Review: Rupture, 2016 (Dark Iceland Series #4) by Ragnar Jónasson (Translated by Quentin Bates)

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Orenda Books, 2016. Format; Kindle edition. File size: 981 KB. Print length: 276 pages. ASIN: B01NCZRGFA. eISBN: 978-1-910633-58-8. First published in Icelandic as Rof in 2012. Translated by Quentin Bates in 2016.

RUPTURE-VIS-4-275x423Book description: 1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all… In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them. Haunting, frightening and complex, Rupture is a dark and atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers.

My take: The small fishing town of Siglufjörður, on the northern coast of Iceland, is more isolated than ever. Two people have already died, victims of a deadly and easily transmissible virus. The authorities have taken the decision to decree the state of quarantine throughout the city. In view of this situation and with nothing better to do to occupy his time, Ari Thor, the local police officer, finds the right time to investigate an old case in the name of a complete stranger, a man named Hédinn who, just before Christmas, requested his intervention to reopen a case that was shelved long ago; the death of a woman under mysterious circumstances. It all started back in 1955 when Hédinn’s parents, a well-off couple from Siglufjörður, Gudfinna and Gudmundur, decided to move to a farm located in Hédinsfjörður, a nearby fjord difficult to access. They weren’t alone, Gudfinna’s sister and her husband, Jórunn and Maríus, who were not in a good economic position, also moved with them. Shortly after, in 1956, Hédinn was born. But Jorunn, who had grown up in Reykjavík, never got used to such extreme weather conditions and found it difficult to cope with snow and isolation. According to police records, one afternoon in March 1957, during a heavy snowstorm, she drank poison and subsequently died. She admitted, according to the testimony of the other household members, to have taken the poison by mistake. However, the more generalised opinion considered that version very unlikely , and the hypothesis of a suicide began to take a greater acceptance. Shortly after the rest of the family left Hedinsfjörður definitively. Now that Hedinn’s parents have both passed away, the recent discovery of a family photograph has raised new questions. The picture was taken by Maríus towards the end of 1956 or the beginning of 1957. Jórunn, Gudfinna and Gudmundur appear in it, together with an unidentified young man holding baby Hédinn in his arms –if the baby is indeed Hédinn, as might suggest the date the photograph was taken. But who’s this young man and what has become of him? What was he doing there? Would it be possible that he could have the key to what actually happened? At one point, Ari Thór requests the help of a young journalist from Reykjavik, who is investigating a case of her own related with the death of a pedestrian who had been run over by a hit-and-run driver. The relevance of the accident has to do with the deceased, a childhood friend of the current prime minister; and he himself, son of another prestigious political leader, and who, for a time, had been himself connected with a world of excesses and drugs. The case takes an unexpected turn when a baby is kidnapped in broad daylight at the very centre of Reykjavik.

I have to admit I’m indebted to Karen Sullivan, publisher and founder at Orenda Books, who kindly sent me this book some time ago along with others that I have not had time to read yet. I find no excuses, and even more in this case, given how much I enjoyed reading the two previous Ragnar Jónasson’s  books in the series, Snowblind and Nightblind. By the way, Rupture is the fourth book in Dark Iceland book series according to the order of publication in English [Snowblind (2015); Nightblind (2015); Blackout (2016); Rupture (2016) and Whiteout (2017)]. And it’s also the fourth novel according to the original publication order, although it follows a slightly different pattern, if my information is accurate, i.e.: Fölsk nóta (2009) [which does not take place in Siglufjordur, is the first novel starring Ari Thór Arason, at that time a young theology student looking for a missing father], Snjóblinda (Snowblind) – 2010, Myrknætti (Blackout) – 2011, Rof (Rupture) – 2012, Andköf (Whiteout) – 2013, Náttblinda (Nightblind) – 2014.

On my side, I find always difficult to add something original when commenting a new instalment in a series I very much liked. Even more if it is a book that, in the view of some readers, is the best one in the series. And I’m not going to be the one to question this statement. I have particularly enjoyed the author’s skill to introduce within the same book, two different stories, both in terms of time and place, coming  out successfully of the challenge; thus providing a new perspective to the narrative, making it more rich and unique. To all these I should add that this is a well-told story, to which is no alien the expert hand of the translator, Quentin Bates, he himself a highly praised writer. To conclude, I would like to highlight both the excellent description of characters and the final resolution of the mysteries. The end result is a new and original voice in the current scene of Icelandic crime fiction. A book I strongly recommend.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teacher copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015, with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout and Rupture following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.

