July 31, 2012

Film review: Rounding the Mark (Inspector Montalbano, 7)

Hersilia Press @ 3:56 pm

This is the seventh episode in the Montalbano series, and the first which hasn’t (yet) been shown on the BBC. I’ve watched it on a DVD in the original Italian.

Camilleri is usually more neutral than other Italian writers in his political and social stance, but in this episode the difference with his usual detachment is quite striking. It opens with Montalbano wanting to quit, and a shouting match between the disillusioned commissario and his second in command Mimi Augello, retorting that by leaving he would disappoint all his hard-working and honest colleagues, with all their shortcomings, rather than the corrupt higher echelons of a system he doens’t believe in.

This follows a real episode during the G8 conference in Genova in 2001, where the police broke into a school (Scuola Diaz) which had become the headquarters of the activists and a huge confrontation ensued, resulting in 93 arrests and 61 casualties (some of which remained in critical conditions). The police forces were accused of excessive use of violence and further trials saw members of the forces condemned for a number of criminal acts ranging from lying under oath to fabricating evidence. All in all, a very embarrassing chapter for the Italian police.

The Camilleri story also touches upon the problem of illegal immigration and human trafficking. While on his daily swim Salvo finds a dead body floating in the water. The time it has been in the water is inconsistent with the condition of the body itself, but all elements seem to point to the victim been a criminal from another area of Sicily. By chance, Salvo’s friend Ingrid recognises the dead man as an ex-lover of hers, and gives Salvo some vital elements for solving the case.

In the meantime, Salvo goes to the landing place of a boat of immigrants and sees a child running away from his mother; he convinces the child to go back and go to the hospital with his mother, but then discovers that they had not gone there. The child is then killed in a hit-and-run and Salvo believes it wasn’t an accident. This leads him to find the organiser of a human trafficking ring where children are used in all sorts of unsavoury activities, from begging to becoming unwilling organ donors.

I enjoyed this episode, which has all the typical Camilleri elements – food, sunshine, Montalbano’s morning swims in the sea – as well as some social commentary on recent facts (the book was originally published in 2003, relatively shortly after the G8) which I found rather welcome. As in all the other episodes, the quality of acting is rather inconsistent: Luca Zingaretti, playing Montalbano, is excellent, and so are the main characters, but the actors playing minor characters are often quite bad. Technically, the films aren’t great either, but the views are wonderful and the stories entertaining: i think they are a great way to spend a relaxing evening in front of the tv.

Filed under: Italian crime fiction

July 26, 2012

Can you help?

Hersilia Press @ 9:28 am

There’s a lot of talk about supporting small businesses, buying local and generally trying to counteract the huge power of corporations in many economic areas. As you all know, Hersilia Press is very small and although it can boast a number of faithful supporters, it needs your help. All that we are asking you only takes a couple of minutes of your time. And if you want to buy the books, especially in an indie bookshop, we’d be delighted!
So here’s what you can do if you want to help us and our authors grow:

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Undoubtedly there are a million other things you can do to help small businesses and debut authors, but since we don’t have a huge marketing budget we count on our readers to spread the word. We need to let people know about our books, and there’s no better way than personal recommendation. So if you are passionate about crime fiction, translation, Italy or books please consider taking at least one or two of the actions listed above. We need our readers’ help to continue!

Bookish thanks,



Filed under: Italian crime fiction

July 17, 2012

Use your language, use your English

Hersilia Press @ 12:20 pm

This is the title of the translation summer school which was held last week at Birkbeck College. I was invited there on the Thursday for lunch as the provider of one of the short stories that the students were working on: Scarpette Rosse by Alfredo Colitto. The story is set in Italy during the Second World War, and as well as being an excellent piece, it is an interesting one to translate. At first sight it appears really easy but there are a number of connotations clear to an Italian reader which are rather difficult to convey in another culture: for example the term “capo-manipolo”, one of the ranks in the Fascist police force.

As well as meeting lovely young translators from Italian (and other languages!) it was great to see how everyone is really passionate about their job – I’ve been long familiar with translation and the translator’s work, but it still amazes me how much thinking and skill is needed to make a text flawless.

The afternoon saw an editing session with the brilliant Alexa Alfer, who made us think hard about finding the right balance of intervention when editing a text – managing to make the session interesting and very funny.

Later on, Shaun Whiteside and Kevin Halliwell participated in a translation slam on a text from Pinocchio. For those of you who’ve never been to one such events, in a translation slam the same text is translated separately by two different people and at the event the two translations are compared and discussed. AS well as being interesting to see the different sub-text that each professional attached to the given task, the two participants made it a very fun analysis of the semantics of mouldy pies, talking crickets and the pains of hunger.

The atmosphere was great, I met a lot of new people and saw a number of old friends, and I would certainly recommend the school to anyone with an interest in translation. Next year, I might even join myself as a participant!

Filed under: Alfredo Colitto,translation
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