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the Age of Doubt (2012)

Andrea Camilleri

trans. by Stephen Sartarelli

§ Here Camilleri has hit the sweet spot between the novel and the TV script perfectly. The narrative flows with such ease and personality that its minimalism makes you think that it's too easy, lacks serious literary intent. But the literary beauty is in the precise character-driven dialogue and the verbal ghosting of time and space. You fill much of it in for yourselves, Signor, Signorina.

The setting is a pure Aristotelian lock with no messy flashbacks or excursions to faraway places. Most of the action takes place in and around the Vigàta harbour, and two boats, the 90 foot yacht Vanna and the 60 foot cruiser The Ace of Hearts. The landscape and the faces that inhabit it move like clouds, real yet unreal, conscious yet subconscious, like the sky pressing against the eyes of the dreamer. The transitions between scenes are as fast as thought, mere blinks in the montage. The P.O.V. is unrelenting -- the protagonist Montalbano's actions, thoughts and spatial isolation, like an actor passing between spotlights. The style is deceptive, fools you like an unfinished sketch that was never meant to be finished anyway, leaving all that to the viewer, the reader, or whoever tries to solve the mystery.

Camilleri: the Age of Doubt

You've read the others, wonder, is this the story of Montalbano's last great love? Camilleri plays you like a fiddle. Montalbano, 58 years old and sliding into old age, irascible and sleep-deprived, dodging superiors and bullets as he falls hard for a hot young navy lieutenant called Laura... and like all of Montalbano's infatuations, starts out real but ends up a phantom, more a symptom of an illness than a cure for his lonely soul. He's really in rough shape here. He has very little contact with his long-distance girlfriend Livia, and he's forced into more lies and absurd excuses to cover his erratic behaviour. There's comedy in the situations, although the situations are cross-hatched with fear.

Aging is undermining Montalbano's confidence. On the one hand, he appears to be a social creature, a gregarious bon vivant who is only single because his job is 24/7, not something that can be switched off at the end of a shift... and on the other, his solitude is the classic manic depression of the dreamer interrupted by insomnia. Well, this is what happens when you're 58, losing your eyesight, and spending more and more of your time thinking rather than looking.

© LR April 2017

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