“La boffa allo scecco”, the latest novel by Roberto Alajmo is an “anti-police” with the most unlikely of detectives


By John

Third “involuntary” investigation for Giovanni Di Dio, known as Giovà, the clumsy night watchman of Partanna born from the pen of Roberto Alajmothe journalist, writer and playwright from Palermo who in this series paints the dramatically grotesque aspects of a Sicily always halfway between tragedy and light, between stunning beauty and blunting degradation.

Antiphrastic from the title, “The boffa to the scecco” (Sellerio editore) follows “I didn’t want to come” and “The strategy of the opossum”, an “unconventional detective story” that leads the reader to smile (the tragicomic as a peculiar feature of the narrative) and then to ask himself, at the end: but was I right to smile at this story? Here, then, is that the author’s Sciascia-like conviction that all truth is an imposture not yet demystified is more bitter than ever in this “investigation” in which in the ambiguous boundary between truth and justice, between victim and perpetrator, between evil and banality , everything is played.

Giovà, who shares not only the onomastic assonance with the Sicilian mask of Giufà, is about to fall into a new trap and be, in fact, the “fool” of the situation, the donkey on which finally falls the “boffa”, or the slap of the popular anecdote. And yet, although always suspended between a bulimic hunger, a Candido-like amazement and an oblivious sleep, although everyone, including family members, considers him foolish, Giovà manages to “solve”, by heterogeneity of ends, the criminal cases in which he finds himself, pulled into the middle by a mafia for a laugh (therefore even more frightening in Alajmo’s antiphrastic reading), while he would only like to live “peacefully” between work (provided for him by Zzu, the boss of the township), takeaways forbidden by his mother Antonietta’s diet of boiled zucchini , and his fifty-year-old baby cot.

Yet this third investigation, with four killed, seems to confirm how poor Giovà lives in that no-man’s land between the State and the counter-Statein which the banality of evil (illegal trafficking, drugs, crimes, violence, exchanges of “favors”) infiltrates even among good people.
Giovà’s matriarchal family also lives in that murky land: Antonietta, who loves the son of a cruel love, her vanished sister Mariella, the accommodating aunt Mariola, the gossipy neighbor Mariangela. A powerful Aristophane chorus whose femininity and refuge in everyday life are not enough to save themselves (the scene of the preparation of the “sarsa” and the tomato “abstract” is admirable), they too victims-bait like Giovà, and without any hope of redemption.