Articles by: Traci Andrighetti

  • Life & People

    Margherita Oggero's L'amica americana

    Margherita Oggero (b. 1950, Torino) is a retired teacher, a journalist for La Stampa and an author. Oggero has written a number of novels, but she is perhaps best known for her gialli regionali (regional mysteries) featuring Camilla Baudino, a high school teacher in Turin. The first novel in the series, La collega tatuata (The Tattooed Colleague) (Mondadori, 2003) was made into the acclaimed film Se devo essere sincera (If I Have to Be Sincere) (2004). The series also inspired the long-running television show Provaci ancora Prof! (Try Again, Teach!)for which Oggero writes the episodes.

    In L’amica americana (The American Friend) (Mondadori, 2006), the third of six novels in the Camilla Baudino mysteries, Camilla discovers that the small abandoned villa she has admired for years is for sale. Although she knows she could never afford it, she makes an appointment with the owner, an Italian widow from the United States, and an unexpected friendship blossoms. Then one day while they’re out shopping the unthinkable happens, and Camilla finds herself the main suspect in a murder. Once again, the handsome Inspector Gaetano Berardi comes to her rescue. But the case is complicated, and he has more than Camilla’s freedom on his mind.

    Because L’amica americana is set in Turin, the language of the novel contains dialect and regional Italian specific to Piedmont as well as terms from other regions, including Lombardy, Veneto and Campania. Additionally, the text features numerous lexical items from neostandard Italian, including neologisms and colloquialisms.


    s-ciopón (The name of a boat used for bird-hunting that literally means Ital. fuciloneEng. big gun. In this context, however, the term means Ital. colpo; Eng. stroke(Venetian)

    Alla “riunione ad alto livello” mister Cantino arriva “stravolto”, tanto stravolto che subito dopo gli viene uno s-ciopón, sempre che l’infarto fulminante sia stato davvero tale e non la versione plausibile di un omicidio.

    (At the “high-level meeting,” Mr. Cantino arrived “agitated,” so agitated in fact that immediately afterward he had a stroke, provided of course that the sudden heart attack was really that and not the plausible version of a homicide.)

     (Ital. cretino; Eng. fool(Piedmontese)

    Sarà, però se uno a quarant’anni è ancora timido, oltre che timido è anche un po’ ciula, come dite voi.

    (That may be, but if someone is still shy at forty years of age, besides being shy he’s also a bit of a ciula, as you people say.)


    smammare (Eng. scram(Neapolitan)

    Solo quando ebbe finito si decisero a smammare come si augurava la barista.

    (Only when she had finished did they decide to scram like the barista was wanting.)

     (Eng. prof; but for the American high school context, teach(Piedmontese)

    Non mi aveva detto tutto, la profia, chissà perché.

    (She hadn’t told me everything, the teach. Who knows why.)

    far vedere i sorci verdi
     (A phrase derived from the three green mice painted on the fuselage of the 205th bombardment squadron of the Italian airforce. Ital. far vedere i topi verdi; Eng. literally, to make [someone] see green mice, i.e., to make [someone] see red(Romanesco)

    Se riusciamo a dimostrarlo gli facciamo vedere i sorci verdi.

    (If we can prove it, we’ll make them see red.)


    mioddio (Eng. myGod)
    diosacosa (Eng. Godknowswhat, i.e., Godknowswhatelse)

    O mioddio, mi sfinirà di recriminazioni e rimproveri e rimostranze e raccomandazioni e rinfacci e diosacosa.

    (OhmyGod, she’ll wear me out with recriminations and reproaches and remonstrances and recommendations and rebukes and Godknowswhatelse.)


    capelloni (Ital. capelli + -one; Eng. hairs + big; literally, big hairs, but used to mean longhairs, i.e., hippies)

    Amalia, chi l’avrebbe mai detto, di un hippy—a quel tempo da noi si chiamavano capelloni—e ha mollato tutto e tutti.

    (Amalia, who would have ever thought it, [fell in love] with a hippy—back then we called them longhairs here—and she dropped everyone and everything.)


    giurin-giuretta (An oath between children in which they cross their forefingers and sway their hands back and forth. Eng. (in the American context) cross your heart [and hope to die])

    Francesca per la prima volta sorride, fa giurin-giuretta ed esce.

    (Francesca smiles for the first time, crosses her heart and leaves.)


    non essere uno stinco di santo (Eng. literally, not to be a saint’s shin, i.e., to be far from a saint)

    Invece non se l’è cercata, anche se non era uno stinco di santo.

    (But he didn’t go looking for it [trouble], even though he was far from a saint.)


    tigì (A word formed from the the pronunciation of the letters tg, which is an abbreviation of Ital. telegiornale; Eng. literally,telenewspaper, i.e., news)

    Non ancora, te li ho solo portati, ma ho visto il tigì delle sei e mezzo. Poveri noi.

    (Not yet, I just brought them to you [the newspapers], but I saw the six-thirty news. Poor us.)


    l’altro ieri (Eng. literally, the other yesterday, i.e., the day before yesterday)

    Non c’è più venuto nessuno, a vederla, e lei l’altro ieri ha tolto il cartello.

    (No one else came, from the look of it, and she took down the sign the day before yesterday.)

     (Eng. literally, todayday, i.e., nowadays)

    Siamo tutti nervosi, oggigiorno.

    (We’re all irritable, nowadays.)

    Concluding Remarks
    L’amica americana is not a typical mystery. While it certainly has the intrigue one would expect from the genre, mainly because it’s impossible to anticipate the author’s next move, it’s also a thought-provoking read. Oggero has a special talent for putting her audience directly into the minds—and hearts—of her characters through internal monologues. And those of Camilla and the widow Dora Vernetti about the difficulties of relationships and aging are particularly moving. As a result, Oggero’s characters seem like family and old friends, ones from whom readers have much to learn.

    In Translation

    Given the tremendous popularity of the Camilla Baudino mysteries, it’s unfortunate that there is no English translation of L’amica americana. The novel is available in French translation, however, under the title L’amie américaine.

    On the Internet

    You can find Margherita Oggero on Facebook. While you’re online, check out an episode of Provaci ancora prof! on Italy’s RAI network. This is a terrific show.

  • Life & People

    An Interview with Nicky Persico


    Nick Persico (b. 1964, Bari) is an attorney, journalist and author. At the urging of writer Lara Cardella, Persico published his first short story, “Stellina (Starlet),” in 2010. His latest work is an intriguing "smart-thriller" about stalking entitled
     Spaghetti paradiso (Spaghetti Paradise) (Aliante, 2011; Baldini & Castoldi, 2013).

    This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Persico about some of the interesting linguistic and artistic aspects of Spaghetti paradiso and his future plans for his charming protagonist, Alessandro Flachi.

    What was the inspiration for Spaghetti paradiso? Was it motivated by your work as an attorney with victims of domestic abuse, or was it something else?

    I’ve run into cases like this since I started in the profession. Many years ago, there was much less awareness of this phenomenon with respect to today. Over the years I began to supply myself with instruments of knowledge, or rather with texts from specialized authors. In the book, in fact, I cite those who contributed most usefully to my perception of the mechanisms of the phenomenon, and in the latter pages I reference those who, in my opinion, can provide an effective study to those who wish to explore the topic. Through the years, therefore, I’ve become increasingly familiar with the topic of psychological violence, which represents the real ‘invisible enemy’ to defeat and which constitutes a substratum in the majority of the stalking cases, trying to take a focused approach to the practical utility of knowledge. In some ways, I took the same path as the protagonist of the novel, the practicing attorney Alessandro Flachi. One day, then, I tried to recount this phenomenon from the perspective of one who is, unconsciously, ignorant of the subject. The formula, from what is seems, has been effective. At the same time, a narrative vein revealed itself that not even I knew I possessed, and the rest happened on its own.

