"The whole history of Italy - and of much of Europe - seems to have been distilled, concentrated, and acted out on this singular island," writes Francine Prose of Sicily, a place conquered in succession by the Greeks and Carthaginians, Romans, Goths, and Vandals, Byzantines, and Saracens, Normans, Swabians, the Spanish and French. In her travels through the island, she examines the seamlessness and grace with which the present layers itself over this colorful and brutal history, as well as the amazingly intact and magnificent icons of bygone splendor: the Greek amphitheater at Siracusa, once among the most influential city-states in the world; the winding alleyways and Baroque palazzos on the island of Ortygia; the melange of Norman, Byzantine, and Arab in the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalu; the Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina; the majestic and mysterious Greek temple at Segesta.
Prose writes of the intensity of Sicily, the "commitment to the extreme," where the history is more colorful, the sun hotter, the cooking earthier, the violence more horrific, the carnival more raucous, the politics more Byzantine than other places on earth and how much the island can teach us about the triumph of beauty over violence and life over death.
Francine Prose is the author of ten novels, including Bigfoot Dreams, Primitive People, and Blue Angels, and two collections of her short fiction. Prose's essays have appeared in The New York Times, Harper's Magazine, Elle, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, and a PEN translation prize. She lives in New York City with her husband.