Simenon, Camilleri, Donna Leon

On two shelves within easy reach when I turn in for the night are two neat rows of paperbacks, one all yellow in keeping with the Italian word for a detective story – giallo, for that is what they are, the other the deep blue-black of the Sellerio publications. A few stragglers at either end keep them company. They are all friends of mine but I’m not sure they would get along all that well with each other. Simenon, Camilleri, Donna Leon. Maigret, Montalbano, Brunetti. Sometimes I’ll turn to one, sometimes to another. Must say these police commissioners are all simpatico. Much more so than their authors. Except for Camilleri. I would have liked him. He’s also there, a bit to one side, with his biography of Pirandello, my first true Italian friend.

Pirandello often accompanied me on the train in 1956 when I was traveling from one part of Italy to Sicily. “Dear Pirandello, you had a hard life, but your short stories and plays helped me learn Italian. I hadn’t realized then that some of the words you used were rather dialectal, such as parananzi for grembiule, apron. Luckily I wasn’t trying to learn Italian with you, Montalbano. You would have been patient, but I really have to read you out loud to figure out what you are saying. I did learn a bit of Sicilian like bedda for bella and suli for sole when I was there but it seems to me that your “father” Camilleri invented some of the language you use.

No problem with you, Brunetti. I know you are Italian, Venetian, but your “mother” never did let you speak Italian and whoever wanted to follow your adventures had to do so in English.  Wonder what you three think of Malvaldi with his four old “geezers” at the bar in Pisa. Now they do speak a Tuscan dialect but that’s far easier for me to understand.

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