    On the subject of domestic violence, Alessandro says he prefers the term “manipolazione (manipulation)” to stalking. Why this distinction?

    When people speak of stalking, they tend to imagine only the most visible part of this hateful phenomenon: persistent texts, for example, or following or obsessive telephone calls. I think this distances us from the real problem, which is actually much more obscure and devious. Using the term ‘manipulation’ helps the interlocutor to position himself or herself in a more critical manner and thereby consider the things that he or she doesn’t know and therefore needs to better observe. It’s not easy, for example, to understand why the victims complain about a hellish life and then, maybe, they’re reluctant to press charges. So, if people don’t take into consideration that the victim is in an altered psychological state, then they’ll also tend to think that things aren’t like the victim says, in as much as a normal person would react with determination. The reason for the psychological fragility of the victim lies precisely in an intentional destruction of his or her equilibrium, consciously induced through manipulation. I think that calling it by its real name better conveys the idea of what the problem is that we have before us.

    There is a lot of interesting regional language in Spaghetti paradiso, some of which you define in the text: "quattrofacce (literally, fourfaces, as in a two-faced person)," "vilacchione (coward)," "sparamimpetto (a person who acts as a sacrificial lamb)," and "fafueco (troublemaker)." What does the language of your native Bari mean to you?

    I use it often when I’m with friends and in informal contexts because it has a very effective descriptive power, as I state in the book for some of the terms. Dialect in general is a true and proper language, in some passages, and barese is no exception. Some words or a certain phraseology are a precious patrimony that should be valued and, in some cases, reclaimed. And besides, for every one of us, certain expressions are part not only of our language but also of our thought. Some dialectal words have an energy all their own, much more powerful than the corresponding term in the language. And also the sound, the pronunciation and sometimes a typical gesture that accompanies certain phrases are a true value added to the communication. I adore all of this.

    Speaking of regional terms, a character in the book calls Alessandro “un frecamidolce.” What does this mean?

    The ‘frecamidolce’ is generally a persuasive person who is capable of leading you wherever he or she wants without being impetuous, or intrusive. In the end, you’re able to perceive that he or she has done it, but you don’t mind because at bottom it was done gracefully, and very often it induces you to reflect on something that was in your best interest. I think the closest equivalent to this concept is ‘diplomatic.’ The ‘frecamidolce,’ however, has sweetness of style, and what’s more, he or she leaves a smile on your face even when you understand what he or she was up to. In other words, a truly beautiful aspect of human relationships enclosed in a single word: the power of dialect.

    There is an entertaining scene in the chapter entitled “Customer Care” that takes place between Alessandro and a reluctant barista. You describe the exchange as one of “customer sfatigation.” Can you explain the origin of the term “sfatigation” and why you chose English?

    It’s the opposite of the expression ‘customer satisfaction,’ which is much more common. But, as often happens, apathy, indolence and sometimes bad manners push people who work with the public to be impolite. ‘Sfaticato (slacker)’ is a slang term that describes a person who is disinclined to ameliorative effort, to obligation. So, in antithesis to the processes of ‘customer satisfaction,’ which aim for the satisfaction of the client, I outlined an adverse behavioral scheme, the scope of which is to irritate the person one finds on the other side of the desk. ‘Customer sfatigation’ renders the idea, in my opinion, of ‘apathy’ toward the client, rather than ‘attention.’ Everyone has entered a store at some time or other and felt like they were almost bothering the employee. If we feel that sensation, there’s no doubt: it’s a matter of ‘customer sfatigation.’

    In the same chapter, you state that Bari has undergone “una progressiva milanizzazione (a progressive Milanization)” with respect to daily life. Can you elaborate?

    Milan is, in the collective imagination, the symbol of efficiency and of the acceleration of time. Bari used to have the ‘controra (siesta),’ which was absolutely respected like a mantra. Calling someone at around two o’clock in July, for example, in the 70s was a very rare thing. Today everything has changed, obviously, and ‘milanizzare (Milanize)’ conveys the idea of generalized efficiency. Sincerely, however, I have a great nostalgia for the ‘controra.’ It was a re-appropriation of civic spaces on the side of silence, of quiet. A pause for reflection.

    In the book, Alessandro’s private and rather unusual recipe for a dish called “Spaghetti Paradiso” is accidentally shared with his friends and colleagues. Do you ever make this recipe?

    Well, exactly as it’s described, no. But in some ways, like all of us, I’ve lived it in similar forms. All the times I’ve repaired a relationship after an argument, maybe, or a big explanation. I wanted to incarnate the possibility of re-establishing harmony with someone important to you, and who, because of the daily routine, had distanced themselves a bit because of certain mechanisms that often create useless walls. We need to force ourselves, every once in a while, to note them and break them down again. The important relationships have always been our true patrimony, and they need to be maintained: even with a healthy and overwhelming 'spaghettata', if it's warranted…

    Alessandro is a terrific character and a great guy. Can your fans hope for any more Alessandro adventures?

    There will be another two books, by contract, with Alessandro Flachi as protagonist. The exceptionality, in him, consists in his profound normality and his joy for life. A simple person, in other words, common like many good people who comprise the majority of us human beings. His being awkward, bungling and distracted, but at the same time willing and motivated by good intentions has conquered everyone to some extent. Even the publisher. And the smart-thriller will continue, at least two more times.

    : If you’d like to know more about Nicky Persico and his work, please see my post on Spaghetti paradiso. This is a book you can’t afford to miss!

    : The above picture of Nicky Persico was taken by the great Jeffery Deaver.

  • Life & People

    Spaghetti Paradiso

    Nicky Persico (b. 1964, Bari), an attorney and journalist by profession, published his debut novel, Spaghetti paradiso (Spaghetti Paradise), in 2011 (Aliante) and again in 2013 (Baldini & Castoldi). Persico draws on his legal expertise and personal studies to expose the little-known aspects of stalking and manipulation. This so-called "smart thriller" has drawn critical and public acclaim not only for the originality of its content but also for the author’s skill in balancing the ugly reality of domestic violence against moments of beauty and serenity.

    Spaghetti paradiso is the story of Alessandro Flachi, an inexperienced attorney who unexpectedly finds himself representing two women who are victims of domestic abuse. Alessandro initially believes that he has a grasp on the respective cases, but when he meets Lara, a social worker who runs a women’s shelter, he discovers that he knows nothing at all about the psychology of stalkers and how they prey on their victims. Based on a genuine desire to understand, Alessandro goes on a personal and professional journey into an obscure and complicated world, risking his own life in the process. What emerges unscathed from the darkness is a recipe for life and love called “Spaghetti Paradiso.”

    Aside from a smattering of legalese, the language of Spaghetti paradiso consists of neostandard Italian with regional accents, or regional Italian. Lexical items include regionalisms, neologisms, colloquialisms and foreignisms. This contemporary language together with the straightforward conversational style of the author make for an absorbing and at times breathtaking read.

    REGIONAL ITALIAN (from Barese, the dialect of Bari, and the surrounding area)
    fafueco (Ital. rimestatore; Eng. troublemaker)

    Fafueco [pron.: fa’fuèch’] – soggetto avvezzo a seminare zizzania, o ad alimentare conflitti. In determinati contesti, ha anche accezione di persona incline a esagerare gli eventi, o millantare.

