Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gianrico Carogiflio's angst in Italy

A Walk in the Dark, second of Gianrico Carofiglio's four novels about Italian lawyer Guido Guerrieri, is at least as much  middle-aged angst trip as it is legal thriller.

Guerrieri's meeting with an old friend induces melancholy over his own current lack of companions ["Maybe that's normal, when you get to your forties. Everyone has their own affairs — family, children, separations, careers, lovers."]. The revelation that the friend's wife has died induces an emotion-choked phone call to his own girlfriend in which he can't quite bring himself to say, "I love you."  But we already know that Guerrieri is sensitive because the pop music he listens to is pensive stuff: Tracy Chapman and Bruce Springsteen's  "The Ghost of Tom Joad." 

Carofiglio readily acknowledges that a midlife crisis sparked his writing career. But A Walk in the Dark is more than a New Yorker short story blown up to novel length. The book brings to life the conflicts between Italy's overlapping police jurisdictions better than do some other Italian novels, and it takes righteous shots at corruption and nepotism. And if you've ever wanted your crime-fiction protagonist to work out part of his angst by kissing a nun, this may be your book.

The trial and hearing scenes are exciting, as one might expect from an author who used to be an anti-Mafia judge. And the courtroom color is even better. It's easy to imagine Magistrato Carofiglio being distracted by the carnival around him and wishing he could plunge into it instead of getting ready for a trial:
"The entrance hall was packed: women, young men, carabinieri, prison wardens and lawyers, most of them provincial. It was the first day of the trial of a group of drug dealers from Altamura.  The background nouse was the kind you hear in a theatre before the show starts."
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Gianrico Carofiglio will be part of my panel "A QUESTION OF DEATH: HOW IMPORTANT IS WHODUNIT?"  on Thursday, Sept. 15, 10 a.m.-11 a.m., at Bouchercon 2011.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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24 Comments:

Anonymous kathy d. said...

The more heard/read about this panel, the better it sounds.

Carofiglio's books are very good. This post reminds me of just how good, and to get the third book in the series from the library.

Bari, another great setting for Italian crime fiction, in addition to Vigata and Venice.

This is going to be a very interesting panel. Would that it would only be web-conferenced!

August 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know about Web conferencing (that may be an idea for future Bouchercons), but a helpful reader found this on the Bouchercon Web site:

Audio Recordings of Panels

VW Tapes
Website:
www.vwtapes.com


I couldn't find anything about Bouchercon on the site, but that may change as time draws nearer.

Your comment reminded me that the book taught me a bit about Bari, about which I had known nothing before.

August 16, 2011  
Anonymous Barbara Fister said...

I'm reading the third in the series right now. It's quite a change of pace from the adrenaline-charged and psychologically tortured thrillers we've grown so used to. If most books have a ticking clock, this one has a more Italian sense of time, with long breaks for food and wine and coffee and conversation (and trips to the bookstore - the protagonist tends to go to bookstores when he's supposed to be working). I'm quite liking the shift from speedy and angsty to thoughtful and reflective and appreciative of the ordinary pleasures of life.

Given the author has been involved in prosecuting organized crime, it almost seems like alternative sentencing for readers: life doesn't have to be all action and violence to be valuable.

August 16, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I was flabbergasted to read those biographical notes on Carafiglio. He sounds like quite an interesting man, and his books sound like they're right up my alley.

His enjoyment of Bed, Bath and Beyond was unexpected, though.

August 16, 2011  
Blogger Photographe à Dublin said...

Off topic, I'm afraid, but the courtroom scenes in the book here link in some vague way to what is happening in Britain at the moment.

Children are being brought to court for stealing chewing gum engaging in urban violence.

You and readers here might find this analysis of previous street unrest interesting.

"findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3316/is_2_5/ai_n28801530/pg_9/"

Street unrest in Italy has also got a very long history.

August 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Barbara, you put it better than I did: These books don’t feel like other crime novels. Andrea Camilleri still takes the palm for having his protagonist take breaks for food and wine, but you’re quite right about the books stores – and about the pace.

One can imagine a Mafia consigliere or hit man wrapping up four hours of riveting testimony, and Magistrato Carofiglio replying, “Sorry, could you say that again? I was just thinking for a minute.”

August 16, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I'm pleased that you find the books an attractive prospect.

Bed, Bath & Beyond may have overtones and resonances in Italian culture that we North Americans can't understond.

Hmm, the Italian word for blonde is bionda ...

