About Carmelo

Carmelo Musumeci was born on July 27th, 1955 in Aci Sant’Antonio in the province of Catania. Condemned to life imprisonment, he is now in the prison of Padova.
When he entred, he only had an elementary- school licence. During his detention in the Asinara under the 41bis, he continued his studies by himself and ended high school. In 2005 he graduated in law with a thesis in Sociology of the Law titled “ Living a life sentence”. In May 2012 he graduated at the University of Perugia in the Specialised Degree course in Law Penitentiary with the supervisor Prof. Carlo Fiorio, a teacher of criminal procedure. Since 2007 he is sharing the project “Beyond the bars” with Don Oreste Benzi: it is a programme of the “Pope John XXIII” Community. In 2010 he published the book “Gli uomini ombra” and in 2012 “undici ore d’amore di un uomo ombra”and “Zanna Blu. Le avventure” with an introduction by Margherita Hack
published by Gabrielli Editori.
In 2013 publishes "L'urlo di un uomo ombra" published by Edizioni Smasher; in 2014, with Stampa Alternativa-Nuovi Equilibri, “L’Assassino dei Sogni”, Lettere fra un filosofo e un ergastolano, Carmelo Musumeci, Giuseppe Ferraro
He is the promoter of the campaign “Never say never” for the abolition of the endless punishment.
He has a personal website:  www.carmelomusumeci.com  where some friends publish all his writings and his diary from jail.



What is an impedimental life conviction?

It is an endless punishment according to art.4 bis of the state prison judicature, law 356/92. It denies any alternative to jail and penitentiary benefit to those who have been sentenced for crimes of association:
“Few people know that there are two types of life conviction: the normal one, which lacks humanity, proportionality, legality, equality and educational value, but leaves at least a glimmer of hope; than the impedimental one, which sentences you to death even if you are alive, with no hope. To better understand the matter you must know the law n.356/92 which regulates the prison sentences in a double way: for some crimes considered particularly dangerous to society, the lawmaker has foreseen a special regulation, which doesn’t allow any extra-jail possibility to the convict, except to those who cooperate with justice: that’s why many life convicts are actually damned to die in jail. In the past life convict, even if tortured by uncertainity, has always had the hope not to die in jail. Now this possibility is gone. Since 1992 impedimental life conviction has been adopted: the living death sentences has come back.”
In few words the impedimental life conviction means long-life jail, it’s a punishment inflicted to those who have committed crimes of association or a murder (either material executors or supporters). The impedimental life conviction is not provided for rapists, pedophils, killers. Impedimental means deprivation of any penitentiary benefit: award leaves, half-freedom, probation, unless you cooperate to the arrest of other persons. On the contrary those who don’t cooperate, fearing revenges on their own families, refusing to send other persons to jail or not being able to add anything else about the criminal associations they belonged to, those people are sentenced to spend all their life in jail. People always talk about repentants but actually they should talk about “cooperators” because it is clear that cooperation is a legal choice while repentants is an interior feeling. Cooperation allows you to get out from jail, but it doesn’t testify your interior repentance. Actually while a prisoner spend his life suffering in jail, he deply thinks about his past mistakes, in spite of the prison system, which abandons the prisoner to themselves and doesn’t at all help any re-education and in the case of impedimental life convicts excludes any hope for social reintegration. Every week we meet dozens of life convicts, deprived of any hope and any penitentiary benefit, people who are in jail since 1979, only forty years old, who have been life convicted since they were 18 and never went out, even for the funeral of their father. People who have spent the most of their life in jail. In Italy there are more than 100 life convicted who have spent in prison more than 26 years (the limit of probation). Half of this 100 prisoners have even exceeded thirty years of detection. Up to the 31 December 2010 the life convicted in Italy were 1.512: four times more in the last 16 years, while the “common” convicted is only doubled. On the 31 December 2010 the convicted in the Italian jails were 67.961 and those half-freed more or less 900 ( 29 of those life convicted ), 29 against 1.512 and almost 100 jailed for more than 26 years: doesn’t it exist the certainity of punishment?

Paolo Cavanelli, President of the tribunal of surveillance in Perugia has stated:

(…) According to the reformation plan of civil code, a new consideration on life conviction has to be done, because ( in spite of probation or half-freeing ) there are many impedimental life convicted who are damned to die in jail. A constitutional system which foresees reintegration and danies inhumanity we can’t accept this endless punishment, which for certain categories of crimes is absolutely certain and hopeless.
(Rome 28 May 2010: the criminal limit and the sense of humanity )
Aldo Moro, during his University lessons warned students, legislators and politicians as follows: “Remember that punishment is not an excessive private revenge: it is the balanced answer of the legal regulations, which have to be socially acceptable, not based on revenge but strictly necessary, in order to give any crime a correct punishment”

*From the introduction of Angelini Giuseppe and Bizzotto Nadia, Ass. Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, in the book “ Shadow Men” writer Carmelo Musumeci-ED.Gabrielli 2010.


