Puzo's `The Sicilian' portrays an unheroic Mafia

The Sicilian, by Mario Puzo. New York: Linden Press/Simon & Schuster. 448 pp. $17.95. Salvatore Guiliano, the ``Sicilian Robin Hood,'' is a legendary bandit in Sicily because he shares his booty with villagers. However, this hill bandit, who seeks to plunder a corrupt Roman church and government, is destructively self-righteous in his brutal and constant vendettas, family loyalties, and customs.

When Guiliano encounters a fossil that may be from one of Hannibal's elephants, the flaw in his vision is made clear -- he is himself becoming a fossil and will never defeat the corruption that enslaves his people.

This lesson would all but escape Michael Corleone, son of the Mafia leader (of ``The Godfather'' fame), were it not for his father's admonition: ``Live your life not to be a hero but to remain alive.'' Corleone is bound by a promise to his father to bring Guiliano to America.

Puzo's Mafia is neither heroic nor likable; here they are little more than criminals known as ``the Friends of the Friends'' -- men who visit villages bearing gifts of food and wine to alleviate the fear their presence creates.

With this novel, Puzo should gain the reputation of being one of our more interesting postwar writers.

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