    (Fafueco [pron.: fa’fuèch’] – a person used to sowing discord, or to nourishing conflict. In specific contexts, it also refers to a person inclined to exaggerate events, or to brag.)

    lampascioni (Ital. cippollotti amaragnoli; Eng. small bitterish onions)

    Step 2: schiacciai i lampascioni in una ciotola e unii uova, prezzemolo, pecorino a grana grossa, crosta di pane grattugiata, un pizzico di sale e una spruzzata di pepe tricolore.

    (Step 2: I crushed the [small bitter] onions in a bowl and added eggs, parsley, coarse-grained pecorino cheese, grated bread crust crumbs, a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of tri-colored pepper.)

    milanizzazione (Eng. Milanization; derived from Ital. Milano; Eng. Milan)

    Oggi è un po’ diverso, c’è stata una progressiva milanizzazione.

    (Today it’s a bit different; there’s been a progressive Milanization.)

    qualunquista (Eng. politically indifferent person; derived from the Ital. uomo qualunque; Eng. ordinary man, every man)

    Questo trionfo del qualunquista, eretto a profondo filosofo, è la massima umiliazzione che la razza umana può infliggere alla propria intelligenza…

    (This triumph of the ordinary man, founded by a profound philosopher, is the maximum humiliation that the human race can inflict on its own intelligence…)

    sfatigation (a term invented by the author, who describes it as the “antithesis of ‘customer care’”: the Ital. sfaticato; Eng. slacker combined with the English suffix –tion; a possible English equivalent: slackation)

    Non fui nemmeno sfiorato dalla tentazione di fargli notare che forse non era proprio eccellente, in quanto sapevo bene che la customer sfatigation prevedeva, per tali casi, procedure operative che spaziavano dallo sguardo torvo all’atteggiamento che trasmette il concetto di “vada a cagare, e grazie per averci scelto”.

    (I wasn’t the least bit tempted to let him know that maybe he wasn’t first-rate, since I knew very well that customer slackation allowed, for such cases, operating procedures that ranged from the surly gaze to the behavior that transmitted the concept of “go screw yourself, and thanks for choosing us.”)

    avere la luna storta (literally, to have the wrong moon, meaning to be in a bad mood)

    Mi stava tentando, e quel giorno avevo davvero la luna storta: rispettare le regole stava diventando una costrizione.

    (He was tempting me, and that day I was really in a bad mood: respecting the rules was becoming a constraint.)

    farne di tutti i colori (literally, to make of it all the colors, meaning to use all kinds of tricks)

    Lara mi aveva avvertito: questi soggetti ne fanno di tutti i colori, ma invocano per primi il rispetto delle regole, e ti accusano di quello che in realtà fanno loro.

    (Lara had warned me: these types use all kinds of tricks, but first they invoke respect for the rules, and they accuse you of what in reality they do.)

    megakrapfen (krapfen is German for donut; Eng. megadonut)

    Dopo la corsa, doccia e colazione macrobiotica: megakrapfen fritto con crema debordante, nel bar sotto casa, che usava rigorosamente il SINT 2000 per friggere, cappuccino scuro doppio zucchero…

    (After the run, a shower and macrobiotic breakfast: a fried megakrapfen bursting with cream, in the bar below the house that rigorously used the synthetic engine oil SINT 2000 for frying, a dark cappuccino double sugar…)

    supermacho (English and Spanish; a compound adjective used as the English noun super macho type)

    Capisco che non avevo fatto esattamente la figura del supermacho, ma che mi mettesse in guardia da un cucciolo, mi pareva eccessivo.

    (I get that I hadn’t exactly come across as the super macho type, but the fact that she was warning me about a puppy seemed excessive.)

    Concluding Remarks:
    Spaghetti paradiso is about so much more than domestic violence. It’s also about compassion for friends and acquaintances as well as lovers and the need for balance in life. The pages of this book are filled not only with powerful information and insight, but also with laughter and love. And the enticing descriptions of Persico’s native Puglia will make you want to buy a one-way ticket to the region.


    For more information about Nicky Persico and his work, be sure to watch the book trailer for Spaghetti paradiso and interviews with the author on YouTube. You can also find Persico on Facebook.

  • Life & People

    The Inspector Barbara Gillo Series. An Interview with Rosa Mogliasso

    Rosa Mogliasso (b. 1960, Susa) is a prize-winning author of Italian regional mystery; specifically, Turinese noir. She is perhaps best known for her Inspector Barbara Gillo series, a gritty and often ironic portrait of contemporary Turin and the surrounding area. Notably, Mogliasso also writes children’s literature, and she has been actively involved in productions of her work for the Italian stage.

    This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosa about the Inspector Barbara Gillo series, her fascinating use of language, and her plans for the future.

    Like you, your protagonist, Inspector Barbara Gillo, lives in Turin. What do you hope to convey to your readers about the city and your native region of Piedmont?

    By writing mysteries I tell criminal stories and I demonstrate, against my will, how evil can be anywhere, even here. But with the evil, the good and the tenderness, I hope.

    You incorporate a number of languages, dialects and varieties of language into your work. Is this a conscious choice on your part?

    Conscious choice and challenge. I always try to stratify diverse lexical levels: the how and the low, the educated and the everyday, the correct choice and the jargon, because they coexist in daily life. The reality—for now and for better—isn’t undifferentiated but is the synchronic presence of diverse elements. This is why it’s necessary to seek out the plurality of languages.

    One of the most interesting linguistic features of L'amore si nutre di amore (Love Feeds Off Love) (Salani, 2011), the second novel in the Inspector Gillo series, is the online language of “Giovanna85.” Are you familiar with the language of social media? Or was this something you had to research?

    The lexicon of social networks is easy. All you have to do is speed it up and remove the punctuation and vowels; plus, in Italy, use “k” instead of “ch.” These are practices that I abhor, but as I’ve already stated, if you want to be realistic you can’t exempt yourself from taking note of it and playing along.

    From time to time, you insert a word or phrase in the Piedmontese dialect into the text. Do you incorporate the dialect merely for stylistic purposes, or does it serve a deeper purpose?

    I adore the dialects, all of them. Speaking in dialect is like putting on your pajamas when you get home. Dialect is also a factor in the attempt to exploit the potentialities of sound and the evocation of words. Certain colorings, certain combinations work only with dialect, in my case Piedmontese, the language that I acquired together with the maternal milk.

    Romanesco also makes a brief appearance in L’amore si nutre di amore. As a native of Piedmont, how would you describe this dialect?

    Carnal, decisive, disenchanted.

    The fourth and final novel in the Inspector Gillo series, Chi bacia e chi viene baciato, comes out next month. Can you give us a teaser?

    This time Barbara doesn’t have time to despair over the loss of her irreplaceable right arm, Peruzzi, and the near definitive break with her boyfriend, the Palermitan Inspector Zuccalà. Destiny has dealt her the case of a French journalist who was killed because she was in possession of dangerous information tied to the trafficking of the Russian Mafia in Italy.

    What’s next for you?

    I’m writing the fifth episode of the adventures of Barbara Gillo while, together with Davide Livermore, a friend and director of lyric opera, I’m writing a book about Mozart. And I’d really like to have my work translated for an American audience

    : Many thanks to Rosa Mogliasso for the fascinating interview! If you’d like to know more about Rosa and her writing, be sure to read my post on L’amore si nutre di amore.

