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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Late Night News

In a Brunetti book (Donna Leon, Venice) I had come across an advert about another series of detective stories, this time set in Greece, and written by a native Greek, Petros Markaris. I think the book is called 'Late Night News' but I read it in German where it's called 'Hellas Channel'. The English edition has an unfortunately lurid cover page - with that I would never have bought it; the German edition shows the Akropolis.

This'll be a bit of a 'compare and contrast'....

This book does not have the same class as the Commissario Brunetti books, and neither does the chief detective, one Kostas Charitos (Haritos in English). He's a bit of a Rumpole character, stricken with a difficult wife, and having all the time to manoeuvre around her watching TV detective stories, and around her moods (though his are also not so easy).

Unlike Brunetti, who is an educated gentleman with morals, Charitos is a bit more of a bruiser, but then he has gone through the Greek police system at the time of the Colonels when you just beat up the suspects. He does not, generally, use the delicate approach, but is happy to abuse his suspects: 'Zimtzicke' ('cinnamon goat') - I wonder a bit about the quality of the translation. Funnily, though, Charitos/Haritos has a penchant for dictionaries, and on returning home each night he retires to bed with a dictionary for a while. That must have given the translator heart attacks, translating Greek dictionary definitions....

Also unlike Brunetti (or Morse) it does not describe the beauties of Athens; probably my friend Helene, who lived there for a year or two, will tell me that there is no such thing...but Brunetti spent much of his time contemplating the gorgeous vistas of Venice (though my friend Helene, who was in Venice in February, did not care for that so much either).

Finally unlike Brunetti he is not a gourmet, but prefers to eat street food. But he has a better relationship with his boss, though it starts off with difficulty, but the boss has amazing talents for working his way round problems.

Generally, though, the story is good, and it gives an insight into Greek life in general; the hang-overs of the colonels' period, the immigration of the Albanians, how people move about in society....but it does not have the class or the style of Brunetti. And of course it's possible for us to read the Donna Leon books in the original language.

And talking of which, it seems that the latest Brunetti book, 'Through a Glass Darkly' (a quote from somewhere, no?), was rather late in being published, due to Leon tearing up the first attempt, which was too full of her views of Italian environmental politics. Her books have had a similar effect on Venice that the Morse books have had on Oxford, where people with the books in their hand, traipse all over Venice, looking for the little nooks and crannies she has described rather too accurately. Apparently she is refusing to have them translated into Italian....

3 comments:

varske said...

You can add Belgrade as well, though I do have some friends there to make it better.

varske said...

I don't know these Brunetti books, I must buy them for some summer reading.

I assumed it was Andrea Camilleri's detective but then I checked and his is called Montalbano. I can recommend those, as they have food, Italy and interesting descriptions on life in Sicilian small town life.

varske said...

Should read the post properly in the first place to know who the detective is. Don't think I've read any Donna Leon.