The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

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The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

Italian crime novel

Original title – Il misterodelletreorchidee

Translator – Jill Foulston

Source – Library

Well I do the second from Pushkin Vertigo series tonight and this time we are in Italy and one from the classic Italian series of Giallo novels those old yellow bound books that also sparked the films . Augusto De Angelis started of writing a spy novel inspired by the writing of Joseph Conrad and then a few years later he wrote his first crime novel after that he came on Inspector DE Vincenzi as his main character in fifteen novels , he even was made in the 1970’s to a tv series by the Italian broadcaster RAI .

Slowly and cautiously , she approached the bed .This was a big mess , and on the day of a show too. Why , though had Christina O’brian fainted in her room with a man’s body on her bed when she should have been down in the showrooms watching the models and studying her clients reactions ?

Madame Firmino could now see , below those wide-open eyes , the rest of the dead man’s face. A handsome youth, almost a boy, with fine, perfectly regular features. Long black hair thrown back and naturally a bit messy now .

The first murder victim in the bed as a show went on and with an orchid by him what does it mean .

The book follows a series of Murders the first is at a fashion house .The victim is found with an orchid now DE Vincenzi  is there a body on the bed upstairs at a Milan Fashion house . The owner of the fashion house Christina is acting oddly , he ex husband is also there but why . is he still there as another body and Orchid turn up. then De Vicenzi  is not a clue man no he is one of these detectives that sees the whole  thing as a puzzle of psychologically to be broken up and assembled as he goes from here to there .

De Vincenzi saw the body, Christina and the orchid. By now he was used to seeing bodies and women – how many inquests had he racked up, each with at least one body and always lots of women ? – but less used to seeing orchids though he loved them quite a bit more

So her stopped to look at the flower for longer and with greater pleasure. An  unnatural flower made of flesh, born of rotting slime , grown in a tropical atmosphere

Why an orchid these exotic flowers are always hard to grow  and keep

This isn’t a complex crime ,their isn’t a lot of too and froing no, this is a simple plot .I was reminded of those great american  crime radio dramas where the crime is all wrapped neatly up in half an Hour . Philo Vance is mention on the cover , but I was thinking  some one like rocky Jordan for the exotic nature like that it felt ,more like Milan set via america than Italian milan  or Inspector thorne  as a straight forward crime solver in mould of Vicenzi  or Maigret  from those forties dramas which of course came out of the pulp fiction  rather like the start of the Giallo series which was mostly american crime novel . There is also the fact that De Angelis at the time he write the book was falling very foul as being seen as an Anti fascist by the fascist Italian government of the time . Like the Italian crime novel of the time I have read I will have vengance by Maurico De Giovanni , which also owed much in its writing to American pulp fiction also set in the 30’s in Naples instead of Milan the setting for this book , both have the undercurrent of fascism creeping into there world .

The french Father by Alain Elkmann

 

The French Father by Alain Elkmann

Italian fiction

Original title – Il padre francese

Translator – Alastair McEwen

Source – personnel copy

Well I chose this to be the first book of the second Pushkin Press fortnight .A s I felt its writer maybe in his own life a captures Part of what Pushkin Press are about international literature and this writer has a truly international flavour  . Alain Elkmann  is an American born son of a french industrialist  and an Italian mother , who has spent most of his life in Italy and was married to the daughter of the boss of Fiat. This was his second book to be translated into English. He has written twenty books and writes a regular piece for a number of Italian Newspaper. I must note it is also Pushkin Press 20th anniversary so lets hope they have many more. May I also note I have had or made no contact with them about this fortnight. This year also sees ten years of Maclehose press more about that at a later date !!

After a step or two, I saw a new grave, on which a white stone bore the name “Roland Topor” in Black letters .I knew that Topor had been an artist, a writer. I had met him with my ex-wife and recalled having seen reports of his death in the newspapers. I remembered him with a glass of red wine in his hands, laughing in a coarse way and smoking a cigar .It had been one night in Paris, at the house of a painter friend

He had once meet his fathers new neighbour

The story starts when a son pays a visit to his father’s grave in the famous Parisian cemetery Montparnasse , like him his father was Jewish it is a while since he has been to his father’s grave but in line with tradition he has to visit on the eleven month with his sisters . When he sees that there is a new grave next to that of his fathers that of Roland Topor the well-known French Polish surrealist. Alain the son then sets about finding out as much as possible to discover as much as possible about the man sat in the ground next to his father as he seems so different to his stiff upper class father a man of the old french world of power and honour . As the story unfolds we see the son discovering more about Roland and his family . the two men below the ground are all so talking about themselves and naturally with two men at such different ends of the spectrum they argue about their lives and how they lived it .