Sign against life sentence

Proposal for a civilian initiative for the abolition of life sentence

(Article 22 Penal Code)

The Italian Constitution states: 
Article 27- Punishments may not contradict humanity and must aim at re-educating the convicted. 
Article 50 - All citizens shall have the right to petition the Chambers demanding legislative measures or setting forth general needs.
Life sentence is more atrocious than any other sentence: it kills you, leaving you alive, and is longer, more painful and more inhuman than the death penalty. Leading a lifeless life, a "shadow man" (a life sentence prisoner) often considers himself dead even though he is alive. No human should keep another man locked in a cage for his entire life. You can take a person's freedom, but you cannot do it forever. This is why life sentence, the "living death penalty", is more horrifying and cruel than all other deaths.
In Italy, the prison sentence known as ergastolo ostativo is a life sentence deprived of penitentiary benefits (art. 4 penitentiary ordinance), excluding access to measures alternative to imprisonment, effectively making this kind of sentence a "never-ending sentence" and imposing a choice between two evils: either stay in prison for the rest of your life or put someone else inside in your place.
And it takes a lot of inhumanity and ill will to let a person rot in prison forever, because when there is no hope there is no life. To keep a person in prison longer than necessary is a crime against humanity. Every person should have the right to hope – and everyone does – except for "shadow men".
If you agree that a life sentence prisoner must leave prison because he or she deserves to and not because he or she uses the law to do so, and that an endless sentence is truly a torture that humiliates justice, life and God;
if you think that a man or woman must not be considered bad or guilty forever and that a sentence, to be fair, needs a beginning and an end, because a never-ending sentence cannot rehabilitate anyone;
if you believe that after many years in prison the sentence no longer punishes the person who committed the crime, but rather, punishes another person who no longer is part of that crime, because the person has changed and forgiveness is worse than revenge since it prevents the search for self-justification,
if you know that in Italy there are young life sentence prisoners who were teenagers at the moment of their arrest and will grow old and die in prison - without any chance to rectify the bad they have done, and that only in Italy, not in any other part of the world, there is ergastolo ostativo,
if you agree with all of this, leave your support for this civilian initiative for the abolition of life sentence imprisonment.


To sign proposal
To view list of people who have already signed



Mr. President of the Republic, there are nights that the thought we can remain in prison for a lifetime does not let us sleep. And hope is a dangerous weapon. It can turn against us. But if we had an end of the sentence.. if we knew the day, month and year we could get out.
May be we could be better people
May be we could be kinder people.
May be we could be more human people
May be we won’t be no more like beasts locked in a cage.
Mr. President of the Republic
We are “shadow men” that cannot have a better future, because we no longer have a future.
And for the State we do not exist, we are like deads.

We are just as living flesh stored in a cell ,waiting to die
But sometimes, when we forget to be beasts, we feel alive.
And this is the greatest sorrow for men condemned to be dead.
Why being alive if you do not have any chance to live? If you do not know when your penalty will end?
If we are destined to be considered guilty and bad forever?
Mr. President of the Republic, many of us have already killed themselves; the last one did it in this prison last month, others could not do it by themselves, please help us to do it.
And, as we did years ago, we ask you to turn our life sentence in death penalty.
The convicts in struggle for life, from the prison of Spoleto.
July 2011


July 2012
Dear President, dear Giorgio Napolitano
Yesterday I carried out a visit of inspection to the house of detention of Spoleto where I met dozens of convicts, including Dr. Carmelo Musumeci who asked me to deliver a letter signed by “The convicts in struggle for life”. As you can see they are sad words of those who have no hope. I must say that I do not share some requests they addressed to you, such as the one in which they call upon your help in dying. But I am not in their place and that is why I decided to deliver the letter. On the other hand the drama they are experiencing is immense. In fact, our law not only provides for life imprisonment which, in my opinion, is clearly in conflict with Art.27 of our Constitution (so that, with my radical colleagues, I introduced a legislative proposal to repeal it) but even life imprisonment impediment. That is a custodial that actually never ends and does not give the right to any benefit, even if the condemned assumes for decades an irreproachable behavior, marked by the search for the good and the self and others human growth. Excuse me, Mr. President, because, in this case, the messenger as I am right now … “shoot the messenger” and surrow!
In wishing you well, I offer you my most sincere and respectful greetings.
Rita Bernardini
Parliamentary deputy

Impedimental life conviction
“Death sentence for life”: A hidden truth

Long time ago, before many others (judges and lawyers included ) I have discovered that Italy adopts “Death sentence for life”.
For many years I have written that impedimental life conviction is worse, more painful than death sentence; it is a slowed down death sentence which kills you, day after day, keeping you alive. In Italy there are many young impedimental life convicted who were adolescents when arrested and who will get old and die in jail. Only in Italy not any other country in Europe impedimental life conviction is adopted, a punishment which will never end, unless you cooperate with justice. Impedimental life conviction goes against the divine and human law, against art. 27 of Constitution, which requires that “punishment must foresee rehabilitation, it also goes against the convention of the European Court.

Not only myself, but also the Surveillance Magistracy maintains this idea; nevertheless Italy adopts impedimental life conviction (art.4 bis O.P. with retroactive value).
In the magazine Narrow Horizons year 12, number 3, may/ june 2010 pg. 34, Paolo Canavelli, President of the Surveillance Magistracy in Perugia, declares:

“I refer to the reformation plans on the penal Code, and I don’t know if times are ready, but certainly we have to think about life conviction, because even if life conviction has possible internal correctives like conditional release or else, there are many life convicted in Italy, all impedimental, who are damned to die in jail. I believe that also about this idea have to undertake a new opening, because, in a constitutional system which foresees rehabilitation and denies behaviours opposed to human values, we cannot admit this endless punishment, which for certain crimes is absolutely certain because it doesen’t give way to any possible different solution”.

