Hailed in Italy as the best book ever written about the mafia in any language, Cosa Nostra is a fascinating, violent, and darkly comic account that reads like fiction and takes us deep into the inner sanctum of this secret society where few have dared to tread.In this gripping history of the Sicilian mafia, John Dickie uses startling new research to reveal the inner workings of this secret society with a murderous record. He explains how the mafia began, how it responds to threats and challenges, and introduces us to the real-life characters that inspired the American imagination for generations, making the mafia an international, larger than life cultural phenomenon. Dickie's dazzling cast of characters includes Antonio Giammona, the first "boss of bosses''; New York cop Joe Petrosino, who underestimated the Sicilian mafia and paid for it with his life; and Bernard "the Tractor" Provenzano, the current boss of bosses who has been hiding in Sicily since 1963.
Comprei este livro em Palermo e comecei a lê-lo quando visitava a Sicília. Sabia poucas coisas sobre a Máfia Siciliana e queria saber mais. Só posso dizer que este livro correspondeu a 100% às altas expectativas que eu tinha.
The word "mafia" is known to everyone, yet not many people have a very clear idea of what it is. Mention the mafia, and most people probably think of the American Mafia (though this is in fact an offshoot of a decidedly Sicilian tree), or a scene from The Godfather. The truth, as John Dickie shows in this excellent account, is both more interesting, and more complicated and harrowing, than fiction.
Nobody knows quite when or how the mafia came into being; even the origin of the name is now hopelessly lost and obscure. Mafiosi themselves tend to use the name "Cosa Nostra" – "our thing". The organisation owes much, perhaps, to Sicily's unique history. This small island, situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, barely a stone's throw from the Italian mainland and yet very different to the remainder of the peninsula, has been conquered by Greeks, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, and the French. Some of these colonial powers were more forbearing than others, but ordinary Sicilians rarely benefited from their rule. Distrust of the state, and the conviction that an honourable man sorts out his own problems and avenges insults and injuries on his own initiative, was and is widespread. Strange as it may sound, honour – albeit of the kind that few outsiders would recognise – is written into the mafia's DNA.
The mafia seems always to have existed on two levels. On one level, it is hidden and mysterious, a sub-stratum that only its members know of or understand. Crime – fraud, drug-trafficking, money-laundering, protection rackets – is its raison d'être. On another level, however, it rises up into the mainstream and infiltrates politics, law enforcement, the judiciary, the Church. As the author says, Cosa Nostra "is a shadow state, a political body that sometimes opposes, sometimes subverts, and sometimes dwells within the body of the legal government." (Of course, and as it's only fair to point out, there have also been politicians, policemen, judges and priests who have courageously taken a stand against the mafia, and have paid dearly for it.)
There have been many attempts to deal with the mafia, none of which have been entirely successful. Mussolini launched a war against Cosa Nostra, perhaps motivated by an incident that occurred when he visited Palermo and the mayor (a Mafioso) gestured at his bodyguards and said, "You are with me, you are under my protection. What do you need all these cops for?" The implication was clear: here, the mafia were in control. The duce did not take kindly to such a statement, and under his regime the mafia seemed to be in retreat – only to advance again in the post-war era. In the 1980s, in the aftermath of the brutal Mafia Wars, a determined effort to overcome the mafia was launched by magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, and led in time to the Maxi Trial, in which 342 mafiosi were convicted. The mafia response was swift and brutal: Falcone, Borsellino and many others were killed, which in turn led to a wave of public revulsion.
Which leads us neatly to the present situation, insofar as it can be understood. The Pax mafiosa, ironic as the name may sound, is in place, and the days of car bombs and public shootings seem to be over, at least for now. Brutality continues ("I filled a cemetery all by myself," new capo Matteo Messina Denaro has reportedly claimed), but it does so in private and out of sight. The modern mafia have grasped one of the more elemental, and odd, rules of postmodern society: that which does not exist in the media can be said, in a certain sense, not to exist at all.