  • Art & Culture

    L'amore si nutre di amore: A Turinese Noir

    Rosa Mogliasso (b. 1960, Susa) made her literary debut in 2009 with a work of Turinese noir entitled L'assassino qualcosa fascia (The Assassin Always Leaves Something Behind) (Salani; TEA, 2014). The novel, which was awarded the Premio Selezione Bancarella in 2010, features the blonde Inspector Barbara Gillo and her love interest, Sicilian Inspector Massimo Zuccalà. Mogliasso has released two additional mysteries in the series, L'amore si nutre di amore (Love Feeds Off Love) (Salani, 2011) and La felicità è un muscolo volontario (Happiness is a Voluntary Muscle) (Salani, 2012). Recently, she took a break from noir to write All'ombra dell'uomo montagna (In the Shadow of the Mountain Man) (Salani, 2013), a children’s book about Gulliver’s travels.

    In L’amore si nutre di amore, Inspector Gillo is called to investigate the disappearance of Tanzio Accardi, a young degenerate whose car was found abandoned and loaded with bottles of Vermouth in the Susa Valley. Days later, Sabrina Trassi, the beautiful but brainless wife of a wealthy ship owner, is found dead in the sea near her yacht in Montecarlo. Inexplicably, she's wearing the T-shirt of the missing man. Adding to the confusion, Inspector Gillo and her colleagues discover that the yacht’s skipper, Fabio, is seeing a rich prostitute-turned-swindler, but they’re not sure what, if any, involvement the femme fatale had in Sabrina’s death. As Inspector Gillo struggles to find the link between the cases, she must also endeavor to solve the deepening mystery of her own love life.

    The language of L’amore si nutre di amore is as intriguing as the plot. Because the novel is set in Turin and Montecarlo, the Piedmontese dialect and, in particular, French are woven into the fabric of the story. But these aren’t the only languages in the text: English and romanesco, to name just a few, also make an appearance. And because the characters run the gamut of the socioeconomic spectrum, there are numerous varieties of Italian in the book, including neostandard, colloquial and bureaucratic Italian. One of the more interesting linguistic aspects of L’amore si nutre di amore is the use of linguaggio giovanile (youth language) as it appears in social media.


    caudane (Ital. caldane; Eng. hot flashes(piemontese)

    …avrebbe giurato di essere preda delle famigerate caudane, le caldane, quelle che avevano fatto passare a zia Luigina intere giornate seduta, le gambe leggermente divaricate, una mano sul ginocchio e l’altra impegnata a sventolare La Stampa strategicamente piegata in quattro.

    (…she would have sworn she was in the grip of the notorious caudane, or hot flashes, the thing that had caused her aunt Luigina to spend entire days seated, legs slightly spread apart, one hand on her knee and the other busy fanning with La Stampa, a Turinese newspaper that had been strategically folder over four times.)

     (Ital. sonnolenza; Eng. sleepiness(romanesco)

    Ah, non pranzi… Eggià, perché a voi torinesi se pranzate vi addormentate abbracciati al monitor, vi prende la cecagna!

    (Oh, you’re not having lunch… That’s right, because if you Turinese eat lunch, you fall asleep hugging your monitors. Sleepiness gets the best of you!)


    paste (literally, pastries; but slang for pastiglie; Eng. pills)

    Quali dolciumi, dottoressa, le paste sono le pastiglie, l’acido, l’ecstacy, quella roba lì, no?

    (What sweets, dottoressa? ‘Paste’ are pills, acid, ecstasy, that kind of stuff. You know?)

     (Eng. bimbos [who travel in packs]. Note: This term is derived from the expression fare il galletto; literally, to do the little rooster, as in to strut about)

    “E a chi dovrei pensare se non a me stesso?” domandò Fabio a voce alta a un immaginario pubblico. “Dovrei pensare a loro? A queste sgallettate?”

    (“And who should I think about if not myself?” Fabio asked an imaginary public in a loud voice. “Should I think about them? These bimbos?”)


    sottoporre (Eng. to subjugateto subordinateversus sottoposto (Eng. noun subordinate)

    “Che si faceva sottoporre dal sottoposto” intervenne Peruzzi.

    (“Who subordinated herself to the subordinate,” Peruzzi intervened.)

    Costa Azzurra
     (Azure Coastversus Costa Assurda (Absurd Coast)

    Lui però era abbastanza contento, in fondo la pensione anticipata gli avrebbe consentito di dedicare più tempo all’unica cosa che lo facesse stare bene davvero, che lo faceva sentire un ‘capo’: il piccolo cabinato ormeggiato in Costa Azzurra o Costa Assurda, come la chiamava Tanzo, ecco, Tanzio dov’era?

    (But he was content enough, after all early retirement would allow him to dedicate more time to the one thing that made him really happy, that made him feel like a ‘boss:’ the little cruiser docked at the Azure Coast or Absurd Coast, as Tanzio called it. That’s right, Tanzio. Where was he?)


    pas de bullshit (French pas de; Eng. no)
    Pas de bullshit, niente stupidaggini, sei tu che paghi il tuo commercialista, no?

    (No bullshit, nothing stupid. You’re the one who pays your business consultant, right?)

     (Eng. used as the gerund lobbying)
    Lobby, facevano lobby, raddoppiavano l’effetto, quando entravano loro nella discoteca Pick Up la domenica sera, era come l’apparizione della Madonna, di due Madonne, quello era il concetto di lobby, no?

    (Lobbying, they were lobbying. It doubled the effect. When they entered the Pick Up club on Sunday nights, it was like the apparition of the Madonna, of two Madonnas. That was the concept of lobbying, right?)


    un confronto all’americana (literally, an American-style comparison, meaning a police lineup)

    Domani mattina vado riprendermi i sandali, anzi, domani mi faccio accompagnarre da Fabio, e li metto uno davanti all’altra, un confronto all’americana, si dice così, no?

    (Tomorrow morning I’ll go get my sandals. Even better, I’ll have Fabio go with me tomorrow, and I’ll bring them face-to-face. A police lineup. That’s what you call it, right?)

    piatti pronti
     (literally, ready dishes, meaning premade meals)

    Certo, ho vinto la medaglia d’oro alle Olimpiadi dei piatti pronti.

    (Of course, I won the gold medal at the Premade Meals Olympics.)


    …kanali di informazione ke raccontano kazzate nn dikono la verità su qst’oxa mettono in ginokkio ki nn è d’akkordo, firmato Giovanna85

    (…canali di informazione che raccontono cazzate, non dicono la verità su quest’ opera, mettono in ginocchio chi non è d’accordo, firmato Giovanna85)

    (…information channels that report bullshit; they don’t tell the truth about this work; they bring anyone who doesn’t agree to their knees, signed Giovanna85)

    : As indicated in the above example, young Italians tend to use the following in chats and texts:

    ‘k’ instead of ‘c’ and ‘ch’

    ‘x’ (the multiplication sign) for ‘per’

    This example also exhibits the loss of:

    ‘o’ between double ‘n’

    the diphthong ‘ue’ after ‘q’

    Concluding Remarks
    L’amore si nutre di amore isn't just another mystery novel with a female police inspector. Barbara Gillo may be smart and beautiful, but she's hardly one-dimensional. As we see in in her relationships with her colleagues and superficial sister, Meri, she has a terrific (and ironic) sense of humor. More importantly, as a woman who must confront her own loneliness and relationship fears, she has a vulnerable side, which makes her easily relatable and that much more appealing to readers.

    In Translation
    : The Inspector Barbara Gillo series is currently unavailable in English. Here's hoping that a talented Italian-to-English translator rectifies this omission, and soon.