Carmelo Musumeci


The howing of the wolf to the Goodness of the Moon on behalf of the Shadow Man.

Dear Moon, I pray you:
My writer is an impedimental life convict, a “ ghost man” who will never have any possibility to become free if anybody else will take his place. You need so much inhumanity and wickedness to let someone in goal for ever, because if you have no hope you have no life left.
Dear Moon, Y pray you:
My writer has been fighting for twenty years, day and night, night and day, with hope, cheating himself, because no dream can be fulfilleld without any hope.. Very often behind the thirst of justice not goodness but hate for human beings are hidden.
Dear Moon, Y pray you:
The impedimental of life conviction is more atrocious of any other punishment, because it kills you while you are still alive and is very long, painful and inhuman, more than a death sentence. Often a shadow man thinks to be dead even if is alive, because he live a life without life.
Dear Moon, Y pray you:
No human being should keep in goal another human being all life long. You can deprive a person of his/ her freedom but not forever. For this reason the “Death sentence in life” is more atrocious an inhuman than any other death.
Dear Moon, Y pray you:
My writer in his latest novel inserted the book “Blue Tusk” has set me free from human beings and has introduced me to the Beautiful She Wolf, Black Eyes, White Tail and the test of the pack to make me feel free and happy. But I won’t ever be free and happy until my writer will be locked in an iron and concrete jail, with no hope for freedom.
Dear Moon, Y pray you:
Read his books “The Shadow Man”, “Eleven Hour of love for a shadow man”, “The adventure of Blue Tusk”.

For any information www.carmelomusumeci.com ; if you want to get in touch with my writer zannablumusumeci@libero.it

Carmelo Musumeci
 Spoleto 2012

I’m not but someday I will

“ Every person who knows about my story lengthens my life one more day” (P.Masciari)
In these days I have many times remembered what the Killer of Dreams ( jail, as I call it), has whispered to my ear during my only eleven hours of freedom I had after 21 years of prison. Where do you think to go? No use because tonight I’ll catch you again. If you are brave enough to come back you’ll suffer more. If you come back, you’ll repent, because this is last occasion you have to die as a free man. Better you take advantage. Hang yourself from a tree outside. If you don’t do that, in a short span of time you’ll have to do it from the bars of your cell.
When I come back the Killer of Dreams has whispered to me: It’s you again! You didn’t follow my advice. By coming back you have wasted a good occasion. No others left. Your fault. I’ll swallow also you last dreams, which are the best ones. You are only a shadow, remember. You’ll never be able to escape, nobody was able to. I know. You are a dreamer but I feed on dreams. Now it will be worst for you. I’ll suffer more, you’ll always be weaker and weaker. I’ll fear your heart to pieces. I’ll destroy your soul. I’ll make you even more nasty. I’ll make you hate life. I’ll make you curse God and love death ( from the book “ Eleven hours of love” Gabrielli Editor).

I’m not but someday I will: few days ago I went to Tribunal of Surveillance to ask permission to be here at the University of Perugia, as a free man, for the introduction of my book. The Attorney was in favour and the Tribunal of Surveillance as usual took time to answer me back. For a couple of days my silly heart dreams of eleven hours as a free man because rarely the Public Prosecutor agrees. I’m not but someday I will: after few days the permission has been denied and for some time I have stayed in my cell, as I usually do when I feel sad. I thought to be silly because I had deceived myself and my family once more. And I have asked to that son of a bitch of my heart: “ Why keep on fighting? Why weak up in the morning and go to bed in the night if you have no escape?”. And my heart has answered:
“Many shadow man don’t know that their freedom is up to them. And they shouldn’t need to send in jail somebody else at their place if they strongly fought with their hearts and their brains, because many impedimental life convicted wait for their freedom without realizing thet it’s freedom which is waiting for them. I’m not but someday I will: I promise to my heart, to my family, to my angel, to Giuseppe, to my beloved Daughter, to professor Carlo Fiorio, to Elisa and to all those who love me…next time I will be.
My heart send you a smile from the bars of my cell.

Carmelo Musumeci


End of punishment: 9999

Have you first rehabilitate them? Have you done something to prevent the crimes? And after those crimes have you tried to correct them? ( L. Settembrini, “Rememberances of my life” ).

One day I received in jail a letter from Alberoandronico Association which said: “… We are pleased to inform you that, after a first screening made by the Committee , your work has been selected, among 842 competitors … The awarding of prizes will be taken in Rome, on Friday March 30th, 2012, at 4 o’clock p.m. in the Promoteca room ( Campidoglio 1). Please confirm your presence”.
I smiled for the invitation and I thought that the organizers didn’t know I was a shadow man, an impedimental life convicted deprived of any future hope in freedom, damned to be guilty forever, unless I don’t put in jail somebody else at my place. But I also thought that if the jurymen had know that I was a ghost writer they would have never selected me.
I don’t know if somebody will listen to me , but I would get the opportunity to inform you that Italy adopts the “ death sentence alive” an impedimental life conviction which lasts until death but is even more terrible than normal death punishment itself.
I would like to be informed that in Italy there are “ shadow men” without dreams and hopes, left out of future, life and mankind, walled up till the end of their days without being even allowed the pity to kill the before.
As far as my book is concerned, I would like you to know that, I write my prison social stories especially to draw the attention on jails and on the many deaths which happened inside the walls. Many people write trying to invent the plots of their novel; I am more lucky, I just write following the remembrance of what I personally lived or my friends lived. When writing I read inside my heart, to discover who I was, who I am now, and who I will never can be. I thank the Association Alberoandronico for the courage they had to let me participate, and I also thank the jurymen to have selected my opera.