What of the future? This versatile organisation, deeply embedded in the structure of Sicilian society, probably isn't going anywhere fast. It may change and adapt, but it will almost certainly continue – for the time being. "The mafia of Sicily pursues money and power by cultivating the art of killing people and getting away with it," Dickie states. That, at least – sadly – is unlikely to change any time soon.
“La mafia nacque non dalla povertà e dall’isolamento, ma dal potere e dalla ricchezza.”
“Le origini della mafia sono strettamente legate alle origini di uno Stato inaffidabile: lo Stato italiano.”
“Il sistema politico italiano non soltanto non combatté la mafia delle origini, ma contribuì attivamente al suo sviluppo.”
“Come i magistrati inquirenti sottolineano continuamente, Cosa Nostra non sarà mai sconfitta se non si comprende che si tratta di uno Stato ombra, di un organismo politico che qualche volta si oppone al governo legale, altre volte lo sovverte, e altre ancora abita al suo interno.”
“Non fu mai lo Stato italiano in quanto tale a dare l’assalto a Cosa Nostra. La svolta non ci fu mai. A combattere la battaglia contro la mafia rimase un’eroica minoranza di magistrati e poliziotti, appoggiati da una minoranza di politici, amministratori e cittadini comuni.”
A comprehensive and telling account of the mafia, this book takes effort in targeting the exact inception of this vague and shadowy group. It's also a slap to the face to all my Italian peers who attribute mafiosi behavior to the mainland, when clearly it originated amongst their islander counterpart. Any historian who appreciates meticulous writing will surely find wealth in this accurate but often grotesque text.
“El secreto que la mafia siciliana logró guardar durante tanto tiempo, el secreto de su propia existencia, ha dejado de serlo, y ha dejado de serlo para siempre.”
Aquellas personas no italianas piensan en la mafia como aquella organización criminal elegante, glamurosa y llamativa a su estilo, retratada en El Padrino de Mario Puzo. ¿La realidad? Es una organización cuyo poder y presencia es el terror de los habitantes, cuya historia está basada en sangre y extorsión, que te ata a ella, cuya regla es la muerte y su lenguaje las amenazas.
John Dickie hace un buen trabajo al mantenerte pegado en cada una de las páginas del libro, contándote lo que se sabe de la mafia desde sus orígenes (aquel siglo XIX tumultuoso en donde era más fácil culpar a la actitud siciliana que admitir que existía una organización de tal envergadura) hasta principios de este siglo XXI, mencionando acontecimientos importantes en la organización, su forma de actuar (siguiendo ese difuso y a la vez riguroso código de honor), vínculos políticos que tuvieron, personajes famosos que pertenecieron a sus filas, así como asesinatos destacables que han realizado.
Y, ¿qué decir? Como fan de la historia y con sumo interés en el tema de la mafia, he disfrutado bastante de la lectura. He confirmado cosas que ya sabía de pasadas investigaciones, como que he descubierto nuevas cosas.
I first read this book in my early twenties after watching the Godfather trilogy. I had became obsessed, for a time, with the Sicilian/American Mafia and digested as much I could about the culture and lifestyle. My naiveté led me to believe that this both book would be written in a similar vein to that of a Mario Puzo piece. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed.
Many years later, I read the book again. This time armed with a better understanding of Historical Crime/Fiction. The entanglement of plotlines and 'crossover' character's are at times nauseatingly difficult to follow. John Dickie does succeed in drawing you closer to the Cosa Nostra way of life. However, the lack of emphasis placed on the 'build up' to significant events rendered them meaningless, to me as a reader. I do appreciate, that historical integrity was high on Dickie's list of priorities for his project. Unfortunately, the cost was supplemented at the expense of enticing drama.
I would urge anyone who is interested in learning more about Sicilian Mafia, to read this book. Those who have a passing interest in what is more commonly referred to as the New York mafia, and was turned on to the subject by a Martin Scorsese film, (as was I) then understand that Cosa Nostra is nothing like what you see in the movies. The whole 'Five Families' thing is covered in less than a chapter. Albeit, with bitesize nuggets of golden information on the part played by the Mediterranean Capos.
