The Dance of the Seagull: How Camilleri gets better and better
In Book Fourteen (The Age of Doubt), for example, two sentences in, and Salvo is already cursing the saints. In the fifteenth and latest novel, Dance of the Seagull, Salvo does not curse the saints until Page 104, and for me the deferred pleasure is like that gained by letting a vintage port age just a few years more. ("Cursing the saints" is translator Stephen Sartarelli's ingenious and entertaining rendering of an untranslatable Sicilian verb. In a comment to an earlier blog post, Sartarelli tells Detectives Beyond Borders the origins of "cursing the saints.")
Camilleri has said he "deliberately decided to smuggle in a critical commentary on my times," but the jabs, while sharper than ever, have become more human over time. The exasperated vitriol aimed at government and Mafia remains, but now laying bare more than in earlier books the human consequences of the misdeeds at which he rails.
Indeed, an increasingly human touch makes this one of the rare long-running crime series that arguably grow stronger with time. Camilleri was 68 years old when the first book appeared, and he recently turned 87. The titles available in English have taken Salvo from his forties to age 57, complete with amusing and touching descriptions of the aches and pains of aging.
In recent books Salvo has grown more tender toward his lover, Livia, and more appreciative of what his colleagues mean to him. In The Dance of the Seagull, the humanity takes the form of Salvo's new revulsion at the savagery whose results he witnesses as he investigates a pair of murders, and the introspection and empathy manifest themselves from the beginning. (The title refers to a seagull's dance of death that Salvo witnesses from his seaside home and that haunts him throughout the novel. Camilleri integrates the dream into the mystery more skillfully that he done in earlier books. He's beginning to get the hang of this Montalbano thing.)
Fans of the excellent Italian television series based on the Montalbano novels and starring Luca Zingaretti, telecast with English subtitles on MHz Networks and available on DVD, will enjoy this little argument between Salvo and Livia:
"`Well, I wouldn't want them to be shooting.'
" `What are you talking about? Shooting what?'
"`I wouldn't want to run into a film crew shooting an episode of that television series right as we're walking around there ... They film around there, you know.'
"`What the hell do you care?'
"`What do you mean, what the fell do I care? And what if I find myself face to face with the actor who plays me? ... What's his name—Zingarelli ...'
"`His name's Zingaretti, stop pretending you don't know Zingarelli's a dictionary. But I repeat: What do you care? How can you still have these childish complexes at your age?'
"`What's age got to do with it?'
"`Anyway, he doesn't look the least bit like you.'
"`He's a lot younger than you.'
"Enough of this bullshit about age. Livia was obsessed!"© Peter Rozovsky 2013