My heart send you a smile from the bars of my cell.
Carmelo Musumeci


Valerio Onida, President of the Italian Constitutional Court during the period 2004-2005, in a recent letter to Carmelo Musumeci who questions him about the constitutionality of the impedimental life conviction answers:

From this point of view, I personally don’t find justified or suitable to Constitution the discipline that, for certain crimes, allows the conditional freeing only for those who cooperate with justice, except the cases of cooperation “ impossible” or “ undue”. It is true that the Constitutional Court as declared the matter non legitimate
(sentence number 135/2003 ), but I personally think this judgement unconvincing. It is true in fact that cooperation has to be willing, but I don’t believe justifiable to exclude that the renunciation of the damned might be possible also in absent of cooperation.

I hope that the problem can be re-examined by the court or solved by the lawmaker.


What does impedimental life conviction mean?


It means an endless punishment on the basis of art. 4 bis of the Penitentiary Code, modified by Law 356/92. It denies any possible alternative measures to jail for those who have committed crimes of association, and also for those who ( even according to judges and educators as in the case of Carmelo Musumeci ) should be released because actually “ rehabilitated” ( see art. 27 of our Constitution ).
At the end of Mr. Musumeci article we find the questioning of the Minister of Justice about impedimental life conviction, spoken by Sen. F. Ferrante, PD.


Guilty forever

“To bear somebody grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other one dies". (W. Shakespeare).
The Surveillance Magistracy in Perugia writes about myself: (…)the commitment of the prisoner to share community life in jail show uncommon expressive abilities and the will to promote an information compaign on impedimental life conviction generally perpetual, except cooperation with justice (…).It also puts into evidence a remarkable cultural, political and jurisdictional level.

The rehabilitating group in the jail of Spoleto writes:
-We have checked a prevalence of positive aspects. Really involved in all the rectreational and cultural initiatives. He as shown a peculiar commitment during his studies, he has received an encomium on 19/05/2011 and 24/05/2010 for taking part to the theatre performance. He has taken part to various literary competitions getting recognitions and prizes by the national community.
Recently Mr. Musumeci has published ( Arnoldo Mondadori ) a short story from an anthology titled “ Tales from jail “. Deeply interested in social subjects, he is since long in touch with different associations connected to the “ Prison System “. He shows great interest for the problems related to the jail experience. The prisoner has since long started a journey towards a critical not manipulated revision: certainly favoured by his law studies, by a different knowledge about legality, by a positive behavior inside the community of Papa Giovanni XXIII, by a good involvement with family relationships.
Individually reliable.
(Synthesis report, October 2011).

Nevertheless, in spite of these nice words of my judges and educators, I will never get out from jail unless I don’t cooperate with justice or put somebody else in jail at my place. And I keep asking: does it make sense to waste institutional resources for a man who is guilty forever and is damned to die in jail?
I think that non-cooperation should be an intimate choice, a personal and inviolable right and shouldn’t have penal consequences so heavy and endless.
I think that non-cooperation should be a choice to be respected and not to be punished so heavily as it happens with impedimental life conviction; so that it seems that non-cooperation is havier than crime itself. I think that a man can choose not to cooperate for his ideological, moral, religious ideas, or to protect his family.
I’m trying to improve and change keeping my identity, probably for “goods people2 this is a crime and I will have to live in jail all my days, guilty forever, but in jail you suffer more when you are forgiven, that’s why many of us are happy that “good people” don’t forgive us.

Carmelo Musumeci
Jail of Spoleto, January 2012

Legislature 16 suspecting Syndicate n. 4-06426 published on december 21 st, 2011.

FERRANTE: To the Minister of justice. We know that in our country two tipes of life sentence are adopted: the normal one, which leaves at least a small hope to any possible benefit or alternative measure to jail; the impedimental life conviction which endless punishment ( art 4/ bis-Law n. 354 dated 1975 ), which denies any possible benefit or alternative measure to jail to those who have been damned for crimes as, for example, criminal associations murder.
To better understand the matter you have to keep in mind that with Law by decree n. 356/1992 we have adopted two tipes of punishments, in the sense that for some crimes considered socially dangerous, the lawmaker has foreseen a special system which excludes any out-of-jail possibility for the prisoners, unless they cooperste with justice: for this reason many life sentenced can't be allowed permission, half-freeing, conditional release;in Italy there are more than 100 life convicted who have spent more than 29 years in jail, which is the time limit to obtain conditional release; among them has overcome 30 years jail; up nto the 31 st December 2010 the life convicted in Italy were 1.512, multiplied by four in the last sixteen years, while the common people in jail are only doubled; on the 31 st December 2010 the prisoners in the italian jails were 67.961 and those half-freed only 900, 29 of which life convicted.

