...well not exactly, I mean from the armchair, and by a circuitous literary route that has me pulling more books off the shelf to continue the journey later this summer. I'm working right through August so it seems like a good month to do some armchair holidaying.
Departure was initiated when KevinfromCanada recently reminded me about the Inspector Montalbano series the very same day that the latest in Andrei Camilleri's detective series, The Track of Sand, arrived from Picador. The distinctive Jeff Fisher cover designs are irresistible,,, didn't we first meet these all those years ago on Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. Cohesive and enticing with their attention to fine detail, and that detail always makes sense when I've finished the book. I've read quite a few Montalbanos out of sequence which is usually the prompt for me to go back to the beginning and have a good 'tambasiare' (that apparently means dawdle and Salvo Montalbano likes to) and fill in some gaps, so I settled down on a trip to Sicily with The Shape of Water and remembered why I loved them. In fact 'tambasiare' is used in the context of 'poking about from room to room without a precise goal, preferably doing pointless things' which I seem to do a lot of too, so Salvo and I have an affinity.
It's impossible to dislike Inspector Montalbano, beyond the fact that he's partial to a plate of octopus which I couldn't countenance. He's that wonderful muddly mix of detective as confused romantic, shirker of the 'love' commitment to long-term, long-distance significant other Livia, sharp as a knife and several steps ahead of the team when he's on the trail, and a man of compassion too, always spotting the under-dog and giving a helping hand. So when a local dignitary is found in his car at a local trysting spot, deceased by coronary and suitably de-bagged and presumably in flagrante, all is never likely to be as it seems given that this is Mafia territory. Natural deaths are just not the order of the day for Vigata's police department.
There are a smattering of literary references, Salvo is nothing if not that happy blend of crime-busting cultivated aesthete too, so has a hankering after fine food, classical music and the writing of Luigi Pirandello... more affinity which was all enough to send me scurrying to the shelves. Not only to see which Montalbanos I had, and next up it's The Terracotta Dog, but also to the Norman Lewis corner.
I've been meaning to ask you all about Norman Lewis for ages. I have his biography Semi-Invisible Man by Julian Evans along with a pile of Norman Lewis's travel and journalistic writing all awaiting its moment, which might be soon, because in the pile was In Sicily. An account of Lewis's return there after a first wartime encounter and subsequent fascination with the island, and halfway through I am really enjoying his style; genuine and honest, informative yet informal with plenty of anecdote to support the 'stark contrasts and the contradictions' to be found in Sicily and mentioned in the cover quotes.
Voices of the Old Sea also by Norman Lewis had been suggested to me by Julia Blackburn and in another twist of literary fortuitousness Julia's latest book arrived recently, Thin Paths Journeys In and Around an Italian Mountain Village to be published by Jonathan Cape very soon. It was all a sign that I must spend some time in Italy from the sofa with this book by my side. More about it tomorrow, it is special and deserves a post of its own.
So now I'm planning ahead for a proper armchair reading jaunt to Italy later this year . I've found a newer fiction that I'd missed Last Train From Liguria by Irish author Christine Dwyer Hickey ...
'Heart-rending, fearless and effortlessly gripping...an epic tale of displacement, friendship and one woman's life-long struggle for survival. Ranging from London and Dublin to Italy and spanning the twentieth century...'
Has anyone read it, should I??
I've read The Leopard and would happily read that again and staying in Sicily I've found A Simple Story by Leonardo Sciascia (thank you Hesperus) which I like the sound of
'In a small Sicilian town, a young and inexperienced policeman receives a strange phine call from a retired diplomat. On investigating the matter he finds the diplomat dead. What at first appears to be a simple case of suicide threatens to turn into a much more intricate situation, as the mounting investigation begins to implicate pillars of the community..'
It's translated by Howard Curtis, I'll like it.
And then there's Italo Calvino. The Path to the Spiders' Nests seems to build on those themes of WW II partisans fighting in the hills that I recall from Beppe Fenoglio's A Private Affair (Howard again) so I've pulled that off the shelf. But the elephant in the bookroom has to be If on a Winter's Night a Traveller?? I've never read it but feel if I'm reading Italy then I shouldn't miss Calvino's masterpiece, and while I'm there perhaps an even bigger Italian book elephant, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
Any more Italian reading suggestions most welcome.