This hefty book is a history of the Sicilian Mafia from its beginning to modern days. The first part is interesting and contained lots of details I had not read anywhere else. However, the book's unforgivable flaw comes out pretty early. The author seems to attribute the rise of the Mafia to the incompetence of the political system and the Italian police. Although I tend never to underestimate incompetence as a cause for all evils (especially for Italians), this outlook is fundamentally naive or, worse, out of connivance. Whoever lived in Italy or studied the Italian political world after WW2 cannot ignore that the political sphere was a willing accomplice of the Mafia. The Italian government used the Mafia to silence the Communist threat and then provided peculiar favors in terms of reduced sentences, Hiltonian prison conditions, etc. The author also ends the book with one gigantic error that has really no excuses. John Dickie explains that Giulio Andreotti, 7-time Prime Minister, was cleared of all charges and proved innocent in his decade-long trial about his collaboration with the Mafia. That is a lie. Andreotti's ties to the Mafia were proved and recognized until 1980, but expired under statutory laws. Andreotti is not an innocent man. A good journalist cannot make such mistakes.This curious interpretation of Italian history left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
My big question is this: what made Giovanni Falcone and Paulo Borsellino (both born and bred in Palermo) become heroic fighters for justice when others born in the same time and place turned to violent crime? Who lit that spark? Where did they get such courage from? The courage to continue on a path even though they knew it would lead to a violent death.
This is a fabulous book: a detailed account of the development of a criminal organisation from early 19th century to 2006 (the capture of Bernardo 'The Tractor' Provenzano). Dickie is at pains to explain that Cosa Nostra is not some vague Sicilian tendency towards vendetta. It is a carefully organised structure with clear membership processes.
So what are mafiosi? They are 'entrepreneurs in violence.' Dickie quotes Franchetti: "[in the violence industry] the mafia boss...acts as capitalist, impresario and manager...he regulates the way labour and duties are divided out...Discipline is indispensable in this as in any other industry if abundant and constant profits are to be obtained. It is the mafia boss's job to judge from circumstances whether the acts of violence should be suspended for a while, or multiplied and made fiercer. He has to adapt to market conditions to chose which operations to carry out, which people to exploit, which form of violence to use."
That sounds like a description of Tony Soprano; it was published in 1877. Yes, 1877! What sort of blind amnesia does Italy suffer from? And Dickie is absolutely clear: this secret society based on violence has not melted away.
Un ampio spettro temporale per indagare le origini della mafia, le logiche e le azioni che ne hanno decretato la longevità, partendo dalla seconda metà del 1800, quando la mafia (o maffia) veniva considerata solo una peculiarità del carattere siciliano, un machismo patriarcale di vecchio stile, un modo di essere degli uomini che difendevano il proprio onore, il sistema di valori dell'identità di gruppo, e arrivando sino ai giorni nostri, passando per tutta la terribile e sanguinosa fase di comprensione del fenomeno (minimizzato da alcuni, ancora convinti che la mafiia non esiste) che ne ha svelato il vero volto, cioè quello di associazione criminale organizzata che nel corso del tempo ha assunto il ruolo di Stato ombra.
Se oggi sappiamo come agisce la mafia, che resta comunque un animale mutevole e capace di cambiare pelle mantenendo gli stessi propositi, è grazie a pochi uomini coraggiosi che hanno agito nel campo della legalità - irrimediabilmente uccisi - e alcuni pentiti eccellenti il cui contributo ha permesso di fare enormi passi in avanti in tal senso.
La prima parte stimola curiosità poiché 'storicamente' lontana, le connessione delle prime faide sono illuminanti nonostante l'approccio aneddotico sorretto da supposizioni e ipotesi e di un (a volte) ingombrante corollario di dettagli folcloristici.