Commenting these data Paolo Cannevelli, President of the Surveillance tribunal in Perugia, during the Convention held nin Rome on May 28th, 2010 has declared:

I refer back to the reformation projects of the penal code, and i don't know if times are ready, but we have to think over life sentence, because even if life conviction foresees possible correctives ( as for instance conditional release etc... ), but there are many prisoners in Italy today who are impedimental life convicted , persons who are practically damned to die in jail.that's why we should take a certain cautions opening initiative, because we can't allow this perpetual punishment ( certain for certain crimes ) in a constitutional system which foresees re-education and forbids treatments against sense of humanity (...)

An example of a situation very difficult for many prisoners is Carmelo Musumeci, who is now jailed in Spoleto; starting from primary school, while thay stayed at Asionara ( art.41/bis- Law 354/1975 ), he carried on his studies an as a self-taught man he ended up the high school ; in 2005 2011 he got a degree in Penitentiary Law, having as supervisor Professor Carlo Fiorio; in 2007 he met Don Oreste Benzi and since then he shares the project " Beyond the bars " following the Community Papa Giovanni XXIII; in 2010 he has published the book " The Shadow Men" ( Gabrielli Editor ) in 2011 " Eleven Hours of love for a shadow man" ( Gabrielli Editor ) He has written many short stories and novel " Blue Fang " ( preface by Margherita Hack ), which will be published shortly; promoter of the compaing " Never say never" for the abolition of the endless punishment, he cooperates with many newspaper, blog and associations like " Antigone" and " Meteora".

The Tribunal of Surveillance of Perugia, in a recent issue, writes about him (...) the engagement of the prisoners towards the forms of partecipation to prison life shows uncommon abilities and the will to promote an information compaingn about impedimental life conviction; while the observation Commitee, in protocol 3412/tradated October 14th 2011 observes about Mr Musumeci: his staying is this penitentiary institution shows a prevalence of positives aspects in the attitude of the prisoner to give sense to the life punishment he has been damned to. Deeply involvment in all the cultural initiative organized in jail (...) The jail of Spoleto, for istance , hosts a hundred of life convicted, many of impedimental, who therefore aren't allowed any possibility of rehabilitation and who will overcome this condition unless they choose cooperate ( but often cooperation is difficult or even impossible for those who have been damned for organized crimes ).
Cooperation whith justice is a legal choyce while repentance interior status; cooperation allows to get out from jail but it doesen't at all testify and interior repentance; we have to overcome a penitentiary system which abandons the prisoner to themselfs, which doesen't facilitate rehabilitation, and which in the case of impedimental life convicted, completally excluded any hope of social reintegrations.
In order to make more human the prisoners and jails conditions, we whould like to know if :
Minister of Justice doesn't think times are ready to modify the rules about impedimental life conviction for many life sentenced; in particular if are still running the security reasons according to which C. Musumeci is steel jailed in the section of the maximum surveillance and not in medium security.