Visit him at http://www.ragnarjonasson.com/ or on Twitter @ragnarjo 

About the translator: Quentin Bates escaped English suburbia as a teenager, jumping at the chance of a gap year working in Iceland. For a variety of reasons, the gap year stretched to become a gap decade, during which time he went native in the north of Iceland, acquiring a new language a new profession as a seaman and a family, before decamping en masse for England. He worked as a truck driver, teacher, netmaker and trawlerman at various times before falling into journalism, largely by accident. He is the author of a series of crime novels set in present-day Iceland (Frozen Out, Cold Steal, Chilled to the Bone, Winterlude, Cold Comfort and Thin Ice which have been published worldwide. He has translated all of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series.

Visit him at http://www.graskeggur.com/ or on Twitter @graskeggur

Rupture has been reviewed at Cafe thinking, and Crime Fiction Lover, among many others.

Orenda books publicity page 

Ragnar Jónasson official website

Rupture – Q& A with Ragnar Jónasson

audible

Ruptura de Ragnar Jónasson

Descripción del libro: 1955. Dos parejas jóvenes se trasladan al deshabitado y aislado fiordo de Hedinsfjörður. Su estancia allí acaba abruptamente cuando una de las mujeres fallece en circunstancias misteriosas. El caso nunca fue esclarecido. Cincuenta años más tarde aparece una fotografía antigua, y resulta claro que las parejas pudieron no haber estado solas en el fiordo después de todo … En la cercana Siglufjörður, el joven policía Ari Thór intenta reconstruir lo que realmente sucedió esa fatídica noche, en una ciudad donde nadie quiere saber nada, donde los secretos son una forma de vida. Es ayudado por Ísrún, una periodista de un programa de noticias para la televisión en Reykjavik, que está investigando un caso propio cada vez más escalofriante. Las cosas toman un giro siniestro cuando un niño desaparece a plena luz del día. Con un acosador suelto y la ciudad de Siglufjörður en cuarentena, el pasado podría volver para perseguirlos. Embrujadora, aterradora y compleja, Rupture es un thriller sombrío y evocador de uno de los mas destacados escritores de novela negra de Islandia.

Mi opinión: La pequeña ciudad pesquera de Siglufjörður, en la costa norte de Islandia, se encuentra más aislada que nunca. Dos personas han muerto ya, víctimas de un virus mortal y fácilmente transmisible. Las autoridades han tomado la decisión de decretar el estado de cuarentena en toda la ciudad. En vista de esta situación y con nada mejor que hacer para ocupar su tiempo, Ari Thor, el oficial de policía local, encuentra el momento adecuado para investigar un caso antiguo en nombre de un completo desconocido, un hombre llamado Hédinn que, justo antes de Navidad , solicitó su intervención para reabrir un caso que fue archivado hace mucho tiempo; la muerte de una mujer en circunstancias misteriosas. Todo comenzó en 1955 cuando los padres de Hédinn, una pareja acomodada de Siglufjörður, Gudfinna y Gudmundur, decidieron trasladarse a vivir a una granja situada en Hédinsfjörður, un fiordo de difícil accesos. No fueron solos, la hermana de Gudfinna y su esposo, Jórunn y Maríus, que no estaban en una buena posición económica, también se mudaron con ellos. Poco después, en 1956, nacia Hédinn. Pero Jorunn, que había crecido en Reykjavík, nunca se acostumbró a unas condiciones climáticas tan extremas y le resultó difícil sobrellevar la nieve y el aislamiento. Según los registros de la policía, una tarde de marzo de 1957, durante una fuerte tormenta de nieve, bebió veneno y posteriormente murió. Ella admitió, de acuerdo con el testimonio de los otros miembros de la familia, haber tomado el veneno por error. Sin embargo, la opinión mas generalizada consideraba que esa versión resultaba muy poco probable y la hipótesis del suicidio comensó a tomar mayor aceptación. Poco después el resto de la familia abandonaba definitvamente Hédinsfjörður. Ahora que los padres de Hedinn han fallecido, el reciente descubrimiento de una fotografía familiar hace surgir nuevas preguntas. La imagen fue tomada por Maríus hacia finales de 1956 o principios de 1957. Jórunn, Gudfinna y Gudmundur aparecen en ella, junto con un joven no identificado que sostiene al bebé Hédinn en brazos, si el bebé es realmente Hédinn, como podría sugerir la fecha en la que se tomó la fotografía. ¿Pero quién es este joven y qué ha sido de él? ¿Qué estaba haciendo allí? ¿Sería posible que él pudiera tener la clave de lo que realmente sucedió? En un momento dado, Ari Thór solicita la ayuda de una joven periodista de Reikiavik, que está investigando un caso propio, un asunto relacionado con la muerte de un peatón que había sido atropellado por un conductor que se dio a la fuga. La relevancia del accidente tiene que ver con el fallecido, un amigo de la infancia del actual primer ministro; y él mismo, hijo de otro prestigioso líder político, y que, durante un tiempo, había estado vinculado a un mundo de excesos y de drogas. El caso toma un giro inesperado cuando un bebé es secuestrado a plena luz del día en el centro mismo de Reykjavik.