“No I don’t feel like talking about my father . It’s not something I can do yet ”

“I should like to go to the cemetery with you , Your father’s grave is very spartan . My father is buried beside his parents .How is it that your grandparents aren’t buried beside your father”

“Just a minute who are you ? I don’t even know you. I’ve told you that I don’t want to talk about this matter, you ask me and you expect an answer ?

Alain asks Roland’s son about him , but later thinks he may have gone about it the wrong way

 

This is a quirky book and if I had said in less than a year after reading The dirty dust I would be reading another book about people talking in their lives in their graves I would have laughed but no here is another book where the dead talk about their lives. It’s a class of french Upper class lives and the Bohemian world of france sharing two graves next to each other . Then there is the son drive to discover more about his fathers new neighbour which drives him into his own investigation of Roland Topor , he knows he wrote a book that Roland Polanski made into a film and he was quite  a character in his time but not much else as he untangled his past and discovers more than he thought . This is all packed  into 120 pages , this is one of those quirky novellas that have you thinking for ages after you have put it down and finished it. So this is ,my first Puskin Prees fortnight review , what from them have you been reading ?

The street kids by Pier Paolo Pasolini

The street kids by Pier Paolo Pasolini

Italian Fiction

Original title –  Ragazzi di Vita

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – review copy

Pier Paolo Pasolini is best known now as a filmmaker now and even the subject of a film of his own life  . Passolini was one of the leading lights in Italian cinema and also in writing during his time , unfortunately his life was cut short. I am pleased Europa editions had decide to do a new translation of his debut novel that at the time it came out cause a storm due to its subject matter of the kids on the street of post war Italy.

It was a very hot july day. Riccetto, who was supposed to take his first Communion and be confirmed, had gotten up at five ; but, heading down Via Donna Oilmpia in his long grey pants and white shirt, he looked more like a guy going out in his sunday best to pick up girls along the Tiber than like a communicant or a soldier of Jesus . With a group of boys like him , all in white shirts, he arrived at the church of divine providence, where at nine Don Pizutti gave him communion and at eleven the bishop confirmed him .

Maybe the first step on the road to being a man in Italy is being confirmed into the church .

The story follows a group of street kids in those chaotic post war year in Italy , well Rome Riccetto is a street boy but he is turning into a man and this is the story of that time when a boy becomes a man. The story is how this one boy and his friends try to get their world seen by the greater world . These boys steal to get by in their world , like steal chairs and then spend the money on food to get by but as they steal they also end up sometimes getting stolen off in turn. Then there is also the other part of boys becoming men and that is the sexual side , this sees them visiting ladies of the night with various results. This is a story of a tough world told by those inside it  and how hard it is to grow up in this world.

Discouraged, and displaying their discouragement with a sneer, the three delinquents sat on the parapet: Lenzetta was lying down, stomach up, with his hands under his dusty neck, singing, Riccetto sat on the edge with his legs dangling; only Alduccio was standing, leaning against the all with his hip and elbow, his legs nervously crossed.He was the only one who didn’t seem bored, who was awaiting events with some hope.

The gang are growing and trying to get by but also have many a fall along the way .

This is a book that is considered a classic of its time and it is it needs to sit alongside the likes rome open city the great post war master piece of Italian cinema , as a piece of neo realist art describing the post war struggle of Italy and it underclass that as is shown in the book was largely unknown as is shown by the boys wanting to get people to see them rather than turn the other cheek , there world is one that is maybe older than the one around them it is a world of thieves and a warp sense of honour among thieves  is maybe more from the world of a dickens novel. The main characters could almost be from Oliver Twist or even maybe part of Grass post war Danzig from the tin drum trilogy .

The story of the Lost child by Elena Ferrante

 

 

 

 

 

The story of the Lost child by Elena Ferrante

Italian fiction

Original title – Storia della bambina perduta

Translator – Ann Goldstein

Source – Personnel copy

Score B+ last of a four part series of two women growing up in Modern Italy works as a standalone novel just interesting insight into being a writer and woman in Modern Italy.

Now when the longlist was announced I am sure there was one book each of us shadow folks hoped wouldn’t be on the longlist. Well for me it was this book. I have read My brilliant friend and part read The story of a new name, but haven’t quite got swept up with the world of Ferrante. That said the other side of her as a writer that has shunned the limelight and the fact people are now trying to piece together parts of this series of books to find out who she is, I find great. There was a recent piece in an Italian newspaper where A professor had taken dates and references in the books to events and worked out a year the writer could have been at university at that time and came up with a name of a professor of history, who has denied she is Elena Ferrante so the hunt carries on.

The evening was spoiled. Nino said it was my mother in law who told Lila that I was in Naples. He spoke with great embarrassment, choosing his words carefully, emphasizing points like: she didn’t have my address; she asked my sister for the phone number of my colleague; she telephoned a little before I was to leave for the station; I didn’t tell you right away because I was afraid you would get angry and our day would be ruined. He concluded, desolate

Early on Elena still has problems with Lila from the past .

