“Un cafè non s'arrefuta mai.”
July 17, 2019 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Il grande scrittore siciliano, autore della fortunata serie di romanzi sul commissario di Vigata, è morto oggi a 93 anni. Dai romanzi al teatro fino alle prese di posizione sulla politica, l'Italia piange uno dei suoi più grandi autori contemporanei. Nessun funerale pubblico, ma da giovedì 18 luglio dalle ore 15 chi vorrà potrà dare l'ultimo saluto al cimitero Acattolico a Testaccio a Roma dove sarà sepolto Andrea Camilleri, writer of the wildly popular Inspector Montalbano books, has died at the age of 93.

After retiring from a career as a director and writer for television, 64-year-old Camilleri wrote his first book, The Shape of Water. The books became bestsellers and were made into popular television programs that have been broadcast for the past twenty years. Originally, the books weren't intended to become a series, but after the second one, The Terracotta Dog, became popular with the public and with critics. The English translations, done by Stephen Sartarelli, were just one of the many languages the books were translated into.

The language used by the author encompasses regular Italian, the Sicilian dialect, the casual blending of the two, plus slang, words imported from English. (There is a link on this page to a dissertation discussing the language in the books: "Setting a New Standard: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the
Regional Italian of Sicily in Andrea Camilleri’s Commissario Montalbano Mystery Series."). His use of language gives the books a particularly lively flavor of the area and makes his characters come to life vibrantly. His writing captured such a sense of place that they have actually created an uptick in tourism for Sicily itself, the "Montalbano Effect." (Some of this probably also had to do with viewers watching the tv shows and seeing how beautiful the area was.)

“To judge from the entrance the dawn was making, it promised to be a very iffy day -- that is, blasts of angry sunlight one minute, fits of freezing rain the next, all of it seasoned with sudden gusts of wind -- one of those days when someone who is sensitive to abrupt shifts in weather and suffers them in his blood and brain is likely to change opinion and direction continuously, like those sheets of tin, cut in the shape of banners and roosters, that spin every which way on rooftops with each new puff of wind. ”

Most of all, his main character, the police officer Salvo Montalbano, became beloved. The Sicilian sleuth is a lover of good cooking who would prefer to be left alone to eat a wonderful meal, a grouch who is constantly frustrated by his coworkers, and, above all, is a man who values truth and honesty in a world where it can be hard to come by.
posted by PussKillian (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 3:16 PM on July 17, 2019

I never read the books, being dyslexic enough that i cannot read dialect. But i loved loved loved the tv series.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 3:18 PM on July 17, 2019

Camilleri: "Sono felice. Non ho paura di morire. Il ricordo più bello? Il giorno del mio matrimonio"

posted by chavenet at 3:39 PM on July 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

The Terracotta Dog was one of the first detective books in translation that I ever read. It’s much more of a thing now, what with the proliferation of and popularity of English translations of Scandinavian noir, but at the time it was relatively uncommon to find detective novels from other countries translated into English. I remember really liking Camilleri’s style, and particularly the character of Montalbano. You really root for him.

Loved the books and the TV show. The Young Montalbano show is also really good!

posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:08 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by fitnr at 4:40 PM on July 17, 2019

posted by Mister Bijou at 6:36 PM on July 17, 2019

I once inceptioned a family vacation to Sicily by getting my parents to watch the series.

posted by grandiloquiet at 7:09 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

note to self: apparently I can read Italian more effectively than I had thought
posted by mwhybark at 8:27 PM on July 17, 2019

Oh no! :-(
posted by slkinsey at 8:33 PM on July 17, 2019

He led a good, full life rich in rewards and he was a good person who brought joy to many. It is hard to ask for more than that.

I like this interview (in Spanish) with him from a couple years ago in El Pais: "You cannot fight the darkness"

In English, major kudos to Stephen Sartarelli, his translator. I have read Camilleri in Italian and in English and, dare I say it, the English may even be better. I think it is because Sartarelli does an incredible job of translating the different Italian dialects in the books into Italian-American dialects and the mapping is perfect; the characters are alive and fully-drawn from the moment they first speak.
posted by vacapinta at 10:18 PM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

posted by progosk at 6:02 AM on July 18, 2019

(We weren’t able to schedule my father in law’s commiato laico (secular farewell) - same city, same date - at the storied Cimitero degli Inglesi aka Acattolico, as it was pre-reserved for Camilleri. Since both were authors (though of a vastly different order) we shared unanimous, equanimous smiles to be ceding the privilege to the Sicilian National Treasure.
posted by progosk at 6:17 AM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

We discovered the TV series on SBS in Australia 12 years ago and fell in love with it. Then were even more delighted to find that it was based on a series of mystery novels that were available in English translation. The translations by Stephen Sartarelli are superb, as he manages to maintain the cadence and idiomatic qualities of the language that allow you to experience Sicily on the page. The books really do take you to the place.

In recent years, each time I have ordered a new book, I have wondered if it might be the last, given that Camilleri was approaching, and then passing 90. Montalbano is such a loveable character, and his reverence for Sicilian cuisine (and the meaning of individual dishes captured by Sartarelli in the end notes) lets you know that Camilleri himself lived vibrantly and well.
posted by amusebuche at 7:06 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by mdoar at 8:08 AM on July 18, 2019

Condoglianze, progosk
posted by romakimmy at 12:10 AM on July 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Avanti! <---- I learned this word from the series.

I got into Montalbano through The Young Montalbano, which chronicles the policeman's life when he was younger. An amazing series and I'm sad to hear about the author.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 1:09 AM on July 19, 2019

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