Tengo que reconocer que estoy en deuda con Karen Sullivan, editora y fundadora de Orenda Books, quien amablemente me envió hace bastante tiempo este libro junto con otros que aún no he tenido tiempo de leer. No encuentro excusas, y aún más en este caso, dado lo mucho que disfruté leyendo los dos libros anteriores de Ragnar Jónasson en la serie, Snowblind and Nightblind. Por cierto, Rupture es el cuarto libro de la serie Dark Iceland según el orden de publicación en inglés [Snowblind (2015); Nightblind (2015); Blackout (2016); Rupture (2016) y Whiteout (2017)]. Y también es la cuarta novela de acuerdo con el orden de publicación original, aunque sigue un patrón ligeramente diferente, si mi información es precisa, es decir: Fölsk nóta (2009) [que no se desarrolla en Siglufjordur, es la primera novela protagonizada por Ari Thór Arason, en ese momento un joven estudiante de teología que busca a un padre desaparecido], Snjóblinda (Snowblind) – 2010, Myrknætti (Blackout) – 2011, Rof (Rupture) – 2012, Andköf (Whiteout) – 2013, Náttblinda (Nightblind) – 2014.

Por mi parte, siempre me resulta difícil agregar algo original al comentar una nueva entrega de una serie que me gusta mucho. Más aún si se trata de un libro que, en opinión de algunos lectores, es el mejor de la serie. Y no voy a ser yo quien cuestione esta afirmación. Disfruté particularmente la habilidad del autor para presentar, dentro del mismo libro, dos historias diferentes, tanto en términos de tiempo como de lugar, saliendo con éxito del desafío; proporcionando así una nueva perspectiva a la narrativa, haciéndola más rica y única. A todo esto debo agregar que esta es una historia bien contada, a la que no es ajena la mano experta del traductor, Quentin Bates, él mismo un escritor muy elogiado. Para concluir, me gustaría destacar tanto la excelente descripción de los personajes como la resolución final de los misterios. El resultado final es una voz nueva y original en la escena actual de la ficción criminal islandesa. Un libro que recomiendo encarecidamente

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: El escritor islandés de novela negra Ragnar Jónasson nació en Reykjavík, y actualmente trabaja como abogado, a la vez que enseña la legislación sobre derechos de autor en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Reykjavík. En el pasado, trabajó en televisión y radio, incluso como como periodista en lós noticieros del Servicio Nacional Islandes de Radiodifusión. Antes de emprender su carrera como escritor, Ragnar tradujo catorce novelas de Agatha Christie al islandés, y ha publicado varios cuentos en revistas literarias alemanas, inglesas e islandesas. Ragnar puso en marcha la primera sección en el exterior de la CWA (Crime Writers ‘Association) en Reykjavík, y es cofundador del festival internacional de novela negra Iceland Noir. El primer thriller de Ragnar, Snowblind se convirtió en un éxito casi instantáneo de ventas cuando se publicó en junio de 2015, con Nightblind (ganadora del premio Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation) y más adelante Blackout y Rupture poco después. Hasta la fecha, Ragnar Jónasson ha escrito cinco novelas en la serie Dark Iceland, cuyos derechos televisivos han sido adquiridas por On The Corner. Vive en Reykjavík con su esposa y sus dos hijas.

Puedn visitarlo en http://www.ragnarjonasson.com/ o en Twitter @ragnarjo

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Trapped (Icelandic TV series)

274dca10463eb28c17abd0ce56d9ce7b7564d39cLast night, almost by pure chance, Begoña and I started to see Trapped. Trapped (Icelandic: Ófærð), according to Wikipedia, is an Icelandic mystery television series created by Baltasar Kormákur and produced by RVK Studios. After its first screening at the Toronto International Film Festival on 20 September 2015, it was first broadcast on RÚV on 27 December. It has since been sold to numerous broadcasters across the world, including the BBC, which began screening it on 13 February 2016. The Weinstein Company purchased the US distribution rights. In September 2016, RÚV announced that a second 10-episode season had been commissioned for release in late 2018, to feature the same lead characters facing “an even more complex and challenging murder case”.

Glenn Harper at his blog International Noir Fiction, wrote: ‘Baltasar Kormákur. is the force behind Trapped, a claustrophobic series based in a fishing town in the far north of the country (the BBC ran the series, and it was, and may still be, available on Viceland in the U.S.). Trapped deals with a ferry that arrives in the northern town at the same time as a headless corpse, and the police sequestration of the ship in order to investigate the murder leads to multiple unfortunate consequences, for the police chief, the mayor, the boat captain, and many others. The series is beautifully made and features intense and impeccable acting.’