August 16, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Montalbano does take the cake -- or should I say cannoli -- for taking breaks, largely to sneak off somewhere for pasta and fish or any variation of seafood. Or to ruminate about past meals. Or have a glass of wine or go for a walk on the beach.

In fact, I wish I were in Vigata right now on the beach, with chilled white wine, reading about Montalbano's escapades.

And don't forget Guido Brunetti, who spends quite a bit of time in trattorias or cafes ordering espresso or grappa or wine, or else going home for a long lunch to enjoy some fantastic meal cooked by Paola Brunetti.

I enjoy the environment of Bari and the bookstore visits by Carofiglio's attorney, as well as his thinking -- and the visits to the beach, which even on Google, look fantastic.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

If Carafiglio's attorney is anything like Brunetti, or Vargas' Adamsberg, I will enjoy these.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ksthy, Montalbano even gets the proprietor of the Trattoria San Calogero to serve him when the restaurant is closed.

Did you know that the house that serves as Salvo's home in the Montalbano television series is a real hotel? Oddly enough, it's on Sicily's south coast, pretty far from the real Porto Empedocle/Vigata. It looks wonderful on its Web site, though.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Carofiglio's protagonist might be a distant relative of Adamsberg's, but he really is not like any other crime fiction protagonist I know. It must take great writerly discipline to build a story around middle-aged angst and not be totally nauseating in the process. These books are really not like any other crime fiction I've read.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

P a D, street unrest in Sicily goes back to, when, 1282?

August 17, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I agree that Carofiglio's avvocato is not like Brunetti, Adamsburg or Erlendur either, however, he is a good guy.

He is a defense attorney,so his perspective is different from that of a police inspector or commissario/commissaire.

His perspective and heart are in the right place, and he does like to read, listen to music and go to the beach (sigh, the beautiful beach).

And he is going through middle-aged angst, so he has to ruminate a bit, but he does what he should with his cases, although some things go awry, as happens in all series somewhere, not as far out as Adamsberg's recent encounter with Serbian vampire descendants.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He may be even more distracted from his job than Adamsberg is, but he manages to stay more focused at the same time.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I am not sure how middle-aged angst is different fromthe angst of other ages. I don't notice a difference in kind or quality myself...

August 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, midlife crisis. what does my life amount to, and all, especially when voiced by a highly successful person, as Guerrieri is. Maybe I should have dropped the angst and stuck to "midlife crisis" throughout.

August 17, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I was actually thinking that "midlife crisis" is more apropos for Guerrieri than "angst." "Angst" is an ongoing, lifelong phenomenon, possible at any age.

"Midlife crisis" is much more specific, and he is going through that, although some "angst" is involved in this.

Is this an ongoing series? I know of three books. Will you find out more at the panel if Carofiglio plans on writing more in the series or doing stand-alones?

I like the avvocate; that's why I ask. I tend to like defense attorneys, having cut my teeth on Perry Mason novels years ago, and read many more series since featuring them. Like them all.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, there are three books in the series, and a fourth, Temporary Perfections, is due later this year. I don't know about plans for standalones beyond the one Carofiglio has published so far.

You and Seana are both right; Guido Guerrieri is angst-ridden, but angst is not restricted to middle age. Think of brooding teenagers.

I wonder if Avvocato Guerrieri ever defends people he'd rather not defend.

August 17, 2011  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

I had never heard of the Sicilian Vespers and a site called thinksicily.com has a good explanation of this historical event.

It seems that Carofiglio is the most popular Italian writer among readers of the "polar noir".

booknode.com/les_yeux_fermes_092907

August 18, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Carofiglio is popular in France, you say? Come to think of it, his novels do remind vaguely od the one book by Tonino Benacquista that I've read.

August 18, 2011  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

French readers are seemingly more up to date with Italian and German writers than we are in Ireland, due to linguistic differences, I suppose.

The link I posted claims that Carofiglio is a top seller among the English reading public, but since I had not heard of him, I cannot give evidence for this.

August 19, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have visual evidence that French readers like translated crime fiction.

August 19, 2011  
OpenID anouilh said...

The French are also obsessed with America, as this indicates:
"fluctuat.net/7245-Le-polar-americain-et-ses-regions-Dossier"

Their interest probably goes back as far as "Manon Lescaut" (1731), possibly one of the first works of crime fiction in the canon?

(Just in passing, it is possible to import a Blogger blog into Wordpress, as sort of security against losing work, if one system should fail.)

August 20, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

How could that map omit Dashiell Hammett from its list of San Francisco authors?

August 20, 2011  

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