    On the Internet
    : Rosa Mogliasso is on Facebook and on YouTube. Watch this cute interview she did with a young student for BookBlog.

  • Art & Culture

    BOOK. Blues di mezz'autunno

    In October of 2013, biologist and author Santo Piazzese (b. 1948, Palermo) released his fourth novel,   Blues di mezz'autunno    (Mid-Autumn Blues)   (Sellerio). Although it’s not exactly autumn, any season is a great time to talk about one of Piazzese’s books. Why? For starters, his three noir novels featuring the biologist Lorenzo La Marca, which were republished in 2009 as the  Trilogia di Palermo   (Palermo Trilogy),   represent some of the finest writing contemporary Italy has to offer. And for another thing, fans waited eleven long years to get their hands on this book.

    When pressed by readers and critics alike to produce a fourth noir featuring La Marca, Piazzese once remarked that he couldn’t in all good conscience continue to have La Marca stumble upon dead bodies in Palermo when he himself had lived there all his life and had never even discovered one. So, in  Blues di mezz’autunno there is no dead body. Instead, Piazzese shifts from his characteristic “noir mediterraneo   (Mediterranean noir)” to pure Mediterranean narrative. His point of departure is “L’estate di San Martino,” a short story that he wrote for a French publisher and that the late Elvira Sellerio believed was worthy of elaboration.


    In the opening pages of  Blues di mezz’autunno, La Marca runs into an old college acquaintance at a professional workshop in Erice, Sicily. This chance encounter prompts La Marca to flash back to his adventures conducting research for his thesis on the Sicilian coast as a second-year biology student. But his memories are bittersweet. While he fondly reminisces about many of the people he met on the Santa Ninfa fishing boat and on the island “La Spada dei Turchi (The Sword of the Turks),” he recalls with “un blues da mezz’autunno   (a mid-autumn blues)” an incident that occurred among the islanders nicknamed “gli stravaganti  (the eccentrics)” at the Bar Edelveiss—one that was fundamental to his coming of age.


    Although the genre of Piazzese’s work has changed, his language is still very much the same. Readers will find the author’s trademark cultured prose tinged with (often entertaining) irony. And linguists like myself will have the embarrassment of choice in terms of language and varieties of language to consider. In typical Piazzese style, the text contains a rich mixture of neostandard Italian marked by regional and dialect influences as well as foreign language.



    "E deve pure portare le mutande push-up," disse Alessandra.

    ("And he probably also wears push-up underwear," Alessandra said.)


    euroinglisc   (Eng.  Euro-English; Ital.  euro-inglese)

    Parlavano l'euroinglisc standard dei loro coetanei di tutta l'Europa.

    (They spoke the standard Euro-English of their contemporaries in all of Europe.)


    picchì cu nasci tunnu ’un po mòriri quatratu  (Palermo)
    pirchì cu nasci tunnu ’un poti murìri quadratu  (Messina and Porto Zanca)

    perché chi nasce tondo non può morire quadrato (Italian)

    because he who is born round can't die square (English)


    mammasantissima   (Eng. literally,  extremely holy mamma, but typically used to refer to the  boss of bosses  of the Sicilian Mafia or Neapolitan Camorra)

    Un caso di wishful thinking, lo definirebbero oggi certi infallibili mammasantissima bocconiani.

    (A case of wishful thinking, as certain infallible Bocconian bosses of bosses would define it today.)


    sono-Simonetta-buonasera  (Eng.  I'm-Simonetta-good-evening)

    Ero stato testimone auditivo di una sua epica performans, una volta, all'inizio della sua crociata contro il Nord, quando gli era capitato di prendere la chiamata di un tale "sono-Simonetta-buonasera", che esercitava con entusiasmo la tentata vendita telefonica di prodotti enogastronomici padani.

    (I had been an auditory witness to one of his epic performances, once, at the beginning of his crusade against the North when he had happened to take the call of a certain "I'm-Simonetta-good-evening," who enthusiastically exercised the attempted telephone sale of gourmet products from the Po Valley.)


    piccì  (the word formed from the pronunciation of the initials  PC, the  Partito Comunista)

    "A voi intellettuali idealisti i piccì vi considera solo degli utili idioti," si era avventurato a dire, Angelini, a un certo punto.

    ("You idealist intellectuals, the PC considers you only useful idiots," Angelini had ventured to say at a certain point.)


    sessantottista   (Eng. sixty-eightist; refers to a member of the social and political movement in Italy in 1968)

    Ce l'aveva sopra tutto con me, in quanto sessantottista, diceva lui.

    (He was mad above all at me, since I was a sixty-eightist, he said.)


    bbabbiare  (Sic.  bbabbiari; Ital.  scherzare; Eng.  to joke)

    Beato te che hai sempre la voglia di bbabbiare.

    (Lucky you because you always feel like joking.)

    WORDPLAY (in English)


    Aveva fatto di tutto per convincermi a giocare in società con lui, ma io gli avevo detto che al betting avevo sempre preferito il petting.

    (He tried everything to convince me to gamble with him, but I told him that I had always preferred petting to betting.)


    Although some readers will undoubtedly lament the lack of a body, others, like me, will be enthralled by Piazzese’s masterful story-telling no matter what genre he chooses to write. And as a resident of Austin, Texas, I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to see my hometown get a mention in  Blues di mezz’autunno, even if it was in reference to a biophysicist with a fixation for copper atoms instead of a linguist with a passion for Italian language and literature.


    Although Piazzese’s work has been translated into French and German, there are no English translations to date. Honestly, if English-language publishers don’t rectify this grave omission soon, I may have to find a way to quit my day job and translate them myself.


    Be sure to read  my post   on the first novel in the Lorenza La Marca series,  I delitti di via Medina-Sidonia   (The Crimes of Via Medina-Sidonia) as well as  my interview  with Santo Piazzese. Believe me when I say that you don’t want to miss the picture he gave me for the post!

  • Life & People

    L'Almanacco del delitto

     L'almanacco del delitto (The Crime Almanac) (Sellerio, 1990, 1996) is an anthology of 21 short stories from “Il Cerchio Verde (The Green Circle),” a weekly magazine created by Arnoldo Mondadori in 1935 to showcase the police fiction of international and Italian writers. The stories in this collection present a fascinating look at the ways in which Italian authors—both male and female—adapted the hard-boiled genre made famous by the likes of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Agatha Christie to the Italian context.


    Despite the popularity of “Il Cerchio Verde,” Mondadori ceased publication of the magazine on June 17, 1937, in part because of pressure from the Fascist Ministry of Popular Culture (Minculpop). That year, Minculpop placed restrictions on the mystery genre, mandating that “the killer must absolutely not be Italian and cannot escape justice in any way” and forbidding the depiction of suicide, which the regime viewed as a weakness. Miniculpop continued to tighten its censorship of mysteries until it banned the genre altogether and ordered the closure of the Mondadori mystery division following a robbery that the Ministry claimed was inspired by a mystery novel.


    In the Note to the text, the editors of L’almanacco del delitto, Gisella Padovani and Rita Vedirame, explain that they selected “i racconti più gradevoli e ancor oggi appetibili (the most pleasing and still today appetizing stories)” featured in “Il Cerchio Verde.” Authors include Luigi Antonelli (b. Ascoli, 1882), the Futurist journalist and theater critic; Eugenia Consolo, the Venetian poet and the sister-in-law of Benito Mussolini’s lover, Margarita Sarfatti; and Tito Antonio Spagnol (b. Vittorio Veneto, 1895), a writer, international journalist and screenwriter who once worked with Frank Capra.


