Saturday, October 23, 2010

ROUNDING THE MARK by Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri's Rounding the Mark deserves a simple set of comments.

This book is a good story about a heartbreaking theme.  Salvo Montalbano is one of the most emotional and caring characters in all of mystery literature.

In the midst of depression, Inspector Montalbano takes a swim and bumps into a body.  The story begins with Montalbano's refusal simply to dismiss the body as another illegal immigrant who got what he deserves. 

In a seemingly unrelated event, Montalbano makes a terrible mistake.  And that mistake leads the Inspector and his people into the special heart of darkness in the immigration issue.

Montalbano sees that heart of darkness when he tries to save a child. The child throws up his hands in a gesture of futility, wanting to appear brave. 

"What corner of hell could [the child] have come from, Montalbano suddenly asked himself in dismay, if at his age he'd already learned the terrible gesture of throwing one's hands in the air, something he certainly hadn't seen on television or at the movies.

"The answer came to [Montalbano] at once, in the form of a flash in his brain.  And while it lasted, inside this flash--which was just like a photographer's flash--the crate, the alley, the port, Vigata itself all disappeared and then reappeared in black and white and shrunken to the size of an old photo he had seen many years before but which had been taken many years before that, during the war, before he was born, and which showed a little Jewish or Polish boy with hands raised and the very same wide-open eyes, the very same desire not to cry, as a soldier pointed a gun at him."

This book deals with terrible things.  It has the usual humor, Camilleri's way of portraying his inspector as an emotional Sicilian who sometimes appears absurd, but the book also has great tragedy.

The book has Montalbno's love of great Sicilian food too.

And, in so far as I can tell, Stephen Sartarelli translates the story beautifully.

I never tire of Inspector Montalbano.  He reminds me of my own father, a volatile Sicilian born in the U.S. soon after his mother got off the boat from Sicily. 

I will keep reading about Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Salvo Montalbano.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I think this is old enough to include. And not well known. Thanks, Joe.

Joe Barone said...

You are welcome.

Todd Mason said...

Montalbano has been adapted for Italian television in a pretty good series of longform films that are currently in rotation on the US public-broadcasting newtork MHz WorldView. I've caught a few, but haven't sought out the novels yet...sounds promising.

BV Lawson said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Joe. I have a long, long list of books to read, many I've been meaning to get to for years, and I'll have to bump up the Inspector Montalbano series and put this one in particular on the TBR pile. Looking forward to it!

Joe Barone said...

Todd and BV,

I just started reading the Montalbano books within the last year or so. Originally I was most taken with them because they were great books which reflected my own heritage. This book took me a step farther in my appreciation of Montalbano.

Todd Mason said...

Well, despite a 100% WASP name, I'm a quarter Milanese, "more" than I am the other seven or so ethnicities in the family, me, too...

Joe Barone said...

Isn't it interesting how our ethnicity matters to who we are?