We have only seen the first episode out of the 10 that make up the first season, but we are already hooked on the series. Stay tuned.

Episode One: In a small Icelandic fishing port, a ferry docks. That same day a dismembered body is found in the river, sparking an investigation and a call to Reykjavik for detective reinforcements to assist the small local police force. With the ferry held in dock and a bad snowstorm threatening to cut off the town, chief of police Andri is under pressure to deliver results quickly. (Source: BBC)

‘Trapped’: TIFF Review at The Hollywood Reporter

Inspector (Commissario) Montalbano Series by Andrea Camilleri (Last Updated Monday, 7 July 2018 13:20)

homeThis entry was originally intended as a private note, but I have thought it can be of some interest to readers of this blog. Please bear in mind it is a work in progress, you may find my reviews of the books I’ve read so far clicking on the books’ titles. Your comments are welcome. I would appreciate if you let me know of any error and/or omission you may find on this page. Thank you beforehand.

Inspector (Commissario) Salvo Montalbano is a Sicilian fictional character that was created by Italian writer Andrea Camilleri. The novels are written in a mixture of Italian and Sicilian dialects. As you would expect much of the action takes place on the island of Sicily. They are detective novels intertwined with humour, and social comment.

Salvo Montalbano is a typical Sicilian chalk full of all of the idiosyncrasies and above all else good detective work. He has his own ways of doing things and is seen be his superiors as a loose cannon. He is constantly dealing in a world of shady characters, with different connections, who operate in a your scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours sort of dynamic. Yet through it all the Inspector manages to remain true and uncompromising at least to a point where he can still live with himself. The character involves a great deal of humour but the author also adds hard criticism of both Italian and Sicilian political and social situation. Unlike most detective novels where these contexts are simply skimmed over or ignored altogether, these elements form a backbone to the tales of the inspector.

Montalbano is the head of the Vigata police precinct. As such he must balance the desires of his superiors, the reality of the crime rate in the area and, of course his personal life. To make matters even murkier there are two factions within the force that are trying to control the way things are done. The ideology coming from Milan is a standardized regulated way of doing police work. This northern view demands and increase in transparency and a desire to do things by the book. On the opposite side of the spectrum in the southern outlook to law enforcement that involves intricate interpersonal connections that effect how justice is carried out. What makes Inspector Montalbano so effective is his ability to balance between these two opposite factions; it is not always an easy task but he has a knack of keeping everyone happy. Any mention of Italy is usually followed by an image of great food. Inspector Montalbano often eats well-described meals during his adventures, bringing a delightful gastronomic aspect to the series as a whole.

The original Italian series of novels began in 1994. The novels were not translated into English until 2002, after 6 novels had already been complete. Stephen Santarelli, whom critics say managed to maintain a distinct Italian feel despite the fact that the stories were being told in English, does the translation.

Since 1999 there has been television movies of the Inspector Montalbano adventures being produced in Italy. To date there are 26 separate titles. There were two episodes produced annually for the first 6 years of the run, this number has been increased for the last three seasons to 4. Usually produced at a rate of two annually. The series is very popular and shows no signs of ending any time soon.

Inspector Montalbano is an intelligent competent detective. He manages to wade through the reality of Sicilian life while maintaining his honesty and his integrity. The novels are filled with wonderful character and enough comedic episodes to entertain even the most discerning reader. This is not gratuitous comedy, but rather real, tangible events that are believable and would be comical if witnessed first hand. Beside the characters, the comedic elements and even the fabulous backdrop that makes up the novels, the often referred to gastronomic reality of the Italian island is present as well. We can almost smell the wonderful dishes that are being prepared and consumed, all whilst immersed into thought provoking mysteries that are intriguing up to the very end. (Source: Book series in order)

