Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Crime and crime writing in Italy: Matteo Strukul interview, Part II

In Part II of an interview with Detectives Beyond Borders, Italian publisher, author, and editor Matteo Strukul talks about the criminal landscape of northeastern Italy, the literary movement he helped to found, the the crime fiction festival that bears that movements name.

(Read Part I of the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Matteo Strukul.) 
Detectives Beyond Borders: In addition to being an author and publisher, you call yourself the founder of a literary movement. Talk about Sugarpulp, its goals, and how it got its name. Who are its other authors, artists, and illustrators? What is uniquely Italian about Sugarpulp?

Matteo Strukul: Sugarpulp talks about territory. Like James Lee Burke’s Louisiana or Joe R. Lansdale’s Texas, for people like me or the Sugarpulp authors (Matteo Righetto, Giacomo Brunoro, Andrea Andreetta, Carlo Callegari, Thomas Tono, Carlo Vanin, Simone Marzini, among others) the northeast of Italy is a kind of state of mind, you know what I mean? 

Swamps, sugar-beet fields, plateaus, but also triads and Chinese mafia or Russian Organisatsyia, political corruption and the slow rhythm of the country. We have many points in common with Texas or Louisiana. There’s a kind of savage cruelty here, a sort of ignorance that raised an entire generation of new-rich tycoons who obtained fortune and fame breaking rules and laws. So a place like the northeast of Italy is one of the best for crime-fiction settings. Of course, Veneto is also wonderful towns full of arts and culture; you know, Venice, Padua, Verona, and one of the most beautiful place in Italy (with Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Italian Alps or the Po Delta, the Valpolicella Valley or the Prosecco Area among others), but at the same time you could find a kind of “American western” approach that really could surprise everyone.

DBB: Sugarpulp is also the name of a crime fiction festival in Padua. What are the plans for the festival in 2013?

MS: Well, we are planning to realize our most ambitious edition. We are working to bring the cream of crime-fiction novelists to Padova this year. Hopefully Don Winslow will accept our offer; we are trying to convince him to come to Padova. Then, we will have Maurizio De Giovanni and Massimo Carlotto, and we would like to have also Giancarlo De Cataldo and Tim Willocks, among others. So, stay tuned ‘cause this year will be the big deal: Sugarpulp or Bust! Ah ah!

DBB:  Northern Italy is interesting politically, a (former) base of support for the Communist Party, for example, and also the home of the Lega Nord. How does the reality of Northeastern Italy find expression in your writing and in the Sugarpulp movement in general?

MS: Mmmm … not very Communist in fact. I think more Lega Nord-oriented. Even if in my hometown, Padua, we have a fantastic mayor, Flavio Zanonato, who belongs for instance to the Left Party, the PD (Partito Democratico) and he is a wonderful person and professional and we are very grateful to him because is one of the most enthusiast supporter of the Sugarpulp Festival and that’s great, really! Anyway, I think that this year everything will change with Beppe Grillo, founder of Movimento 5 Stelle (Five-Star Movement). I think that people are really tired of politicians who promise everything and give you nothing except for taxes.

DBB: Chinese gangsters play a big role in The Ballad of Mila, working with Italians but sometimes contemptuous of them, and trying in their own way to adjust to Italian life. They are more integrated into Italian life, even in a negative way, than, for example, Africans in novels by Andrea Camilleri or Gianrico Carofiglio. Why did you choose Chinese gangs as a subject?

MS: Because they conquered the Northeast of Italy. They destroyed the economy of the region, they worked, and work, for nothing like slaves, and the Chinese Mafia is a real problem here in Padua. They bought all the cafés and bars to recover massive amounts of dirty money incoming from drug dealing, and they are slave-drivers who enslave their people coming from China and forced them to work 20 hours a day in the clandestine textile industry with no respect for persons and for EU rules. 

DBB: Sugarpulp not the only Italian crime fiction closely associated with a city or a region. There are Giorgio Scerbanenco and Milan, Andrea Camilleri and Sicily, Carlo Emilio Gadda and Rome, for example. Is Italian crime fiction tied to its settings more than crime fiction from other countries? If so, why?

MS: I could answer with Joe R. Lansdale and Texas, James Lee Burke and Louisiana, James Ellroy and L. A., Don Winslow and California, so what about the United States? I think that the real reason is that, as novelist, you have to be honest with readers and you have to write about what you really know. How could I set a story in Pescara? I’ve never been there, probably today I could set a story in Berlin where I’d like to live for some months every year. So, I think that if you want to be honest and incisive, and if you want to reveal original angles and point of views in your story, well you have to know the set, the place, the territory very well and, more than this, you probably could use the environment and the nature at its very best potential.

(Read Part I of the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Matteo Strukul.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger seana graham said...

I had no idea the Chinese has such a role in Padua.

March 01, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Who had any idea except for people who live there? That's one reason I think this novel ought to interest we beyond-borders crime readers.

March 01, 2013  

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