Personalmente ho trovato più stimolante il periodo che va dalla fine della seconda guerra mondiale in avanti, che con le sue fobie fasciste dei 'rossi' prima, e con quelle americane poi, ha finito per consegnare un Italia da ricostruire nelle mani di chi quelle mani ha preferito non pulirsele, creando volontariamente o meno i presupposti per un'intesa politico-mafiosa che ha retto fino a che non è collassata grazie proprio al contributo di pochi uomini coraggiosi, quelli irrimediabilmente uccisi, e alla sterminata e incontrollata sete di potere mafiosa.
"Alcuni politici democristiani erano destinati a diventare i mediatori elettivi tra la criminalità organizzata siciliana e il potere romano, e a conservare questo ruolo per oltre quarant'anni."
1994: le forze politiche cambiano, la mafia dopo aver affossato quelle vecchie ne cerca di nuove per avere garanzie di sopravvivenza e... trova terreno fertile. ...
Un testo che ha la leggibilità di un romanzo e accessibile a tutti quelli interessati all'argomento.
You have to respect the amount of work and research that must have gone into putting together this pretty exhaustive history of a movement that by its very nature is about as secretive as it gets, and though it is more readable than a dry(ish) retelling of key events could be, it still started to feel a little bit like a chore as I went on. So many different names committing so many similar crimes, the thing does start to get a little blurry after a while.
Un saggio ben scritto per chi vuole capire la genesi e l'evoluzione della mafia attraverso gli anni. Ovviamente alcuni episodi sarebbero da approfondire, ma il libro ha il pregio comunque di fornire un panorama completo dei fatti piu' rilevanti. Consigliato.
Mammamia!!!! Da habe ich mich so auf dieses Buch gefreut, denn seit dem Tod Falcones habe ich mich mit dem Thema nicht mehr ausführlich beschäftigt und ich wollte nach dem Film "Il divo" wieder mal Up to date im Who is Who der Mörder, Wirtschschaftsverbrecher und honorigen Leute sein.
Nach 150 Seiten musste ich das Buch vorerst mal weglegen. Wie kann man derart langweilig über ein so spannendes Thema schreiben und dann auch noch die Wiederholungen, die Unübersichtlichkeit.....grauslich!!! - Ich bin in der historischen Mafia steckengeblieben und noch gar nicht zur Gegenwart bzw. zu jenen Kapiteln der 80er und 90er Jahre, in denen ich mich gut auskenne, vorgedrungen. Vielleicht wird es ja noch besser.
Irgendwie scheint dieses Buch sich selbtst zu verlieren beim Anspruch wirklich historisch korrekt alle komplexen Zusammenhänge immer und immer wieder zu kauen. Dass so ein Thema nicht einfach ist, sei unbestritten, aber dass eine gute Aufarbeitung möglich ist, sieht man an David A. Yallop, der die sicher genauso komplizierten wirtschaftlichen Zusammenhänge zwischen Finanz, Kirche und Mafia in den 80er Jahren sowohl genau und komplex als auch spannend erzählt hat.
Deshalb verstehe ich die euphorischen Rezensionen von Tagesspiegel, Süddeutscher Zeitung und Welt am Sonntag überhaupt nicht. Aber vielleicht wirds noch besser (habe ich schon zum zweiten Mal geschrieben ist das eine Beschwörung?).
Auf jeden Fall gilt das Zitat auf der ersten Seite nicht: Dickie mag ja sicher ein guter Historiker sein, aber auf keinen Fall ein gewandter Erzähler!!
This book is organized roughly chronologically, from the (theorized) beginnings of the mafia to the early 2000s. Almost all of the content is centered on notable figures within the mafia rather than "the mafia" as a whole.
I liked that Dickie is very clear about what is known and what is theorized, and how he stresses that most of what is known is based on the testimony of pentiti.
Unfortunately I just couldn't get into this book. My biggest sticking point was that the book quickly became repetitive - not due to the writing itself, but due to the fact that the middle 2/3 of the book mostly consists of: - Dozens of accounts of mafiosos, with many of the accounts being fairly similar. - Numerous accounts of how the Italian government periodically rediscovers the mafia, gets serious about fighting it, and then lapses back into willful ignorance.