To the best of my knowledge, the complete book series comprises so far the following titles in publication order: The Shape of Water, 2002 [La forma dell’acqua, Palermo, Sellerio, 1994];The Terra-Cotta Dog, 2002 [Il cane di terracotta, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996]; The Snack Thief, 2003 [Il ladro di merendine, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996]; The Voice of the Violin, 2003 [La voce del violino, Palermo, Sellerio, 1997]; The Excursion To Tindari, 2005 [La gita a Tindari, Palermo, Sellerio, 2000]; The Smell of the Night aka The Scent of the Night, 2005 [L’odore della notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2001]; Rounding the Mark, 2006 [Il giro di boa, Palermo, Sellerio, 2003]; The Patience of the Spider, 2007 [La pazienza del ragno, Palermo, Sellerio, 2004]; The Paper Moon, 2008 [La luna di carta, Palermo, Sellerio, 2005]; August Heat, 2009 [La vampa d’agosto, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006]; The Wings of the Sphinx, 2009 [Le ali della sfinge, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006]; The Track of Sand, 2010 [La pista di sabbia, Palermo, Sellerio, 2007]; The Potter’s Field, 2011 [Il campo del vasaio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008]; The Age of Doubt, 2012 [L’età del dubbio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008];The Dance of the Seagull, 2013 [La danza del gabbiano, Palermo, Sellerio, 2009]; The Treasure Hunt, 2013 [La caccia al tesoro, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; Angelica’s Smile, 2014 [Il sorriso di Angelica, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; Game of Mirrors, 2015 [Il gioco degli specchi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; A Beam of Light aka Blade of Light, 2015 [Una lama di luce, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012]; A Voice in the Night, 2016 [Una voce di notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012]; A Nest of Vipers, 2017 [Un covo di vipere, Palermo, Sellerio, 2013]; The Pyramid of Mud, 2018 [La piramide di fango, Palermo, Sellerio, 2014]; La giostra degli scambi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2015; L’altro capo del filo, Palermo, Sellerio, 2016; La rete di protezione, Palermo, Sellerio, 2017; Il metodo Catalanotti, Palermo, Sellerio, 2018; and Riccardino (inedito). In bold letters some of my favourite titles, but need to re-think some titles I read some time ago, like August Heat for instance.

Besides Inspector Montalbano also appears in the following collections of short stories and novellas: Montalbano’s First Case and Other Stories, 2016 [A selection of 21 short stories, of his 59 published stories featuring Chief Insp. Salvo Montalbano. This selection includes the following titles: ‘Montalbano’s first case’, ‘Fifty pairs of hobnailed boots’, ‘Neck and neck’; ‘Fellow traveler’; ‘Dress rehearsal’; ‘Amore’; ‘The artist’s touch’; ‘Montalbano’s rice fritters’; ‘As Alice did’; ‘The pact’; ‘Mortally wounded’; ‘Catarella solves a case’; ‘Being here’; ‘Seven Mondays’; ‘Judicial review’; ‘Pessoa maintains’; ‘The cat and the goldfinch’; ‘Montalbano says no’; ‘A kidnapping’; ‘Montalbano afraid’ and ‘Better than darkness’], and Death at Sea, Mantle , September 2018 [a collection of eight short stories featuring the young Inspector Montalbano]

In Italian the following collections are available in book form: Un mese con Montalbano, 1998 ; Gli arancini di Montalbano  1999 ; La paura di Montalbano, 2002; La prima indagine di Montalbano, 2004; Morte in mare aperto e altre indagini del giovane Montalbano, 2014.

About the author: Andrea Camilleri was born in Porto Empedocle in 1925. He made his debut as a theater director, in Rome, in 1953. He subsequently worked as a producer and scriptwriter and as a director for RAI radio and television. He also taught Actor Directing at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, and theatre directing at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico for fifteen years. He published his first novel in 1978 and has never stopped writing since. He has published more than a hundred volumes: historical novels, political essays, and crime novels, including the celebrated Commissario Montalbano series. His books have sold almost 25 million copies in Italy and 15 million copies abroad, and have been translated into into 37 languages. The Commissario Montalbano tv series has been broadcasted in more than 60 countries. He writes for many Italian and foreign newspapers and has won numerous literary awards in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. (Source: Alferj e Prestia agenzia letteraria)

Read more at:

The man behind Inspector Montalbano

https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/andrea-camilleri/inspector-montalbano-mysteries

https://sellerio.it/it/cerca/risultati_lib.php?f=montalbano&cerca=Cerca

Review: The Pyramid of Mud, 2018 (Montalbano #22) by Andrea Camilleri (Trans: Stephen Sartarelli)

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Mantle, 2018. Format; Kindle edition. File size: 2674 KB. Print length: 274 pages. ASIN: B074SVBH86. ISBN: 978-1-4472-9837-3. First published in Italian in 2014 as La piramide di fango by Sellerio Editore, Palermo. Translated by Stephen Sartarelli in 2018.

610nUmH 9kLFirst paragraph: The thunderclap was so loud that not only did Montalbano suddenly wake up in terror, but he gave such a start that he nearly fell out of bed.

Synopsis: It’s been raining for days in Vigàta, and the persistent downpours have led to violent floods overtaking the Inspector’s beloved hometown, sweeping across the land and leaving only a sea of mud behind. It is on one of these endless grey days that a man – a Mr Giuglù Nicotra – is found dead. His body discovered in a large sewage tunnel, half naked and with a bullet in his back. The investigation is slow and slippery to start with, but when Montalbano realizes that every clue he uncovers and every person he interviews is leading to the same place: the world of public spending – and with it, the Mafia – the case begins to pick up pace. But there’s one question that keeps playing on Montalbano’s mind: in his strange and untimely death, was Giuglù Nicotra trying to tell him something?