    With respect to the language of the stories, it bears noting that Italian hard-boiled authors couldn’t quite capture the gritty street slang characteristic of the English models of the genre. Words such as “dick”, “dame”, “goons”, “hooch” and “hoosegow” were difficult if not impossible to translate. As the editors themselves state, however, the stories of “Il Cerchio Verde” are clearly marked by the Italian “patina linguistica dell’epoca (linguistic patina of the epoch).” Below are some of the more interesting lexical features from these exemplars of 1930s Italian detective fiction.



    Devo pregarvi, milady, di volermi mostrare le due collane...

    (I must beg you, milady, to be willing to show me the two necklaces...)

     (an old-fashioned variant of speakeasy)

    Le ore passavano lente e tormentose nel nascondiglio sotterraneo dello speakeary di Pat Sullivan, dove il grosso Ned e i campagni si erano rifugiati dopo l’avventura della notte.

    (The hours passed slowly and tormentingly in the underground hiding place of Pat Sullivan's speakeary, where Big Ned and his companions had sought refuge after the night's adventure.)


    ischerzo (contemporary Ital.: scherzo; Eng. joke)

    E perciò in quindici anni, molti sostituti e molte dattilografe erano passate nell’ufficio, ma Giovanni, “il giovane di studio,” era sempre là facendo per ischerzo la “faccia feroce.”

    (And so in fifteen years, many temps and many typists had passed through the office, but Giovanni, "the young man of the study," was always there making a "ferocious face" as a joke.)

     (contemporary Ital. lacrime; Eng. tears)

    Uno spazio vuoto con traccia di lagrime e, in fondo al foglio, a caratteri fermi, si legge: “È l’ora…”.

    (An empty space with a trace of tears and, at the bottom of the sheet, in firm letters, one could read: "It's time...".)


    sciampagna (an Italianization of the Fr.: champagne)

    I leggendarii fiumi di sciampagna erano corsi davvero, perché a un certo momento Vialin era andato a finire sotto la tavola del buffet rovesciandola e facendo ruzzolare tutto quel che c’era sopra e parecchie bottiglie si erano rotte.

    (The legendary rivers of champagne had run indeed, because at a certain moment Vialin had gone and ended up under the buffet table, overturning it and knocking off everything there was on top, and many bottles had broken.)

     (Eng. garbardine)

    Dalla vettura scese un signore di mezza età, in gabardino e lobbia: vide subito dei baffi grossi e un mezzo toscano acceso.

    (A middle-aged man, in gabardine and a homburg, descended from the car: he immediately saw some big whiskers and a lit half-Tuscan cigar.)

    DIALECT (Milanese)

    matt (Ital. matto; Eng. crazy)
    straved (Ital. visionario; Eng. visonary)

    Luigi Berton si precipitò fuori brontolando: —Ma lü l’è matt! Ma lü… lü el straved…!!

    (Luigi Berton hurried out, grumbling: —He's crazy! He... he's a visionary...!!)


    allea (a northern Italian term for viale; Eng. avenue or boulevard)

    La roggia dell’allea si trovava all’opposto della piazza del Municipio.

    (The avenue's irrigation ditch was located opposite the Piazza del Municipio.)


    coltella (contemporary Ital. coltello; Eng. knife)

    Ma il tempo non doveva distruggere quelle due cose ancora fresche, pure e belle e dolci: e allora avete preso una coltella in cucina…

    (But time wasn't supposed to destroy those two still fresh, pure and beautiful and sweet things: and so you took a knife in the kitchen...)


    As promised, many of the mysteries in L’almanacco del delitto are still gripping even by today’s standards. But the real appeal of these stories lies in their socio-historical value. For one thing, they serve as literary documents of how Italian mystery writers worked within the parameters set by Fascist censors. These stories are also testaments to the expectations of Italian readers of the period. As noted in Verdirame's epilogue to the anthology, the Italian mysteries of Il Cerchio Verde aren’t pure detective fiction but instead contain elements of “giallo-nero-rosa” (literally, yellow-black-pink but used to refer to the book cover colors of the mysteryhorror and romance genres, respectively). And the result is not at all what you would expect, which is exactly what you're looking for when you read a mystery novel.

    : If you're interested in 1930s Italian detective fiction, don't miss my post on Il candeliere a sette fiamme (The Candelabrum with Seven Flames) (Mondadori, 1936; Feltrinelli, 1963; Garzanti, 1973; Sellerio, 2005) by Augusto De Angelis, the father of the Italian giallo (mystery novel). Also be sure to read my interview with University of Toronto Professor Luca Somigli about De Angelis and his work.

    In Translation
    L'Almanacco del delitto has not been translated into English, which is unfortunate because these stories are truly an intriguing adventure for the reader. Here, you'll find scheming lovers, severed body parts and even a homicidal black cat in exotic locations like Africa, Egypt and the Orient. On the other hand, it's really entertaining to see characters named Alex Dean, Van Röder, and Casimir speak such perfect Italian.

  • Life & People

    Quasi quasi m'innamoro: Chick Lit Torinese

    Anna Mittone (b. 1971, Torino) is an accomplished television screenwriter and author of contemporary women's fiction. She  has written for some of Italy’s most beloved TV shows, including “Un medico in famiglia,” “Elisa di Rivombrosa” and “Un posto al sole,” and her debut novel,  Quasi quasi m'innamoro  (I Might Just Fall In Love) (Piemme, 2012), has drawn comparisons to the work of chick lit great Helen Fielding. In fact, the novel’s non-serenely named protagonist, Consolata Bogetto, has been called “the Bridget Jones of Torino.”

    Like Bridget, Consolata is single, thirty-something, less than stimulated by her job and supported in her crises by a cast of misfit friends. But in contrast with her British counterpart, Consolata has an Italian-style dysfunctional family, and distinctly so. And when her heart is broken—by her ex-live-in companion who left her the year before after announcing that he’d gotten another woman pregnant—our fictitious heroine doesn’t go after a barrister like Mark Darcy. Oh no. She sets her sights on real-life singer, musician and X Factor judge Marco Castoldi, who goes by the stage name Morgan. Talk about a plot twist.

    The language of Quasi quasi m’innamoro is as engaging and entertaining as the plot. The slang, Anglicisms, word play and cultural references, just to name a few, add personality and depth to the novel, as does the stream-of-consciousness narrative style. The novel also contains Piedmontese dialect and regionalisms, which localize the text and provide fascinating splashes of Turinese color.


    balengo (Ital. scemo; Eng. fool)

    Mia sorella in stile tardo velina è accanto al balengo in pantalone di velluto viola e maglioncino a V pervinca ton sur ton e in tono con la moglie.

    (My sister in late TV showgirl–style is next to the fool in violet velour pants and a periwinkle V-neck sweater ton sur ton and in tone with his wife.)


    It ses fola (Ital. Tu sei matta; Eng. You are crazy [to a female])

    It ses fola?” mi chiede mio padre.

    (“Are you crazy?” my father asks me.)


    sbolognarla (Eng. to unload her; derived from the name of the city of Bologna, which was once known for producing cheap items)

    …“Non devi rovinare la tua vita per me” un estremo tentativo di sbolognarla con onore, mascherando di cavalleria un attacco di panico.

    (…“You don’t have to ruin your life for me” an extreme attempt to unload her with honor, masking with chivalry an attack of panic.)

