Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gialli- Italian mysteries

As elsewhere, mysteries or thrillers are among the most popular of genres in Italy (not a country of big readers.) The Italian name for mysteries is gialli, from the fact that traditionally the cheap paperback thrillers were a bright yellow. I've never been a big fan of this sort of book, with the exception of the Sherlock Holmes canon. Interesting to note that Conan Doyle himself disparaged his sleuth stories as compared to his other work.

But what was once a minor and even scorned genre has taken on new importance and credibility as society and our lives increasingly take on a noirish (or for the Italians, yellowish) tinge. Italy, like England, is a good setting for this sort of thing. With England, you have the contrast between the historically repressed, formal and oh-so-civilized veneer and the raging human badness/madness underneath. With Italy, you have the even greater contrast between the unequalled beauty, art, and sensual enjoyment, all in a sunny clime with exuberant people, and the ruthless brutality and darkness at its foundations.

There could be no better introduction to this world than the site Italian Mysteries. It is a thorough compilation of thrillers set in Italy, and thus includes both Italian works available in English and the numerous English-language books set in Italy. The webmaster has taken the time to provide painstaking ratings. If you are learning Italian and like mysteries, it might be a good idea to explore the Italian authors in the genre, perhaps investing first in dual copies (translation and original Italian) until you can read the Italian on its own.