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English Professor Again Translates Sicilian Author

Santi Buscemi

Her name is Fasma, and she is a fictional character in one of Luigi Capuana’s novellas. She is buying a ticket for a train trip in 19th century Italy, and is noticed by the narrator of the story. He is fascinated by her; they meet on the train and discover they are both searching for something. She is a lost soul and he hopes to be her rescuer. They end up living under the same roof in his rented country villa.

But there are complications.

“The emotions of the human heart are so complicated that when we start to untangle them the process never ends,” Capuana writes.

This tale is one of six in “Profiles of Women,” Capuana’s first complete full-length work, published in 1877. It has been translated by Middlesex Professor Santi Buscemi. Each story features a woman and an unnamed male narrator.

“It consists of six different women and their relationships with what we think is six different men,” Professor Buscemi said. “But it turns out it really isn’t six different men, it’s the same man – Capuana’s persona.”

Professor Buscemi said Capuana explored the inner thoughts of both men and women with clarity.

“In the preface, Capuana tells you that his stories come out of the misty region of his consciousness about women that he knows,” Professor Buscemi said. “And they’re very interesting stories. Capuana was a master of psychology. He inhabited the minds of both men and women.”

Professor Buscemi is 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.

This is Professor Buscemi’s fourth Capuana translation. 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” and “Nine Sicilian Plays by Luigi Capuana Translated from Sicilian into English.”

“Profiles of Women” was the precursor to Capuana’s first novel, “Giacinta,” which was published two years later. The translation of that work is next on Professor Buscemi’s agenda.

“I find him to be a fascinating author,” he said.