Sunday, March 16, 2014

Matteo Strukul writes pulp for adults

Last year after reading advance chapters of Matteo Strukul's The Ballad of Mila, I wrote that:
"Strukul shows his love for revenge comics without degenerating into cartoonishness. He exposes a side of northeastern Italian life unknown to outsiders and perhaps many insiders."
I thought of that comment again today when reading in the finished novel about a Chinese gang boss in northeastern Italy, where the book is set. Not only does the gangster brutalize, extort, and enslave illegal immigrants from China, but
"He had deprived Veneto not only of its factories, closing one after another, nearly two hundred every year, but also of its tradition of craftsmanship: the old tailoring schools were starting to disappear, even those that represented the region's oldest heritage."
"All of that while sucking the blood of north-east Italy: jeans for fashionable people, five Euro rather than twenty-five; shirts for twenty rather than forty."
Now, make no mistake: Strukul is no Stieg Larsson, dishing out improving lectures about the rich world's evil ways. The Ballad of Mila is full of comic-book trappings: over-the-top violence; deadly martial arts; Japanese swords; a lethal, beautiful, revenge-seeking babe; and showdowns between rival gangs. But the observations about globalization anchor the story in reality. And this lends the tale both a moral heft and a menacing edge. The Ballad of Mila is a story Quentin Tarantino might tell if he ever makes an adventure movie for adults.
Strukul is also a publisher and an impresario in the world of Italian pulp and comics who has brought the work of notable Scottish, Irish, American, French, and English authors to the attention of Italian readers. Read Matteo Strukul's interview with Detectives Beyond Borders.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

I've got to be honest here. I read an e-ARC from Netgalley and I stopped treading it. I don't know if it was the writing or the translation but I found the whole thing awkward, odd, with weird syntax and sometimes bad writing.

Like this part:

"She flung off her clothes and left them on the floor, got to the bathroom and entered the shower, imagining the sensation of the hot water on her skin. She wanted to pamper herself a little before having dinner, but most of all she wanted to free her mind. She had a pretty challenging meeting coming up and wanted to be fully fit for it.

After fifteen minutes of what seemed to her a sweet anti-stress therapy, she left the shower and wrapped herself in a white honeycomb robe."


So, she got in the shower and *imagined* the sensation of taking a shower instead of just feeling the sensation itself? Over the course of the 15 minutes did she actually take a shower or did she just imagine it? It *seemed* a a therapy to her? Well, would she know if it was or not?

I found quite a few of these moments that were frustrating me so I stopped reading.

I didn't read enough to write a review but I've been honest, here and elsewhere, about my thoughts on what I did read.

March 17, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The translation, in fact, was not the smoothest, and it will need to be smoother in future books. But take another look at the beginning of that scene: Mila "entered the shower imagining the sensation of the hot water." It doesn't say she imagined the sensation throughout the 15 minutes, it says she imagined it while entering. An easy solution would have been to say she entered the shower anticipating the sensation of the water.

Same with "seemed." While I agree it's not the most dynamic of words, I can guess that the author was striving for a suggestion of tentativeness and self-consicousness that just plain "a sweet anti-stress therapy" would not have conveyed. I read a bit of Italian, so I might just see what the original says.

But this is a rare case where the subject and the setting were compelling enough that I was able to look past that.

March 17, 2014  

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