The black lemons hour

by carmelo musumeci


to Barbi on her birthday

The prisoners desperately wore out their existence within the dream Murderer’s walls.
A prisoner peered at the sunset between the bars.
Evening was falling
The dream Murderer loved darkness
He waited for it
The prisoners were frailer and dreamt much more in the dark.
And he could swallow up their dreams
The dream Murderer was sending few life signals.
The prison was on a hillock in the suburbs.
The dream Murderer liked to hide his victims from sight
The high security section was silent
The dream Murderer was sleeping with his eyes open, he watched over his victims and he chilled them with his dismal breath.
He was always ready to eat up all their dreams
The dream Murderer liked to hide in the dark away from light and to watch and check his victims
Now he had singled out a life convict, Alessandro, cell number 44.
The warder was just opening the inspection hole of that cell.
He was going along his night shift.
Before seeing the prisoners he saw their shadows cast on the walls of the cell.
He saw the three prisoners sitting at their table on their stools talking and having coffee.
He shut the inspection hole and continued on his round.
The rain lashed against the window of the cell and draughts of chilly air got in through the cracks
The cell was damp and sad
Its walls corroded by winter damp
Like all other cells, the room was sparsly furnished: three beds, three cabinets, a small table, three stools, three shelves over the beds, and a shelf in the bathroom where there was the bog and a washbasin.
That’s all
Nothing more, nothing less!
It was occupied by Alessandro, Fabrizio and Mattia.
They were talking
The evening seemed never-ending
Mattia said:
- It seems that the people of cell 55 mean to bump the newcomer off.
Mattia was the youngest of the three.
He was 25 and he had already seen all there is to see in an entire life.
He was a rebel.
Whenever the dream Murderer bullied him, he used to react.
Whenever he suffered a violence he violently reacted
In spite of his young age he had been tied up to the Balilla several times.
So was the constriction bed called.
The warders had tied him up and beaten him up several times.
But as soon as he was untied, he would beat up the first warder to hand.
So, he was tied up and beaten again
He had calmed down a bit after getting to know Alessandro
Mattia had very dark eyes, suntanned complexion, he was lean, of average height and he was supposed to leave the prison in two years.
Fabrizio answered him:
- It’s none of our business.
Fabrizio was about sixty and was bald
Utterly bald
And a nose as prominent as a hillock
His eyes were blue and always sad.
He always looked gloomy and fool of regrets.
His utmost quality was that he could keep quiet for hours, and that is of paramount importance in a small room inhabited by three persons.
It won’t be long before he gets out of prison.
He was fed up with that life
He just wanted a quiet life.
Alessandro added:
- Let’s mind our own business!
Alessandro was a life convict, not very tall but stout, in his fifties, with a bunch of pepper-and-salt hair, a long and straggling beard.
His mood was always sad and gay at the same time
The dream Murderer had a deep hatred for Alessandro.
He hated him in spite he had ordered him to leave as a shadow and to be a shadow.
Alessandro was a free man and behaved accordingly.
He didn’t use to live like a shadow
He didn’t live like a life convict.
His life was not that of a man buried alive.
He was alive!
Alive with his daughter in his heart.
He lived only for her.
Anger and despair may help you to survive in prison, but only love can help you to stay alive.
Alessandro’s heart lit up whenever thinking of his daughter and her face lit up whenever thinking of her father.
He and his daughter looked like two persons in one .
They were two hearts in a single soul.
Alessandro didn’t lack courage, he only feared his daughter.
She was his only weak point.
She had threatened him that if he got again into trouble so to be moved to another prison she wouldn’t visit him any longer.
She had been saying that for twenty years now.
She always said that, but also visited him with her fiancé in all the prisons he had been sent to.
But he was tired of making his daughter suffer, and on that occasion he only wanted to mind his own business.
It is very difficult to mind one’own business in prison, and he knew that perfectly well.
Mattia was in a bad mood that evening and he said:
- What’s the matter with you, Alessandro, are you fucked-up? The people of cell 55 are bullying everybody.
- Not us though.
Fabrizio answered
- If we keep on pretending not to notice, they will sooner or later bully us too.
- In that only case, I will wring the four guappi necks.
Alessandro said
Fabrizio smiled.
He knew he could do it
Matthia grunted out his assent.
Like all young people he liked to use his fists.
But Alessandro knew that those of cell 55 not only used their fists, they killed.
There were more than four guappi
There was lots of them
Violence was an everyday occurrence in that prison.
They all carried knives
The dream Murderer let them have their way
He turned a blind eye.
Often both.
What was important for the dream Murderer was that they killed one another but that they never laid a finger on the warders.
The guappi feared Alessandro.
They knew he was a tough fellow
Alessandro had suffered several ambushes, the last one in the Asinara prison and he always succedeed in get out alive, but the last time he escaped death by a hair’s breadth.
The guappi knew that Alessandro carried a knife.
They didn’t go wrong
Those were hard times.
The guappi continued within the prison wall the wars they fought outside.
Those were the times when either you killed or you were killed.
And it was always the turn of the decent fellows to die.
Alessandro was respected by everyone even though he belomged to no clan.
But they were afraid of him even because no one ever knew whose side he would take.
He didn’t side with the Sicilians even if he was from Sicily, nor did he side with the Calabrians nor with the Apulians.
He only sided with himself and with his daughter.
His wife had died long before.
His child was the only one left.
Not so much a child, as she was about thirty.
Her soul was within his soul.
Late at night Alessandro, Fabrizio and Mattia went to bed.
The boy fell immediately fast asleep and started to sleep like a log
Fabrizio followed.
Alessandro used to stay awake when the others slept.
Alessandro was a poor sleeper.
He used to sleep at intervals.
The dream Murderer didn’t let him sleep and compelled him to recall all the afflictions he had suffered in almost twenty years of prison.
He had knew the whole cruelty and violence of the dream Murderer, the squalor, the hunger, the solitary confinement, the thrashing, the straitjacket.
Once, during the cell search he found the photo of his daughter as a child trampled on by the wicked black-hearted men