     (Eng. literally, vampirizes, as in to suck the life blood out of)

    …mia madre vampirizza ogni pallido tentativo di comunicazione esultando che Non è una notizia meravigliosa io me lo sentiva che c’era qualcosa nell’aria già dalla cena di Natale…

    (…my mother sucks the life blood out of every weak attempt at communication by exclaiming It isn’t wonderful news I already knew that something was going on ever since Christmas dinner…)


    felicità-fedeltà-organizzazione-tenuta (Eng. happiness-fidelity-organization-capacity)

    Dopo solo tre mesi di Situazione sentimentale: fidanzato ufficialmente già si comporta come un maturo padre di famiglia, elargisce a chiunque, clienti compresi, massime di navigata saggezza su felicità-fedeltà-organizzazione-tenuta di una coppia…

    (After only three months of Sentimental Situation: officially engaged is already behaving like a mature family man, bestowing freely upon anyone, clients included, principles of experienced wisdom about happiness-fidelity-organization-capacity of a couple…)


    gayezza (Eng. gayness or gayity; a play on the Italian giaezza [Eng. gaiety])

    Perché nonostante la sua per me lampante gayezza, Maurizio allude. Infarcisce di sottotesti. Lascia intendere che la notte è piccola per noi…

    (Because notwithstanding his, for me, shining gayness, Maurizio alludes. He stuffs with subtexts. He makes it understood that the night is young for us…)


    happy end (Ital. lieto fine; Eng. happy ending)

    E soprattutto mi fermo prudenzialmente sulla sottile linea rossa dell’happy end.

    (And above all I stop prudentially on the subtle red line of the happy ending.)


    Bolscioi (Eng. Bolshoi)

    Fare la commessa in un ipermercato dell’editoria è sempre stato il mio sogno. Appena un gradino sotto quello di cantare alla Scala, ballare al Bolscioi e declamare Racine alla Comédie Française.

    (Being a clerk at a bookstore hypermarket has always been my dream. Just a step below that of singing at La Scala, dancing at the Bolshoi and reciting Racine at the Comédie-Française.)


    etciù (Eng. ah-choo, the sound of a sneeze)

    Uno per tutti tutti per uno, ma io mi sono quasi presa una polmonite per lasciare che tu e il balengo andaste a fondo nel vostro rapporto, nemmeno so cosa vi siete detti, né lo voglio sapere puoi restare qui tutto il tempo che vuoi ma io con mamma non ci parlo e siccome mamma sa che sei qui e non è stupida tra un’ora te la trovi al portone e io non voglio esserci. Etciù.

    (One for all all for one, but I almost got pneumonia to let you and the fool get to the bottom of your relationship, I don’t even know what you said to each other, nor do I want to know you can stay here as long as you want but I’m not talking to Mom and since Mom knows that you here and she’s not stupid within an hour you’re going to find her at the door and I don’t want to be here. Ah-choo.)


    gelato flitto (Chinese pronunciation of the Ital. gelato fritto; Eng. flied ice cleam)

    Se adesso ci butto sopra un Crederci sempre arrendersi mai sono sicura che si alza e se ne va senza aspettare il gelato flitto che è poi l’unica ragione per cui si ostina a frequentare i ristoranti cinesi.

    (If now I throw out an Always believe never give up I’m sure that he’ll stand up and leave without waiting for the flied ice cleam which is really the only reason he insists on frequenting Chinese restaurants.)


    Francamente mi cara me ne infischio (Eng. Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn)

    …la nebbia mi avvolge come Rossella O’Hara dopo la morte di Melania, anche se dubito fortemente lei portasse sandali a listino color argento tacco dodici e comunque spero vivamente che Morgan non se ne esca con un Francamente mia cara me ne infischio perché francamente ne morirei.

    (…the fog envelops me like Scarlett O’Hara after the death of Melanie, even though I seriously doubt that she was wearing discount silver-colored five-inch sandals, and anyway I fervently hope that Morgan doesn’t come out with a Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn because frankly I would die.)

    Concluding Remarks
    Quasi quasi m’innamoro is one of the best works of contemporary women’s fiction I’ve read. Mittone has an exceptional gift for putting the reader into Consolata’s head and Consolata into the reader’s heart. Along with Consolata, you’ll laugh (a lot), you’ll cry, you’ll fall down (and often, because her feet are too small for her body), you’ll pick yourself up—all the way to the thrilling-touching-inspiring “happy end.”

    : Anna Mittone just released a new novel entitled Come ti vorrei (How I Would Like You) (Piemme, 2013). Although it doesn’t feature the regional language of Quasi quasi m’innamoro, it does involve a girls’ trip to Amsterdam and a reunion with an old flame. So, you know it’s good.

    In Translation
    : The English translation rights to Quasi quasi m’innamoro are currently available. For the sake of English-speaking readers, I hope a translation is in the works soon. Because even though Consolata is from Turin, she’s in all of us. And she’s a symbol of hope.

    On the Internet
    : For more information about Anna Mittone, check out her website and Facebook page. Also, watch for my upcoming interview with Mittone. In the meantime, check out the book trailer for Quasi quasi m’innamoro.

  • Art & Culture

    An Interview with Massimo Cassani

    Massimo Cassani (Cittiglio, 1966) studied journalism in Milan, where he currently works with both Gruppo 24 Ore and Il Sole 24 Ore. When he’s not writing articles and managing periodicals, he’s teaching and writing noir. Although he is perhaps best known for his Commissario Sandro Micuzzi series, Cassani has also written a psychological noir entitled Un po' più lontano (A Bit Further) (Laurana, 2010) that deals with the theme of solitude.

    I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Cassani about his work and his fascinating new novel, Zona franca (Duty-Free Zone) (TEA, 2013), which was just nominated for Italy's prestigious “Premio Giorgio Scerbanenco – La Stampa” for the best Italian noir novel of the year.
    Has your work as a journalist influenced your narrative in any way?
    No, I don’t think so. They’re two different types of writing. And they’re two different ways of organizing text. Of course, the practice of linking thoughts to words is a good exercise. This might help a bit.
    You teach narrative intrigue for a writing workshop offered by one of your publishers, Laurana Editore. What would you say is the main principle of this style of writing?
    I need to clarify that “la Bottega di narrazione (The Narration Shop)” isn’t a course, but a true and proper school of narrative, which lasts for one year. A school in which the participants—who are selected in advance—realize their own narrative project, their own novel, as though they were in a true shop: working with the teachers, but also comparing their work among themselves, giving advice, learning reciprocally. As for the rest, it’s hard to respond to the question: A fundamental principle of narrative writing doesn’t exist. There do exist criteria for constructing a plot, this yes, but then everything must be reinterpreted by the author based on his or her own sensibility and imagination.
    Your latest novel, Zona franca, is rich with foreign languages, Latin, varieties of Italian and dialects. What, in your opinion, do these languages add to narrative intrigue?
    To the intrigue, little or nothing, to tell you the truth. This mix of languages was useful for representing what Milan, the city where Zona franca is set, is today: a place in which different cultures are beginning to cohabitate and in which the past and present coexist, not without difficulties.
    In your Author’s Note, you state that “Milanese proverbs are by now almost History,” and yet you employ them in Zona franca. Why?
    Because proverbs, as is known, are the most genuine expression of popular culture. In fact, the character in the novel who cites them, Saturnino Sella, is an old Milanese man with an anarchic past.
    How did you choose the proverbs? Were you looking for ones that would complement the story? Or were there proverbs that influenced some aspect of the plot?
    Some I knew from my family. For others I did research to identify the right ones to support what I was wanting to say. And I found so many that I had only the embarrassment of the choice.
    Dialect and regionalisms are prominent features of the Italian regional mystery. In your opinion, are there any dialects that are particularly suited to the genre?
    No, I’m convinced there aren't.
    Readers will be excited to learn that there will be a fourth novel in the Inspector Micuzzi series. Can you tell us the title?
    Yes, there will be a fourth episode. It’s in the writing stage. But the title will come as I go along, as often happens. Or maybe even at the end. What I can say is that there will be an Italian-American female character.