If you're looking for a detailed account of what is (or was, circa 2004) known about the mafia, you'll probably get a lot more out of this book than someone like me, who was looking for a broad overview.
To say Cosa Nostra is well done is not enough. We are talking about tracing Mafia in the late 1800s in Sicily, its exportation to America in the early 1900s and its development since. You will not find the climax of Mario Puzo's The Godfather because Cosa Nostra is a chronological trace. John Dickie may have set out to educate through his book and not to thrill. However a story of mafiosi and mafioso will always be a tale of excitement.
The lowlight is that Dickie touches much of much which means the book needs more pages if it's to tell the story of mafia in detail. A reader feels that the writer is in a hurry to fill 150 years of mafiosi activity in a few chapters.
I do congratulate Dickie for his research and his excellence in remaining neutral. I'm educated on the History of mafia and will definitely be out looking for more of Dickie.
Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia tells the story of the Sicilian Mafia from creation to somewhat end..??
While it was an informative novel, there was just too much information; so many names, dates, and stories that it was hard to keep up. I am thankful that I had my professor to help guide me in what he wanted me to learn because I would have been lost.
John Dickie did a good job by giving you all of the facts about the mafia, but I wouldn't suggest this if you are looking for something concrete because it seems like Dickie goes all over the place, jumping from year to year and story to story.
It was still good, but beware of all the information that will be thrown at you.
I loved it. It was full of knowledge and easy to read. Even though I tried to separate chapters because I was doing a research at the same time. I would recommend it to anyone who like this kind of topic and wants to know more.
This is an exhaustive account of the Sicilian mafia from its beginnings in the mid 1800s in the lemon groves of Palermo to the present day still largely operating in the western half of the island. A tad dense at times, the book is engaging, and it is revealing in terms of the inter-workings of the mafia and its often complicated and violent interactions with the business, political and legal professions. Former Italian Prime Minister Andreotti, allegedly tied to the mafia, once said that “things that happen in Sicily are incomprehensible”. Maybe so, but Dickie makes the mafia less incomprehensible for his readers.
Before reading this book I thought that Mafia was a thing of the past - something from The Godfather movies where the mafiosi run around with guns and buy politicians. Some of that turns out to be true, but I am quite certain now that it is definitely not a thing of only the past. If you know more history books like this - I want to read them all!
A fascinating read about the mafia organization, very detailed and well researched. It flows well, but as one can expect from a history book there are parts where it drags or repeats itself. Not a slight on the author, more on the culture of impunity that allowed the mafia to flourish.
The go-to book if one wants to understand the mindset of the Sicilian mafia.
Mielenkiintoinen kuvaus Sisilian mafian historiasta. Lähdeaineisto on monipuolista ja sen käsittely vaikuttaa epistemologisesti pätevältä sekä uskottavalta. Huolimatta tiukasta analyysista ja turhasta mielikuvituksellisen tarinankerronnan välttelystä, teksti soljuu hyvin eteenpäin.
This is a study on the notorious criminal organisation the Sicilian Mafia - Cosa Nostra - Over the years, Cosa Nostra has become an alternative source of political power in the Southern Italian island. The reach of this criminal organisation has spread its tentacles across the globe, becoming a feared and respected multinational criminal organisation. From more humble roots in dealing with cattle rustling, the Cosa Nostra moved into more traditional mafia activities such as protection rackets and later made very heavy profits in drug smuggling. The Cosa Nostra is a difficult theme to research due to the clandestine nature of its activities. It is a secret brotherhood and we learn of its hierarchy and organisation plus its almost religious like entry rituals. It can be bloodthirsty and strict and its internal discipline is its means of maintaining its power. It is in effect a tandem organisation to State power in Italy and its members. even on the run - are able to live clandestinely with few problems. The links between Cosa Nostra and the American Mafia was interesting - Joe Bananas a figure that bridged the gap between both worlds. The two mafia wars of the Twentieth century were bloody and Cosa Nostra resorted to terrorism in its fight amongst itself and also with the state. There has been a very damaging emergence of Pentiti who are whistleblowers who reveal to the authorities the crimes of former colleagues in exchange for immunity or freedom. The Cosa Nostra was brought to the brink of destruction by some of these treacherous characters. The Maxi-Trial led by antimafia judges such as Falcone caused much devastation and meant a change in strategy, leadership and tactics. Falcone ended up suffering a gruesome death, a fate shared by very many enemies of Cosa Nostra. It was interesting seeing some of the dirty political dealings that many leading Italian political figures have with Cosa Nostra, including well known long term President Silvio Berlusconi. The research for this book was often second hand, relying on preceding authors and also details could often be fussy due to a lot of the knowledge of structure of the organisation and its activities come from Pentiti who often are less than reliable sources due to their own bias. I felt that it was an interesting and enlightening study although towards the end of the book the author's clear antimafia stance became a little annoying as I felt could have been more subjective and perhaps focussed too much on the Crime aspect of Cosa Nostra and lacked respect in terms of seeing it as a perhaps positive force in much of what it does.