That was what he used to call the warders.
He had grabbed the first warder by the neck and nearly strangled him.
Until four warders had taken him from his hands.
Then, they had taken him to the solitary confinement cells and beaten him savagely.
He never told his daughter.
He didn’t care about the warders’ beating, he was only hurt by indignities, bullying and wrongs.
He had always fought against the dream Murderer, now he was tired and just willing to keep quiet.
He didn’t want to make his daughter angry.
From under the pillow he took out the letter he had received on that very day and read it for the second time:
- Dear daddy, I know I haven’t been writing you for quite a lot of time, but whenever I start a letter for you I never can finish it because I start weeping too much.
I only wish you to know that I do not consider myself an unlucky girl, on the contrary I am really happy to have a father like you because you never made me run short of what I need and you always made me feel so much loved.
The only reason that makes me feel bad is to know that you are in a bad way, because I cannot consent that such a wonderful person as you are should spend all his life in prison.
I spent the last years of my life hoping to find something in your past in order to know whom you really are, but when I have by chance found all, I have read almost nothing, because I realised that I am the only one who really knows you for what you are, and I do not care about all the mistakes you made in your past because they do not modify the special person you are.
I am so proud of you, dad, I was never ashamed of my father in prison, but if I don’t tell anybody the only reason is that I would not they should judge you before knowing you. You ask me to be happy, but how can I be happy when the person I love best in the world is buried in cold, cement and iron, suffering and sorrow?
Don’t be jealous of Federico because no man in the world will ever take your place in my heart. Don’t feel sad about Mum, she is dead, but I love you in her place
Alessandro stopped reading because he was getting moved, and to defuse he told himself:
- What bad luck, I can’t even be killed by someone lest the puppy gets mad and will pull me a long face even when I am dead.
He started writing her:
- Love, I am never telling you enough because I do not want to influence you and make you feel bad, but I do miss you, I miss you so much and you are always in my mind¡K I do not only love you, but esteem you very much and all I wish is to be with you
Consumed with sadness and doubts he stopped writing and started thinking how to behave in the yard the day after.
Everything was difficult in prison
It was an upside-down world
It was a shadow world
A very hard world to live in.
He was rarely doubtful, but as the years went by, his certainties went down while his doubts increased.
If he would allow the newcomer be beaten by the guappi, they would get above themselves.
If he would not allow it, they would be against him
Also there was to hold Mattia at bay, as he was always looking for fights
He had to keep Mattia out of trouble.
There were two years only before he was free from prison
Troubles would rise whether he would do anything or nothing, that was certain.
That’s what always happens in prison!
He decided not to go to the yard on the day after, and to entrust Fabrizio to keep an eye on Mattia.
At last Alessandro fell asleep at dead of night.
After a little why he was already dreaming.
- He was with his daughter, with plenty of time to start back again to know each other¡ as the past years had never existed, as if he had never know the dream Murderer.
When Alessandro was thinking of his daughter his eyes shone with joy even when sleeping
And the dream Murderer couldn’t stand that.
Alessandro was also able to go in and out of the dreams he didn’t like, and that too infuriated the dream Murderer.
On the morning after, when Mattia and Fabrizio were about to go to the yard he told both of them to mind their own business
No one would touch them
So was at least what Alessandro believed.
And so was what might happen indeed
But Mattia didn’t mind his own business
The newcomer succeeded in disengaging himself while he was savagely beaten by the guappi, and ran up to Mattia asking for help.
Then he collapsed.
He cowered inert at the bottom of the yard.
Mattia stood up in front of him to protect him and said:
Aren’t you ashamed to fight in four against one?
There was an instant of silence.
The four looked at Don Pasquale who was speaking to Fabrizio.
Don Pasquale nodded and one of the four pulled out a knife and stabbed Mattia with a superficial wound in his stomach
Then off they went.
It appeared that the warders had seen the beating but not the stabbing
Mattia knew the prison rules, he braced himself acting as if nothing had happened.
Fabrizio helped him to go back to the cell.
Alessandro was preparing the laundry to take to his daughter as he was supposed to meet her on the day after.
As soon as they entered the cell and the warder had closed the steel door, Alessandro realised that something happened by Mattia and Fabrizio’s faces.
The boy was as pale as death.
Mattia lay down on the bed and lifted his sweater
Alessandro examined the wound.
It was superficial as the blade had got in only one inch, but it had to be stiched
Icily Alessandro said:
- Bastard! I’ll split their heads open. How did it happen?
- Alessandro don’t get pissed off! The boy had been looking for troble.
- I told you to keep and eye on him! Do boil some water and get needle and thread, we must suture lest his guts get out.
- Please, Alessandro, let it go. Don Pasquale boys were beating again the newcomer, when Mattia got involved.
- Damn! They shouldn’t have touched him. Now I’ll cut Don Pasquale’s face.
- So, we all three will die. Mattia, do tell this blockhead to keep quiet, for heaven’s sake¡
Mattia said to Alessandro while he was treating his wound:
- Let it go, wait till I am better and then we’ll bash his face
Alessandro answered him:
- Don’t worry about those fake guappi, it’s my business. You just be quiet and rest.
Alessandro had two knives, he kept a dagger in a cleft of his clog while he always kept on the other one, in a safe place, inside his bum.
He went to the toilet and took the knife out
Then he went back to his mates and told Fabrizio:
- It’s no business of yours, you are about to go free, stay away from the yard.
- I’ll bash his bum!
- Think of your daughter! Tomorrow you’ll meet her!
The words broke Alessandro’s heart, but then he considered she would never know should the venture be successful, all the same she would forgive him in case of failure.
Fabrizio kept on asking to go to the yard in order to cover Alessandro.
Alessandro yielded and gave Fabrizio a knife on the condition he would use it only in case of need, so to avoid trouble.

