Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Shape of Water (La forma dell’Aqua)

The Shape of Water - Andrea Camilleri
The Shape of Water (2002) is a detective story (il giallo, romanzi polizieschi) in the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri (1925 – ). La forma dell’acqua (1994) is the Italian title. The story is set in the fictional town of Vigàta in Sicily in the fictional province of Montelusa. Salvo Montalbano, a police inspector (commissario di polizia), investigates a suspicious but apparently natural death. Montalbano does get to the bottom of it and along the way we are treated to good food, witty dialogue, a cast of characters, and a sampling of the grit, grime and beauty of Sicilian life (or at least a version in Camilleri’s mind).

In Vigàta things seemingly never get done and are so controlled by corrupt officials that people accept this as the state of affairs, occasionally making a deal or play to better their own situation. In the middle of the book, a leftist journalist explains how “in Sicily, and in the province of Montelusa in particular, mutatis mutandis – or zara zabara – to say it in Sicilian – things never budged, even when there was a storm on a horizon. He quoted, with obvious facility, the prince of Salina’s famous statement about changing everything in order to change nothing…” The prince of Salina being the main character in Il Gattopardo.

The Italian phrasing of the statement is this “zara zabara per dirla in dialetto o mutatis mutandis per dirla in latino, le cose nell’isola, e nella provincia di Montelusa in particolare, non si cataminavano mai, magari se il barometro segnava tempesta. Citò, ed ebbe gioco facile, la frase saliniana del cangiar tutto per non cangiare niente...

The story’s title is revealed when Signora Luparello is speaking to Montalbano and advising him on the next steps in the investigation: “That is up to you to discover, if you so desire. Or else you can stop at the shape they’ve given the water.

The image shown below is the Italian version front cover. In copertina: Gonna a pieghe di Allen Jones. Collezione privata, Brescia.
La forma dell'acqua - Andrea Camilleri

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