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La gita a Tindari. (Fiction).

Andrea Camilleri. La gita a Tindari Palermo. Sellerio, 2000. 291 pages L. 15,000. ISBN 88-389-1574-1

ANDREA CAMILLERI'S newest book is another of the mystery thrillers he has been publishing to enormous popular acclaim over the last several years. As in his other books, once again the language, while mostly standard Italian, makes abundant use of Sicilian or Sicilianate vocabulary and syntax in both the dialogues and, to a lesser extent, the descriptions. At center stage -- to the delight, no doubt, of his many fans -- is Commissioner Salvo Montalbano, the dyspeptic but idealistic if disillusioned hero of much of Camilleri's fiction of this sort. And Montalbano is again surrounded by his faithful and usually obedient minions, among them Officer Catarella, whose malapropisms and inability to understand either standard Italian or irony is balanced by his unexpected and compensating skill with computers. There are also a suitable number of villains and other heavies in the book. These include a Mafia don and his entourage of Kalashnikov-toting goons, the don's lawyer and his personal priest; a sleazy but immensely successful transplant surgeon; plus other adversaries, including Montalbano's superiors and rivals within the local and regional police networks.

Despite the obstacles Montalbano faces, justice, as it must, nevertheless triumphs at the conclusion of this page-turner. As he struggles to understand the true nature of and motives for the multiple homicides he is investigating, Montalbano must employ every bit of his native craftiness, familiarity with Sicilian folkways, and ratiocinative skills. Fortunately, he is aided in his quest by the ministrations to both body and soul he receives from two women: the distant Livia, whom he has loved for so long that he cannot remember if they are in fact married or just engaged, and the nearby Ingrid, a Nordic beauty whose healing arts soothe Montalbano's sense of masculine pride right along with his aching muscles.

The pleasure that this text affords come in the first instance from its extremely creative -- and often very funny -- use of words. While the language he writes is not exactly standard Italian, Camilleri has been careful to make his text comprehensible to readers who can bring some flexibility and linguistic imagination to the task (and deduce successfully from context). An additional pleasure La gita a Tindari offers is that provided by the clash between such traditional themes in Sicilian literature as death and sex, vendettas and the family, hatred and looniness, and a new social and economic context of cell phones, computers, home-made porn videos, the Internet, organ transplants, and the international art market. The world that Camilleri has depicted here is by no means a rapidly changing one: it is a world that has already changed. One of the questions the book poses is whether the aging Montalbano (Camilleri himself was born in 1925) can render himself sufficiently up-to-date to survive in such a world and at the same time remain his inimitable self. Not unexpectedly, this is indeed what he does, and in such a way that the reader cannot help but wish a long life to both the commissioner and his equally redoubtable creator.
Charles Klopp
Ohio State University
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Author:Klopp, Charles
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2001
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