My take: Montalbano have just woken himself up recalling the dream he was having. He was walking through a tunnel in complete darkness, except for an oil lamp  which didn’t gave off much light. A man was following him, someone whom he knew but whose name he couldn’t remember. The man was not being able to keep up with him and was loosing too much blood due to a wound.  When Montalbano heard a scream, he turned around just to realise that the man had dropped on the ground dead. He was remembering all this seeing a man’s body that had been discovered on a construction site, in a kind of tunnel inside a pipe. Forensics had established he was shot before he went into the pipe and had died about an hour before his corpse was found. Not without effort, the body was identified as Giuglù Nicotra, the head accounting officer for one of the leading construction companies. Nicotra was married with a young German woman. The investigation of the case leads Montalbano to the shadowy world of public contracting and bogus concessions. Powerful forces will do whatever it takes to force shutting the investigation as a clear case of domestic jealousies. However Montalbano is not willing to look the other way and, true to his principles, he won’t stop until finding the truth. Meanwhile Livia remains depressed for François death until she returns to be her own self upon adopting a pet puppy.

Occasionally, when reading a Montalbano book, one may have the impression that they respond to a plain formula, though quite effective and highly successful. It may be true in this new instalment in the series, but anyway I must confess I’ve enjoyed reading The Pyramid of Mud. I’ve always find in this series an antidote to boredom. Its stories transport us to a setting that, although known, it’s nonetheless fascinating. Its dialogues are smart and funny, the interaction between characters is extremely entertaining, Camilleri has a nice sense of humour, and his novels are seasoned with a fine dose of social and political criticism of present day Italy that, in my view, is very gratifying, and is part of Camilleri’s unique hallmark. Even when Camilleri is not at his very best, it is always a pleasure reading one of his books. And this particular book is no exception. I truly believe that it will not disappoint his faithful readers and that it may be prove appealing to those who would like to get into Inspector Montalbano’s world for the first time. Thus, I have no objection whatsoever in recommending this book.

A short snippet to illustrate this:

Walking past Catarella’s desk, he noticed he was busy trying to solve a crossword puzzle. His brow was furrowed and he was chewing the end of his pencil. `Need any help’?’ ?Yeah, Chief. I can’t tink od a wold.’ ‘What’s the definition?’ ‘”Together with the carabinieri, they pursue killers and thieves and maintain law and order.” ‘How many letters?’ ‘Six.’ ‘Police.? ‘Are you sure? I tought o’ that, but then I arased it.’ ‘Why?’ ‘When have us police ever woiked t’gether with the carabinieri?’ Iron-clad logic.

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the Author: Andrea Camilleri born 6 September 1925) is an Italian writer. Originally from Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Camilleri began studies at the Faculty of Literature in 1944, without concluding them, meanwhile publishing poems and short stories. From 1948 to 1950 Camilleri studied stage and film direction at the Silvio D’Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts (Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica) and began to take on work as a director and screenwriter, directing especially plays by Pirandello and Beckett. With RAI, Camilleri worked on several TV productions, such as Inspector Maigret with Gino Cervi. In 1977 he returned to the Academy of Dramatic Arts, holding the chair of Film Direction and occupying it for 20 years. In 1978 Camilleri wrote his first novel Il Corso Delle Cose (“The Way Things Go”). This was followed by Un Filo di Fumo (“A Thread of Smoke”) in 1980. Neither of these works enjoyed any significant amount of popularity. In 1992, after a long pause of 12 years, Camilleri once more took up novel-writing. A new book, La Stagione della Caccia (“The Hunting Season”) turned out to be a best-seller. In 1994 Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels: La forma dell’Acqua (The Shape of Water) featured the character of Inspector Montalbano, a fractious Sicilian detective in the police force of Vigàta, an imaginary Sicilian town. The series is written in Italian but with a substantial sprinkling of Sicilian phrases and grammar. The name Montalbano is a homage to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán; the similarities between Montalban’s Pepe Carvalho and Camilleri’s fictional detective are remarkable. Both writers make great play of their protagonists’ gastronomic preferences. This feature provides an interesting quirk which has become something of a fad among his readership even in mainland Italy. The TV adaptation of Montalbano’s adventures, starring Luca Zingaretti, further increased Camilleri’s popularity to such a point that in 2003 Camilleri’s home town, Porto Empedocle – on which Vigàta is modelled – took the extraordinary step of changing its official name to that of Porto Empedocle Vigàta, no doubt with an eye to capitalising on the tourism possibilities thrown up by the author’s work. On his website, Camilleri refers to the engaging and multi-faceted character of Montalbano as a “serial killer of characters,” meaning that he has developed a life of his own and demands great attention from his author, to the demise of other potential books and different personages. Camilleri added that he writes a Montalbano novel every so often just so that the character will be appeased and allow him to work on other stories. In 2012, Camilleri’s The Potter’s Field (translated by Stephen Sartarelli) was announced as the winner of the 2012 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger. The announcement was made on 5 July 2012 at the awards ceremony held at One Birdcage Walk in London. Camilleri now lives in Rome. (Source: Wikipedia)

