Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Another Dinner With Montalbano - 5 March

Richard Wilcocks writes:
There we were again – myself with Gigliola Sulis from Leeds University's Italian department – in our fifth successive year at Salvo's Salumeria paying tribute to the greats of Italian literature – Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch and on this occasion Andrea Camilleri. There was, as they say, nothing not to like. The place has just the right ambiance. This year, John Dammone, the boss, preceded us with a short talk about his heritage and about Sicilian food. Gigliola is a great expert on Camilleri, who became Italy's leading crime writer after retiring from a successful career as a stage and television director. He will be known for his twenty-three Montalbano novels for a long time into the future, when much else about him has faded. Most of the people there were pleased to find out about him, as they were primarily fans of the RAI television series starring Luca Zingaretti, and Michele Riondino as the Young Montalbano.

The crimes in the novels are nothing if not topical: illegal immigrants, drug-dealing, prostitution, fraud, money-laundering. The Mafia does not feature every time, but it is definitely present. In the small (fictional) town of Vigata, the most appalling things can happen. Real-life murders are sometimes referred to, like that of leading anti-Mafia campaigners, the judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were both blown up in a huge explosion by the mob in 1993, causing widespread outrage in Italy and an increased determination to stand up to the Mafia in Sicily. Addiopizzo (English: 'Goodbye Pizzo') is a grassroots movement established in Sicily to build a community of businesses and consumers who refuse to pay 'pizzo' – Mafia extortion money.

We looked at all the characters which have become familiar – Mimi Augello, Fazio, Catarella, long-distance girlfriend Livia, Swedish Ingrid, Adelina the cook and so on, and I remarked that some of them seemed distinctly Dickensian – Agatino Catarella for example. Gigliola remarked on how Camilleri managed to incorporate references to many of the authors and academics with whom he was acquainted into the stories, some from Italy and some from elsewhere: Umberto Eco, Dylan Thomas, William Faulkner and of course the Spanish writer (and gastronome) Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, who started Camilleri on the right path.

Most of the extracts which I read were from The Terracotta Dog (Il cane di terracotta), but the final one was from The Snack Thief (Il ladro di merendine) and it was about Montalbano’s food preferences: the inspector watches in horror as Mimi Augello spoons great quantities of parmesan over his meal of spaghetti with clams. How can anyone do that! Parmesan (or pecorino) should never, ever, be put on fish or seafood. It's a crime!

Audience reactions

Interesting and informative - bringing out the themes and characters in the books - inspiring me read and reread more Montalbano books. Good food links!

Enjoyed the meal but more especially the readings and the insights into the books.

An excellent and varied evening. Good readings delivered in a most entertaining and literary manner. And good food!

I came with low expectations as I have never particularly enjoyed the crime genre of Montalbano and whilst I still think it seems quite formulaic and stereotypical, the evening was highly enjoyable as Richard and Gigliola really brought the novels and characters to life with humour and zest. All with Salvo's wonderful food too!

Loved the Italian lady. Well chosen readings, enthusiastically performed.

Interesting evening wonderful food and good narrative.

Interesting evening. Montalbano themes, food, background of author, role of women, relations with criminals (Mafia). Lovely food which was also explained. Only problem - background noise from kitchen and bar once or twice. A very enjoyable evening.

Excellent, if unusual, evening. Food was excellent, and interspersed  by short, quaint discourses on the Montalbano novels.

A very good representation of Montalbano books and TV series. I am a fan and have stayed in Ragusa and Casa di Montalbano and felt the evening summed up the comedy and the seriousness of the novels. The female presenter particularly good.

Gives an inclination of the life in Sicily. I enjoyed the in depth descriptions of the characters. I shall definitely read more of the books.

Informative, excellent complement to the food (Sicilian meal). Very expert speakers.

Very enjoyable and informative. I liked the Italian element and the background information on Camilleri and the works. The food was excellent if a little minimal (which Montalbano would not have appreciated?)

Really enjoyed hearing extracts from one of my favourite storytellers. Very good to be able to hear the genuine Italian text (even though my Italian is very basic) made it far more authentic. Covered an appealing selection of themes in a light-hearted way. The food was delicious too. 

Thank you so much for a lovely evening. We have long been fans of Montalbano but really feel inspired to read the books. The food was lovely - as ever. I feel as if I've been on holiday to Sicily.

It was excellent. The event gave more impetus for me to learn Italian. Both speakers were entertaining, informative and stimulating. I now feel I have a good reason to read the novels and not just remember the dramas in film.

Very interesting evening. Having read all the books it was good to have the insight of Gigliola into Montalbano's psyche.

I enjoyed the readings very much even though I have read most of the books and watched all the TV series.

I have read many of the books and the television series. The readings brought back memories of the books and the characters. It has inspired me to read the rest of the books I have not read.

Interesting above all regarding the food!

Enjoyed the food very much, especially the pasta alla norma. Montepulciano wine very good. Recitations of scenes from Camilleri's books of Montalbano very well done.

V. enjoyable. I thought more would be read in Italian (but as it's difficult Sicilian it was perhaps as well!). Beautifully read - made me want to read the books now!

Really great evening but I'm sure Montalbano gets more dinner? (Not better quality though!)

Enjoyable evening.

I was prepared for a very quiet evening (no talking, from Montalbano style) but it was a very well arranged evening, with opening from Gigliola and Richard, to make things pleasant and - bello!!!

Well thought out covering all aspects of Mont. - food, crime, his values, outlook etc. Good atmosphere at Salvo's.

The idea of having a Sicilian meal alongside hearing about the books is great. Really enjoyed the evening. Great location. I particularly enjoyed hearing the details about the author and details of Sicily from an Italian.

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