Well this last book brings the two woman who have been at the heart of the four books into the modern age. Elena and Lila are now two grown up woman far different from the ones I read in the first part of the books Elena who was always the clever one is now a fully fledged writer, her narrative in this book I really enjoyed two-fold as it seemed Ferrante was toying with a writer most unlike her one that is in the public eye. Lila meanwhile has left her background but is still the fighter I remember in the first book but in this book has a distance from her old friend at the start of the book . But here at a point  she has left disappeared  and Elena is remembering their past and trying to find her in the present. This shows how the two have always been like two trains on different tracks but at certain points in their life to run close together and other be miles apart and then even nearly hit each others at some point. How does a friendship live through more than fifty year ?

That I had a sort of double identity was true. Up on via Tasso Nino brought me  is educated friends, who treated me with respect, loved my second book in particular, wanted me to look at what they were working on. We talked late into the night with an attitude of worldliness. we wondered if there was still a proletariat or not, we alluded to the socialist left and with bitterness, to the communists ( They’re more cops than the cops and the priests)

I love the line about double identity as Ferrante has been doing this for years.

Well I must admit I liked this more than I had thought I would it made me miss that I hadn’t read all the books. But for me this last book is maybe the best it seems Ferrante in some ways has maybe read Knausgaard and partly used his style of self confession in this last volume with the looking back at the earlier events they seem much more touched be a real childhood than in the first book. Maybe this is just me but given Ferrante seems very well read it is so far-fetched she had read him and he had influenced this last book. Does it deserve to be one the longlist well yes these books should have been  on the longlist before so this last volume deserves to be here as the three other books should have made the longlist. For me this will make actual shortlist who knows she may even be at the shortlist party next week !

 

 

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco

Numero Zero, Umberto Eco

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco

Italian fiction

Original title – Numero Zero

Translator – Richard Dixon

Source – Library book

As I said the day after he died I had intend to review this as one of the man booker hopefuls, not knowing how the rules fully stand it still may be in the running. I enjoyed this and am sad that it will be his last novel as far as we know at the moment, as Eco always considered his novel-writing a hobby that he just did at the weekend as a diversion from his academic work.

Another topic was denial. We were still a newspaper without any readers, and so there was no challenge any of the news that we provided. But a newspaper is also judged by its capacity to handle denials, especially if it’s a newspaper they shows it doesn’t mind getting it’s hands dirty. Also, by training ourselves for the real denials when they came., we could invent letters from readers that we follow up with a denial. just to let the commendatore see what we are capable of.

this is so Borges a paper with out reader with readers letters hence the title Numero Zero.

 

Numero Zero is set in Italy at two times the first is a story of the end of the world war two the last few days of the tyrant IL Duce following his capture by the partizans, til he was executed and his body was buried in an unkown grave  or was it !.Now shoot forward too 1992 Collonna a hack is hired to write a ghost paper , a number of scandal written newspapers for a fake newspaper that is part of a great scheme b the owner of that paper , along the way he runs into a conspiracy freak. That tells him a whole tale of the 1945 Il duce story and that is they caught a double and that the real Duce was smuggled to Argentina by the Vatican. This is maybe to mad a story for the paper.There is many more twists and turns in this Classic eco tale.

“We’ll come back to Petaci. For now, let me just fill in my theory. A dictator must have a double, who knows how many times he had used him at official parades, seen always from a distance, to avoid assassination attempts. Now imagine that to enable the Duce to escape unhindered, from the moment he leaves for Como, Mussolini is no longer Mussolini but his double.”

“And where’s Mussolini ?”

THe double theory explained a very Borges Idea and also a classic piece of Eco.

 

This was classic Eco in a way. But also I said maybe it was Eco Lite, this was a short novel felt like a first draft of something that could have been more expansive in its scope. Although it had many echos to his earlier books in style and setting in Milan.  As ever he had many illusions to classic piece of Lit high and Low for me Collonna was very much in the hack crime writer of detective novels from the 1940’s . There is a large tip of the hat to Borges , that Alberto Manguel mentions in his guardian review ,where as Borges worked lit  gems in short stories I always felt Eco expand the style and sort of stories that  Borges used into a  longer novel form and this is now exception with two Motifs  the double and the detective story are both motifs you often find in Borges especially the double the mirror image! He had been called the thinking man Dan brown in recent years and I wonder if this was a clever nod to Mr brown as he has a vatican conspiracy in one of his books (I have seen the film but not read his books ). This would be a great Man booker book if still eligible from one of the most consistent writers of the last thirty years .A sad loss to World Lit, but at least I have his books to reread and add to the blog over next few years.

Have you a favourite book By Eco

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