About the Translator: Stephen Sartarelli was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 5, 1954. He holds a BA in literature and languages from Antioch College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University. Sartarelli is the author of three books of poetry: The Open Vault (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001), The Runaway Woods (Spuyten Duyvil, 2000), and Grievances and Other Poems (Gnosis Press, 1989). He has translated over forty books of fiction and poetry from the Italian and French, including The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini (University of Chicago Press, 2014), which received the 2016 Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize. About Sartarelli’s winning translation, judges Antonello Borra and Alessandro Carrera write: “Thanks to Stephen Sartarelli’s magnificent volume, flawless translation and sound scholarly apparatus, the English-speaking readership will now be aware that Pier Paolo Pasolini was as great as a poet, and possibly even greater, as he was a filmmaker. Not only does Sartarelli intelligently select and elegantly translate from Pasolini’s poetic opus, he also gives us a clear, informed introduction, a useful, concise set of notes, and an essential bibliography. This book is a must have for both scholars and lovers of poetry alike.” Sartarelli’s other honors include the International Dagger Award from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, the John Florio Prize from the British Society of Authors, and the Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize for Songbook: Selected Poems of Umberto Saba in 2001. He has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the ongoing translation of Horcynus Orca by Stefano D’Arrigo, originally published in 1975. Sartarelli currently lives in the Périgord region of South West France with his wife, the painter Sophie Hawkes. (Source: https://www.poets.org)

The Pyramid of Mud has several reviews at Goodreads

Pan MacMillan publicity page

Penguin Random House publicity page

Sellerio publicity page 

Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series

audible

La pirámide de fango, de Andrea Camilleri

Primer párrafo: El restallido del trueno fue tan fuerte que Montalbano no solo se despertó de golpe y porrazo con un buen susto en el cuerpo, sino que además por poco se cayó de la cama del gran respingo que dio. (traducción Carlos Mayor Ortega)

Sinopsis: Durante días ha estado lloviendo en Vigàta, y los persistentes aguaceros han desembocado en violentas inundaciones que han anegado la querida ciudad natal del inspector, arrasando la tierra y dejando solo un mar de lodo. Es en uno de estos interminables días grises que un hombre, un tal señor Giuglù Nicotra, es encontrado muerto. Su cuerpo apareció en un gran túnel de aguas residuales, medio desnudo y con una bala en la espalda. La investigación es lenta y resbaladiza para empezar, pero cuando Montalbano se da cuenta de que cada pista que descubre y cada persona que entrevista está conduciendo al mismo lugar: el mundo del gasto público, y con él, la Mafia, el caso comienza a adquirir ritmo. Pero hay una pregunta que le sigue rondando a Montalbano en la cabeza: en su extraña y prematura muerte, ¿no estaba acaso Giuglù Nicotra tratando de decirle algo?

Mi opinión: Montalbano acaba de despertarsr recordando el sueño que estaba teniendo. Estaba caminando a través de un túnel en completa oscuridad, a excepción de una lámpara de aceite que no emitía mucha luz. Un hombre lo estaba siguiendo, alguien a quien conocía pero cuyo nombre no podía recordar. El hombre no podía seguirle el ritmo y estaba perdiendo demasiada sangre debido a una herida. Cuando Montalbano oyó un grito, se dio la vuelta para darse cuenta de que el hombre había caído muerto al suelo. Estaba recordando todo esto al ver el cuerpo de un hombre que había sido descubierto en una obra en construcción, en una especie de túnel dentro de una tubería. Los forenses habían establecido que le dispararon antes de entrar en la tubería y que había muerto aproximadamente una hora antes de que encontraran su cadáver. No sin esfuerzo, el cuerpo fue identificado como Giuglù Nicotra, el director contable de una de las principales empresas constructoras. Nicotra estaba casado con una joven alemana. La investigación del caso conduce a Montalbano hasta el tenebroso mundo de la contratación pública y de las falsas concesiones. Poderosas fuerzas harán lo que sea necesario para obligar a cerrar la investigación como un caso claro de celos familiares. Sin embargo, Montalbano no está dispuesto a mirar hacia otro lado y, fiel a sus principios, no se detendrá hasta encontrar la verdad. Mientras tanto, Livia sigue deprimida por la muerte de François hasta que vuelve a ser ella misma al adoptar un cachorro como mascota.