    Note: Many thanks to Massimo Cassani for so kindly consenting to this interview. If you'd like to vote for Zona franca to win the Premio Scerbanenco, you can do so here.

    Finally, be sure to read my post on Zona franca. If you like a little history with your noir, Cassani is your author.

  • Life & People

    Zona franca: Noir Intrigue alla milanese

    Massimo Cassani (Cittiglio, 1966), journalist, author and instructor of intreccio narrativo (narrative intrigue), recently published the much-anticipated third novel in his Commissario Sandro Micuzzi series, Zona franca (Duty-Free Zone) (TEA, 2013). Cassani debuted the lazy, Toscanelli cigar–loving Milanese police inspector in 2008 with Sottotraccia. Un'inchiesta del commissario Micuzzi (Undercover: An Inspector Micuzzi Investigation) (Sironi; TEA, 2013). Inspector Micuzzi promptly returned in 2009 with Pioggia battente (Pounding Rain) (Sironi; TEA, forthcoming) but then went underground, so to speak, while Cassani took a break from the series to try his hand at psychological noir with Un po' più lontano (A Bit Further) (Laurana, 2010).

    In Zona franca, Commissario Micuzzi is tired. He’s been transferred as punishment to Milan’s Città Studi district, and his unscrupulous ex-wife is using every trick in the book to get back into his life. Meanwhile, he has been forced to take the lead in the investigation of the murder of Luigi Pecchi, aka Gigi Sciagura (Misfortune), an unbalanced octogenarian who bicycled around town calling for the demolition of the Duomo and denouncing the construction of skyscrapers. But when Micuzzi’s journalist friend Ambra is brutally beaten and her dancer lover goes missing, he springs into action. To solve these apparently unrelated crimes, Micuzzi must disentangle a complicated web of suspects and clues: a Nazi gun, a mysterious man from Buenos Aires, a questionable nephew, an engineer in collusion with the ‘Ndrangheta, a rumored WWII treasure, a lost love, and a missing body….

    The language of Zona franca is lean and direct, in keeping with the noir genre, but unusually rich with history and culture. Because the story features elderly characters in Milan, the Milanese dialect, sometimes referred to as meneghino, plays a key role in the text. The historical events referenced in the novel as well as the contemporary plotlines also involve the use of Spanish, Latin, Romanian and the occasional lexeme from the Sicilian and Calabrese dialects. Cassani further enhances the narrative with numerous varieties and forms of language and literary devices.

    ’ndrina (a clan within the Calabrian crime organization ’Ndrangheta) (Calabrese)

    Rasoio poteva essere un drogato, ma non aveva le pupille da drogato; poteva essere un killer di una ’ndrina concorrente...

    (Rasoio could have been a drug addict, but he didn’t have the pupils of a drug addict; he could have been a killer from a competing ’ndrina…)

    robb de matt (Ital. robe da matti; Eng. crazy people stuff) (Milanese)

    Il matto non dice mica: ecco, sono matto e faccio robe da matti, robb de matt!

    (It’s not like a crazy person says: so, I’m crazy and I do crazy people stuff, robb de matt!)

    L’amis vecc l’è on gran bell specc (Milanese)
    L’amico vecchio è un gran bello specchio (Italian)
    An old friend is a great mirror (English)

    Mentre si incamminava verso piazza della Scala per farsi quattro passi e poi prendere la metro in Duomo, gli frullò nel cervello un proverbio: <<L’amis vecc l’è on gran bell specc>>, l’amico vecchio è un ottimo specchio.

    (While he was walking toward Piazza della Scala to take a stroll and then catch the subway to the Duomo, a proverb ran through his head: “L’amis vecc l’è on gran bell specc,” An old friend is a great mirror.)

    pirla (Ital. cretino; Eng. idiot)

    Da uno con quella faccia da pirla lì, mica si può pretendere, eh…

    (From one with that face of an idiot there, it’s not like you can expect anything, you know…)

    cassoeula (Eng. a type of Milanese stew)

    Sopra il sacco, a fare da coperchio, una grande padella rotunda senza manico, che in tempi migliori doveva essere servita probabilmente a cucinare ossi buchi, risotti e cassoeula.

    (Above the sack, functioning as a cover, a large round frying pan without the handle, which in better times would probably have been used to cook osso bucos, risottos and cassoeula.)

    suspance (Eng. suspence)

    Cosa faceva, Rosaria, creava la suspance?

    (What was Rosaria doing? Creating suspence?)

    comesichiama (Eng. whatshisname)

    ... io allora sono scesa, gli ho chiesto, al comesichiama, al Pecchi, se stava bene, se voleva un’ambulanza…

    (... then I got out, I asked him, whatshisname, Pecchi, if he was okay, if he wanted an ambulance…)

    ehia ehia (from the Fascist cheer ehia ehia alalà, which was Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Italianization of the American hip hip hurrah)

    Marciare, fare passo con il piede destro, fare il saluto con la mano tesa, dire ehia ehia e quella roba là.

    (March, take a step with the right foot, salute with the hand taut, say ehia ehia and that kind of stuff there.)

    Brus Lì (Eng. Bruce Lee)

    E te hai potuto fare il Brus Lì de’ noiantri.

    (And you were able to be the Bruce Lee of our people.)

    evvabbuo’ (Ital. e+va+buo’ [buono]; Eng. literally, and it goes good, meaning “all right”)

    Evvabbuo’, Giampietro, mica son medico, io!

    (All right, Giampietro, it’s not like I’m a doctor!)

    cra cra (Eng. ribbit)

    Anche Sarah abitava in via Padova, con mamma e babbo. Quasi affacciata su Loreto, però; Luigi Pecchi, invece, più fuori dove il cra cra delle rane sul Naviglio Martesana certe volte era più forte dei suoi pensieri.

    (Sarah also lived on Via Padova, with mom and dad. Almost facing Loreto, though; Luigi Pecchi, instead, was further out where the ribbit of the frogs on Naviglio Martesana was at times louder than his thoughts.)

    Concluding Remarks: Cassani does an outstanding job of weaving history and fiction in Zona franca, as in his preceding books. The plot is captivating and complex—you won’t figure it out. And there are so many fascinating and even funny details in this novel, including the nicknames for Hitler and Mussolini, il Baffetto germanico (the Germanic Little Mustache) and il Mascellone romagnolo (the Romagnol Big Jaw), as well as the references to Barbablù (Bluebeard) and Blek Macigno (Black Boulder), an Italian comic book hero who looks a LOT like Davy Crockett.

    In Translation: The foreign language rights are currently available for the Sandro Micuzzi series, but they might not last long. Zona franca is an absolute perfect fit for American readers. I mean, noir, Nazis, a lost love and a mysterious treasure—need I say more? So let’s hope that a U.S. publisher picks up this intriguing series soon.

    On Facebook: Both Massimo Cassani and Commissario Micuzzi are on Facebook. Be sure to check out their pages for more riveting reading.

    Note: Stay tuned for my interview with Massimo Cassani. It’s bound to be every bit as compelling as his books.