Re: RARA-AVIS: Italian Noir- Camilleri

From: Etienne Borgers (
Date: 28 Jan 2003


I red 4 mystery novels from the Montalbano series by Camilleri, but I hesitated to open a thread as I was not too sure about the existence of English translations.

The Montalbano series is not from the HB stable, but he's certainly from the noirish borderline of the genre. Camilleri uses extensively whodunits type of intrigues, but everything else around it often takes a noirish background in his novels: mafia, police, Montalbano moods...etc. These novels are very popular in Italy, and Camilleri started to be very well known and successful in France since a few of years.

He's an experienced writer (in his early seventies now I think) mainly acclaimed for his plays and historical novels in Italy before his Montalbano series, series that he started not so long ago (so, being already rather old). As you may already know, he choose the name of Montalbano as a homage to the Spanish author Manuel Vasquez Montalban, father of the Pepe Carvalho series, author that Camilleri admires a lot.

IMO he's a very good writer and it shows in the Montalbano series, wherein the dialog is superb and the story often bears an acute sense of rhythm and construction rarely seen in that type of novels. Of course when I discovered he was a playwright, I understood better why the quality of the dialog was high. Indeed Sicily plays a great role in these books, with a good feeling of the provincial daily life there, given by some "sketches" or details of the relations between some characters. It was not written in pure Italian, but parts of the dialog carry Sicilian dialect, even between Montalbano and his police assistants (I don't know if the English translation tried to convey something similar).

And... there is a kind of "magic" with his style of writing, making that the reading of most of the Montalbano novels captures your full attention and gives you a feeling of fulfilment (nothing to do with the plot that can be anyway ending with a negative tone...).

I sincerely hope he will not produce too much for the Montalbano series and will keep his quality of writing, which is IMO what does the difference.

PS: 'The Shape of Water'- (La forma dell'acqua - 1994) is the first novel of the Montalbano series. Camilleri also produced a book made of shorts with Montalbano, besides the series of novels.


At 11:32 28-01-03 -0500, you wrote:
>I just finished two books by Andrea Camilleri--The Shape of Water and The
Terra-Cotta Dog. I didn't know anything about this author before I started reading the books (recommended by an employee of the local mystery book store). I enjoyed them, especially the Terra-Cotta Dog, which hooked me immediately with the opening riff: Inspector Montalbano meets Tano "the Greek", an assassin from the old school. I've never been to Sicily, but the books are loaded with details about Sicilian life, and it rang true for me--so I'm wondering what others think about these books and the author. Not hard enough for this crowd?
>Manuel Ramos
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