Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Dreaming of George Smiley
From reading his books and from reading/listening to interviews with him, it is very clear Andrea Camilleri loves crime fiction. In his third Inspector Montalbano novel, The Snack Thief, a nocturnal encounter with John le Carre and George Smiley helps Montalbano to crack a case:
Apparently, in his sleep, one part of his brain had kept working on the Lapecora case. Around four o'clock in the morning, in fact, a memory came back to him, and he got up and started searching frantically among his books. Suddenly he remembered that he'd lent the book he was looking for to Augello, after his deputy had seen the film made from it on television. He'd now had it for six months and still hadn't given it back. Montalbano got upset.
"Hello, Mimi? Montalbano here."
"Ohmygod! What's going on here? What happened?"
"Do you still have that novel by Le Carre entitled Call for the Dead? I'm sure I lent it to you."
"What the fuck?! It's four in the morning."
"So what? I want it back."
"Salvo, I'm telling you this as a loving brother: why don't you have yourself committed?"
"I want it back immediately."
"But I was asleep! Calm down. I'll bring it back to the office in the morning. Otherwise I would have to put on my underwear, start looking, get dressed-"
"I don't give a shit. You're going to look for it, find it, get in your car, even in your underwear, and bring it to me."
He dragged himself about the house for half an hour, doing pointless things like trying to understand the phone bill or reading the label on a bottle of mineral water. Then he heard a car screech to a halt, a dull thud against the door, and the car leaving. He opened the door: the book was on the ground, the light's of Augello's car already far away. He had a mind to make an anonymous phone call to the carabinieri.
Hello, this is a concerned citizen. There's some madman driving around in his underwear...
He let it drop. He started leafing through the novel.
The story went exactly as he'd remembered it. Page 8:
"Smiley, Marston speaking. You interviewed Samuel Arthur Fennan at the Foreign Office on Monday, am I right?"
"Yes . . . yes I did."
"What was the case?"
"Anonymous letter alleging Party membership at Oxford . . ."
And there, on page 139, was the beginning of the conclusion that Smiley would arrive at in his report:
"It was, however, possible that he had lost his heart for his work, and that his luncheon invitation to me was a first step to confession. With this in mind he might also have written the anonymous letter which could have been designed to put him in touch with the Department."
Following Smiley's logic, it was therefore possible that Lapecora himself had written the anonymous letters exposing him. But if he was their author, why hadn't he sent them to the police or the carabinieri under some other pretext?
. . .
Thanks to Smiley, it all made sense. He went back to sleep.
This reminds me that I still have a lot of John le Carre to tackle, including Call for the Dead. But for now, back to Camilleri.