“A Saturday, with friends”: Camilleri's non-mystery returns to bookstores


By John

It made the stories grow Andrea Camilleri, skilled weaver of directions, builder of stylistic features, a master who is sometimes Manzonian and Sciascia-like in penetrating the cracks of history by consulting archives and documents for his historical-social novels, sometimes Voltarian in observing, even with the cipher of irony, reality, the facts of everyday life which, starting from a detail, reveal the truth of moral degradation, drifts of cynicism and corruption, of insatiable greed (money, sex and power) in the habitual compromises of human beings. Ideas that would become novels, television dramas – fiction as they say today, including the epic of Inspector Montalbano – , theater show. A destiny, that of telling stories, ever since he wrote poetry of a social nature as a boy (he was a reader of Mayakovsky); ever since, as an adult, he took care of the black and white dramas of the old TV, like some extraordinary Maigret with Gino Cervi, and was passionate about the characters' characters.
Andrea Camilleri had done many things in his life, and certainly the director for most of his time on earth, then with his Montalbano he had become the “Camilleri case”, however in his inexhaustible narrative treasure chest there was not only Vigàta and the stylistic features of an invented languagebut other novels written in clear Italian and with strong narrative tension.

Like the one of «A Saturday, with friends», published for the first time by Mondadori in 2009 and now reprinted by Sellerio with a beautiful afterword by Nicola Lagioia. «It's not a detective story – writes Salvatore Silvano Nigro on the cover flap – even if the bulk of a corpse is not lacking with the questions it raises, in the margins of a fake and murky attempt at blackmail”. But there is not “just” a corpse, there is much more, explained right from the title (the comma after “Saturday” is of strong allusive value), dialogue after dialogue, scene after scene: abuse, sick sex, intrigue, failures that end up plaguing the characters.
At the center of the plot is a reunion between friends on a Saturday, a topos which cinema has often drawn on: They have known each other since they were children, they were schoolmates, and despite the childhood traumas that more or less affected everyone, and which they were unable to process, they have become adults apparently well placed in professions and in a high-class social life. But there are secrets, double lives, cynical conformisms, which dramatically resurface on that Saturday: all triggered by the sudden return of a friend of whom they had lost track. A “theatre of cruelty – writes Lagioia – built by Camilleri in a surgical and ruthless way” around these boys who have become “monsters” as if through a horrible mutation, between vulgarity, cynicism, malevolence, envy, and “an unbridled individualism, together with double dealing and blackmail”. A bitter metaphor to speak of the Italian people, Lagioia suggests, by those who, like Camilleri, after the disaster of fascism he experienced, had hoped «in the possibility that the Italians (from subjects, subjected, conquered, forced to jump through hoops fiery) would become a free, liberated people.”