with reviving regional languages in Italy.

This is Professor Buscemi’s third translation of Capuana. His first was “C’era una volta,” a collection of fairy tales under the English title “Sicilian Tales,” which was followed by “The Marquis of Roccaverdina.”

He’s not done with Capuana.

He completed “Profiles of Women: A collection of six novellas,” as well as two short story collections: “The Neighbors” and “The Enemy Is Within Us.” Professor Buscemi is also completing a translation of “Giacinta,” Capuana’s first novel.

“Capuana is a fascinating author,” Professor Buscemi said. “I’ve enjoyed studying his life and work.”