A compelling journey of the heart and mind
By Derryll White
Andrea Camilleri is very fortunate that Stephen Sartarelli is still on his team. Satarelli’s translations make Andrea Camilleri’s ideas, feelings and perceptions of Sicily so clear and present. The translator’s Notes put the reader in touch with Sicilian/Italian economic and social issues that for most readers would drop out of the unannotated text. For instance, how many readers would know that “Vaffanculo Day” translates as “Fuck You Day,” a day for the people to get together to air their discontent.
Inspector Salvo Montalbano is ageing. Camilleri has been excellent in that respect. As the series has developed Salvo has been increasingly caught up in his outlook on life. His sexual prowess has diminished as he and his long distance love, Livia, have grown older. Here Montalbano gets an opportunity to reclaim some of his youth with a younger lover. Everyone of a certain age knows how exciting that can be.
This is a journey of the heart and mind. The criminal aspects of the story resolve themselves with Montalbano’s typical out-of-the-box thinking. The heart stumbles, fools itself, becomes muddled and fanciful, just as in real life. Camilleri’s gift to the reader is the realization that age and inequity should not be a barrier to achieving a life well lived. The fact that he also takes time to look at the dark days of the soul as far as Italy is concerned makes the story even more compelling.
Excerpts from the novel:
ITALY – “You know, at the demonstration there weren’t just workers from the factories that are long closed, there was also just regular people, and that’s the real tragedy. There were kids with no hope of ever finding a job. I even recognized some of my son’s former schoolmates who’re now married with kids, clerks and university graduates who’ve lost their jobs with no chance of getting them back. If things go on this way, their only choice will be to emigrate, like they used to do.”
HEARTBREAK – Ah! How much better it would have been to be not a man in flesh and blood but a wax puppet made in Fela!
A wax puppet, with no brain and therefore no past, no present, no future.
A thing. A thing that, if a wave bigger than the rest suddenly came crashing down on it, would be dragged out to sea.
He had to make an enormous effort to sit back up. Running his hand over his face, he realized his cheeks were wet. And not with seawater.
MEN – “I became a woman when there were still men around. I was brought up with the principle that males only want to do one thing: fuck. Men were kind to women for one reason alone, men went out with women for the same reason, and sometimes they got married to women, again for the same sole reason. To fuck them.”
ITALY – Once he got to Fela, he turned off in the direction of Piazza Armerina. But when he reached the town, he simply couldn’t get over the fact that he was alone in appreciating such wondrous beauty. He saw not a soul anywhere near the villa’s mosaics and enchanting allées. How the hell was it possible that in the country containing the greatest quantity of the world’s cultural treasures, the administration was incapable of organizing a tourist industry to feed everyone, instead of leaving them just poor and insane?
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.