Ocasionalmente, al leer un libro de Montalbano, uno puede tener la impresión de que responden a una fórmula simple, aunque bastante efectiva y altamente exitosa. Puede ser cierto en esta nueva entrega de la serie, pero de todos modos debo confesar que he disfrutado leyendo La pirámide de fango. Siempre he encontrado en esta serie un antídoto contra el aburrimiento. Sus historias nos transportan a un escenario que, aunque conocido, no deja de ser fascinante. Sus diálogos son inteligentes y divertidos, la interacción entre personajes es extremadamente entretenida, Camilleri tiene un buen sentido del humor, y sus novelas están sazonadas con una buena dosis de crítica social y política de la Italia actual que, en mi opinión, es muy gratificante , y es parte del sello distintivo de Camilleri.  Incluso cuando Camilleri no está en su mejor momento, siempre es un placer leer uno de sus libros. Y este libro en particular no es una excepción. Realmente creo que no defraudará a sus fieles lectores y que puede resultar atractivo para aquellos a quienes les gustaría adentrarse por primera vez en el mundo del Inspector Montalbano. Por lo tanto, no tengo ninguna objeción en recomendar este libro.

Un pequeño fragmento para ilustrar esto:

Al pasar junto a la mesa de Catarella, notó que estaba ocupado tratando de resolver un crucigrama. Tenía el ceño fruncido y mordía el extremo de su lápiz.
-¿Necesitas ayuda?
-Sí, Jefe. No consigo saberlo.
-¿Cuál es la definición?
-Junto con los carabinieri, persiguen asesinos y ladrones, mateniendo la ley y el orden.
-¿Cuántas letras?
-Siete.
-Policía.
-¿Está seguro? Lo pensé, pero luego lo borré.
-¿Por qué?
-¿Cuándo hemos trabajado nosotros la policía con los carabinieri?
Lógica aplastante.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Andrea Camilleri nació en 1925 en Porto Empedocle, provincia de Agrigento, Sicilia, y actualmente vive en Roma, donde impartió clases en la Academia de Arte Dramático. Durante cuarenta años fue guionista y director de teatro y televisión. En 1994 crea el personaje de Salvo Montalbano, el entrañable comisario siciliano protagonista de una serie que en la actualidad consta de veintiséis novelas. Todos sus libros ocupan habitualmente el primer puesto en las principales listas de éxitos italianas. Andrea Camilleri es hoy el escritor más popular de Italia y uno de los más leídos de Europa. En 2014 fue galardonado con el IX Premio Pepe Carvalho. (Fuente: Ediciones Salamandra)

Salamandra página de publicidad

OT: Lorenzo Lotto. Portraits

_20180703_134419The Museo del Prado is presenting the first major monographic exhibition on Lorenzo Lotto’s portraits. Co-organised with the National Gallery in London, it is benefiting from the sole sponsorship of Fundación BBVA and is the Museum’s most important exhibition this summer.

Lorenzo Lotto (Venice, 1480 – Loreto, 1557) was one of the most unique and fascinating artists of the Italian Cinquecento. His reputation has consistently grown among scholars and art lovers since Bernard Berenson devoted the first monograph to him, Lorenzo Lotto. An Essay in Constructive Criticism, published in 1895. Writing at the time of the emergence of Freudian psychoanalysis, Berenson saw Lotto as the first portraitist to be interested in reflecting his sitters’ states of mind, and as such the first modern one. Although interest in the artist has been particularly notable since the 1980s, until now no exhibition has focused exclusively on the portraits, making this project a pioneering one.

The exhibition focuses on already known aspects of Lotto’s portraiture such as their varied typology, psychological depth and complex symbolism. In addition, it explores other less familiar ones such as the artist’s use of similar resources in his portraits and religious works, the importance of the objects present in the portraits as reflections of material culture of the day, and the creative process behind the realisation of these works.

Lorenzo Lotto. Portraits also offers an unprecedented perspective on the artist’s works through the presence in the galleries of objects similar to those seen in the portraits, in a reflection of material culture of the day. In addition, it looks at the way in which the artist conceived and executed his portraits and in this regard and given the lack of technical analyses of these works, the inclusion of drawings by him (rarely displayed alongside the paintings) are of particular importance.

The variety of typologies that Lotto employed; the overt or concealed symbolism within them; the psychological depth with which he imbued his models; and the importance he gave to objects in order to define their status, interests and aspirations all give these portraits a degree of profundity which allow Lotto to be seen as the artist who best reflected Italy at the time, a country experiencing a profound period of change.

Curators: Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo (University of Verona) and Miguel Falomir (Museo del Prado).

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 6/19/2018 – 9/30/2018.

Begoña and I had had the occasion to visit this exhibition last Tuesday. Highly recommended. 

Source: Museo Nacional del Prado

More about Lorenzo Lotto at Wikipedia.