I was lucky enough to be able to read the first half of this excellent account of the history of the Sicillian Mafia while visiting Palermo. Walking past locations key to stories told in the book added a certain vibrancy to the text and indeed to the city itself. I was genuinely shocked by the brutality of this book. The concept of the Industry of Violence as a tool for political control is an amazing notion but also an obvious one once it has been outlined in effect, and the relentless killing detailed here certainly accomplishes that. The stories of the various murders of anyone who tried to stand in the way of the mafia are enough to chill the blood and certainly dispell any romanticised iteration of the mafia created by Hollywood. Another aspect of the book I found incredibly informative was the breakdown of how the mafia's actions often had a concealed or even primary political agenda behind them. The analysis brought to bare on their strategic motivations is excellent. The writing here is also top drawer. As well as brilliantly descriptive and inciteful hand, Dickie also tempers the flow of information with enough nods backwards and forwards in the text to assist with taking in around 150 years of history and an awful lot of similar looking Italian names. It should not be forgotten that this book is also the history of a tragedy that has befallen many innocent people and that there are some real heros written about here, the vast majority of whom were murdered for having the courage to speak out. Somewhere beyond highly recommended.
It's really surprising considering the fascination so many people in America have for the Mafia but this is one of the few books in English that is about the Mafia within Italy and Sicily. It was literally a war zone in Palermo during the 80s and 90s where nobody was untouchable. Politicians, police, wealthy business people, clergy, etc, were frequently getting murdered, plus the warring factions within the mafia families killing each other this focuses entirely on Cosa Nostra history and activity in Sicily. It's just surprising as crazy as things were during that period along with the general fascination so many people have with La Cosa Nostra that so little in English has been published about it.
You actually get far more information on various anti-mafia crusaders in Sicily over the past 100 years than Cosa Nostra in this. Parts of this book was very interesting, other parts were pretty boring. I'd still consider it worth reading though.
The topic of Cosa Nosta is obviously a very interesting one and still very obscure. But after the first 100 or so pages of this book, I had to stop for a while. It was so utterly boring! What was also a problem for me were all the Italian names which confused me a lot. I couldn't remember who was who and if I ha read this name before or not. After some time I picked it up again and was able to read through it that time. But I guess that it is enough to read the last 50 (plus minus) pages about the last 20 or so years of the mafia. That was really interesting and also well written!
But all in all, I was pretty disappointed by Cosa Nostra. I hardly remember anything at all, expect that there was something about an opera(?) the author kept blabbing about for quite some while and...um...yes. That's pretty much it. Quite bad after 512 pages I guess.
Un libro ambizioso, che si propone di ripercorrere la storia della mafia dalle origini ai giorni nostri, ricostruendone le motivazioni, le spinte motrici, i complessi meccanismi relazionali che la governano e che ne segnano al contempo l'evoluzione. Un' opera apprezzabile perché non si ferma ad una mera cronologia di eventi ma si spinge oltre indagandone le cause materiali e psicologiche e le narra in modo coinvolgente e accattivante...