While Vigàta is churned up by the filming of a TV series set in 1950, Montalbano investigates two cases, one of them from the past and the other involving the (for him) new world of social networks, Facebook profiles, Twitter and blogs.
Daily life in Vigàta is as colourful and lively as that of a fairground. The village has become the set of a TV series filmed by a Swedish company. In order to recapture the urban landscape of the 1950s, the technicians pore over amateur films found in people’s lofts. The cinematic transformation involves even the police station, where a sign is to be put up declaring it a dance hall. Prurient excitement surrounds the Swedish actresses and threatens the harmony of marriages. During a ceremony to celebrate the twinning of Vigàta and the Baltic town of Kalmar, finger food makes its appearance. Montalbano seethes with indignation at the artificial atmosphere. Moody as usual, he keeps away from others. The search for family films of the fifties unearths six old reels in a pile of dusty files. For six successive years, on the same day of the same month, the films obsessively focus on a blank white wall. Montalbano is called upon to reconstruct the plot that develops in that empty, ritual space, a mystery that is presented and then erased, frustratingly elusive and enigmatic – almost unbearably so. The second case is equally baffling, in a different way. A spate of bullying, mysteriously complicated by an armed incursion into a school, makes the by now far from youthful Montalbano decide to challenge the alert, intuitive intensity of teenagers who socialize through Skype, entrusting their frail immaturity to the adventure of the web with the confident impetuousness of modern-day Argonauts. With shrewd intemperance and a series of stratagems, Montalbano reasserts the divinatory qualities which make him an archaeologist of hidden plots and secretive lives, and a subtle and lucid analyst of that ‘intricate mass that is the soul of a human being’. Irritated by the geometric, aggressive vulgarity of simulation, he struggles to solve two delicate cases in that ephemeral, shadowy land where people are never completely guilty or completely innocent, and where investigation needs to be respectful and emotionally sensitive, steering a middle way between ‘protection’ and revealed truth (or truth that is uncovered and then covered up again, so as not to render it intolerable or indecorously pernicious). It is not surprising that Montalbano, in this great novel of introspection and thoughtful confrontation with unease, declares himself a reader and admirer of Jean Giraudoux’s play Tiger at the Gates, and that he quotes from it Ulysses’ parting words to Hector, which mention their respective wives to make humanly credible the solidarity established to prevent war taking place. It is not a question of mere ‘noblesse’ – of a general nobility of mind – Ulysses says; and then he produces his trump card: ‘Andromache’s eyelashes dance as my wife Penelope’s do. Salvatore Silvano Nigro
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Noir sur Blanc (Poland)