The warder came and opened the cells.
- Get out!
- Il was the black lemons hour.
- Alessandro was in front of the gate.
Fabrizio was following him
Mattia was sleeping under the effect of antibiotic
The warder opened cell 44
Il was situated at the last end of the corridor.
All other cells were already open.
All other prisoners were already in the yard
The dream Murderer was smacking his lips.
He always knew everything
There was no secret for him in that place
He knew that blood was about to run and he hoped it was Alessandro’s.
He hated him!
Alessandro was too proud and he lived with love within his heart.
The dream Murderer couldn’t stand the fact that prisoners should love and be loved.
He absolutely couldn’t stand that.
He couldn’t stand that Alessandro’s daughter would come to visit him always bearing something good to eat and nice to wear.
Last time she brought that criminal a pair of fur-lined shoes to keep his feet warm
The dream Murderer would go to any lengths to make Alessandro suffer.
May be that was the right moment!
He didn’t desire his death!
He just wanted to make him suffer.
He just wanted to rob him of his daughter’s love.

Alessandro entered the yard
His eyes surveyed the whole yard
The sky was icy, covered with clouds
It was a cold and damp afternoon
His eyes were as hard as stone.

He had asked Fabrizio to stay away from him.
He moved swiftly
He leant against the wall and examined the situation
The air was tense

The very walls of the yard looked more silent and steady than usual
It had been raining recently.
Some puddles still lingered in the concrete floor
Alessandro stamped his feet to warm up and to provoke the guappi

He looked at both sides
He rolled his eyes about the yard
He immediately realised that a couple of prisoners were glancing at him furtively
In particular one of them was covertly looking at him.
He had to act at once before it was too late

He knew that if the guappi should surround him that would be his end.
He saw the chief of the guappi
Don Pasquale pierced him with his eyes
He was ugly
His eyes were blue and icy and his mouth rather small
He was about sixty, and about six feet tall
Alessandro considered that to cut his face he had to stand up on his feet

He called him loudly:
- Don Pasquale I have something to tell you!
In the yard they all fell silent
Everyone looked at Don Pasquale
The chief of the guappi understood that he couldn’t show they were afraid, he had to approach and so he did.

Alessandro was in a strategic position, the wall behind his shoulders.
He was extremely skilful in knife fighting
Since his youth he had fought in prison against people from Taranto and from Brindisi.
In knife duels the pugliese school was the best
It was an art, and Alessandro was a master
The guappi knew it
And so did Don Pasquale

Alessandro told him with calm and steady voice:
- What happened is very serious, extremely serious, and must be wiped out with blood.
Don Pasquale remained quite unruffled, looking neither afraid or worried. He answered:
- Just try and you won’t leave this yard alive.
Alessandro took a deep breath, straightened up and said:
- May be, but you’ll come out with your face cut off like a rat¡K
And he sprang up.
No one expected it
He was as quick as lightning
He darted out

Don Pasquale was stunned
He had not realized what had happened
First thing he saw drops of wood on the floor, then he felt his face and stepped back

Alessandro jumped back
He spun round and planted himself squarely on his legs
He squared off with his knife keeping his arm covered by his jacket to protect himself from possible stabs

The guappi were aghast
They didn’t know what to do
Two of the boldest of them approached with their knives.
With his head down Alessandro immediately ripped open the one on his right
The one on the left stepped aside but it was worse for him as Alessandro stabbed him on his side.
The other guappi were hesitant to react
Alessandro with a knife in his hands was a hard nut to crack
They looked at their chief

In his turn Don Pasquale looked at Fabrizio
Fabrizio approached Alessandro
He thought he had approached for help so he placed him on his side and told him:
- I told you to mind your own business, I do no need any help.
Then he addressed the guappi shouting:
- That’s all! You, shit-scared! This is the black lemon hour ¡ Come forward¡
No one moved

Alessandro told Fabrizio boldly:
- I told you they are shit-scared. Now we can go back to our cell.
In the meanwhile Fabrizio moved behind Alessandro’s shoulders.
Several guappi didn’t understand what was going on because they saw Alessandro with a knife thrust into his back
Alessandro felt a devastating stab in his back
He was for a moment stupefied
A moment as long as eternity

He turned back and looked Fabrizio in his eyes, the rat looked sad and kept saying
- I am so sorry Alessandro ¡indeed ¡. I am leaving the prison next month and Don Pasquale promised me a drug job ¡so sorry
- The rat looked sorry.
- Keep off, traitor, bastard
Alessandro filled with instinctive rage put himself back in his guard, but he was bleeding and could hardly stand up.
He staggered like a drunk.
He stabbed one of them, then another one, but the guappi took up their courage attacked him all together and finished him with more than fifty stabs

Alessandro was on the ground
He was dying
He was going to nothing
Into the deepest nothing

Alessandro didn’t want to die but still he was not so sorry for it
The prisoners had gone back to their cells
Now there were warders around him.
As in a dream Alessandro saw himself dying
They were putting him in a stretcher
There were white gowns around him

His heart stopped beating for a moment
Then took up beating again
He thought of his daughter
He wanted to arrive to the day after
He wanted to wait before dying
One more day, one day only

Before dying he wanted to see his daughter one last time
He had to hold out, it was important
Tomorrow wil be the meeting day, his daughter will come and take him away with her
He had always said that anything should happen to him, he didn’t want to stay one single moment in prison after his death

He shall go home with her.
He had no more reason to think of her, he would always be at home with her
He had always told her that he wanted to be cremated, and his ashes stay at home

Alessandro couldn’t survive till the day after
He bled to death almost immediately.
In his mind he saw his daughter, the last vision for him
The dream Murderer wept
He wept crocodile tears
He wept livid with rage!
He had lost one victim

His daughter came on the day after
They sent her from the prison to the mortuary
She saw her father laid on a slab of marble
She embraced him
Now her father was farther from her but nearer then ever to her heart
She didn’t cry.
Her father wouldn’t have liked it
She was as strong as her father
She didn’t want to disappoint him
She calmly whispered:
- Let’s go, Dad, I am taking you home! You are through suffering! You will be always with me now
Her father looked as if he was smiling

Carmelo Musumeci

[Extract from the book "Gli uomini ombra" (Shadow Men) by Carmelo Musumeci. Translated by Professor Pier Francesco Gasparetto]



 Per le traduzioni si ringrazia: Milo Modena, Francesca Torricella, Federico Francesconi e Matteo Guidi