Growing up in an aristocratic family that seems almost to have stepped out of the pages of The Leopard, Leoluca Orlando entered law and politics in the late 1970s as one of the young idealists identified with the Catholic Church who were challenging the Mafia’s control of Sicilian life. At about the same moment, life in Sicily was becoming more perilous. As if the “old” Mafia had not been bad enough, a new and particularly vicious Mafia sect based in the town of Corleone was murdering its way to power. Fueled by profits from the international heroin trade, this mafia gansteristica made Sicily into an Italian Lebanon and filled the international press with pictures of bloody bodies—those of Mafia rivals as well as police and government law enforcement officials.
One of the figures most prominently identified with Italy’s offensive against the Mafia, Orlando has endured repeated assassination attempts and even today travels with a bodyguard. Fighting the Mafia is his dramatic tale of witness and survival, of his effort to expose Mafia infiltration into the highest levels of Italian life and politics, and of the movements he helped to build—in schools and churches and at the ballot box—to recapture Sicilian culture and inspire a renaissance of democracy.