The Carob Tree is the Unit of Measurement of the Diamond

Ottavio Cappellani


In this dazzling tale, the storyteller is a tree, a young carob tree, born from the ashes of the majestic tree that dominated the country estate of ancient Sicilian nobility. A fire killed its father but the young shoot grows from the embers, linked to his ancestors via his roots. It is through those roots that the other carob trees begin to tell him a thousand-year-old story and make him the guardian of a man who has returned to the countryside, to the family fiefdom, in search of meaning. The history of the carob tree and that of the man end up coinciding. Between white dry-stone walls that emerge from the ground like the skeleton of God, the baroque Val di Noto and the ghosts of ancestors, the story told by the tree unfolds and the man hears it.

It is a history of temples, of practice and theory, of theology and physics, of rules and secrets that unravel from their roots in Sicily and spread their rays throughout the West. Whose cornerstone is the carob seed – the carat, the unit of measurement of diamonds, the most dangerous cutting tool. In that Sicilian subsoil which, since the Crusades, has been invigorated by the roots of the carob tree, the past continues to be present. Because these images are not the story of something that ‘once was’, but the continuous whispering of meaning that is still present today.

‘A jewel of literary creativity. An original novel in terms of imagination and structure. The protagonist is the centuries-old carob tree, present in the Mediterranean area and, as a naturalised species in Sicily, in the areas of Ragusa and Syracuse. It is here, in the ancient family baglio, preserved and guarded, that the past and present intertwine. That is until “We caught fire. And justice and innocence, trust and credit went up in smoke. Up in smoke went hopes, dreams, projects, enthusiasm, the work done so far and the work yet to be done, up in smoke went all relationships, all attempts at friendship and collaboration, up in smoke went sacrifices and happiness…” An evil will of destruction that carries with it the acrid smell of ash. But the roots of the carob tree are deep, linked to the primordial energy of being, the source of life. It will be a sucker that will collect the past inheritance and the narrator’s present one. In the stillness of the gaze, observation is sharpened and thought is purified. A tale littered with imaginative surges and conceptual depths whose visionary gaze recalls the great spirits of thought. And it is fervid imagination with the carob tree that summons and tells, through a language made of vibrations to convey a hidden meaning. After all, the seeds of the carob tree, perfect and equal in weight, called ‘carats’, were taken as the unit of measurement of the diamond, “the most dangerous cutting weapon”, the same that the writer needs to cut the laces of the lies of man who has renounced the seed of freedom of thought.’ Lorenzo Marotta in La Sicilia

‘I know what the great Sicilian novel is. A bold claim? From my point of view, it is not a matter of drawing up a classification, of stating that one is better than the other, but rather of grasping the founding depth of a culture sedimented over time. The characters represent significant aspects of this or that way of being, of a custom, of a civilisation, of knowledge, of a heritage, which is very rich. Ottavio’s novel digs deeper, restoring the underground humus, the geological, the volcanic, of what makes Sicily an ethical and cultural category. It is in this dimension that the author transforms the island into an icon that, by referring back to ancient times, to the treasures it preserves and passes down, acquires the strength of the universal spirit. Ottavio succeeds in this cyclopean task thanks to a metaphorical structure of great emotional and speculative impact: a young carob tree, born from the ashes of a centuries-old tree, becomes the historical memory of an entire world. It speaks to us of a world that no longer exists and the hope that it can be reborn. It is a metaphor for our times, traversed by transformations that will not be easy to manage. The carob tree, in this sense, is a bit Fabrizio Salina and Master ’Ntoni. And the West, which for centuries saw itself as the navel of the world, discovering itself as marginal, fears that it is no longer able to refer to anything other than itself. The author’s gaze leans over the abyss and contemplates the spectacle with detachment and measure. Proof of this is the subtle irony that runs through all the pages of Ottavio’s book.’ Enzo Papetti

‘The writer from Catania, author of tragicomic Sicilian novels (great success years ago with Who Is Lou Sciortino? and then Sicilian Tragedies, The Prison Island and a number of short, stinging pamphlets), with his visionary and indomitable wit, dedicates this highly symbolic tree of the Mediterranean landscape, another stinging (and aphoristic) book. Perhaps it really is time to learn from the trees.’ La Stampa


  • Aboca Edizioni Italy

Material: Finished copies of Italian edition (154pp)