Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: THE FUGITIVE, by Massimo Carlotto

The Fugitive, by Massimo Carlotto. Published 2007 by Europa Editions. Nonfiction. Memoir. Translation.

Author Massimo Carlotto is widely considered to be the "King of Mediterranean Noir," one of the most popular authors in Europe of gritty, dark crime fiction. I'm a big fan of his; I've read everything he's published with Europa Editions and I'm always looking for more. The Fugitive is a memoir he wrote about his life on the lam in the 1970s basically. Before he was a crime writer, he was an innocent man convicted of murder at the center of a famous and widely discussed case that helped change the Italian system of jurisprudence. He was convicted, then he was acquitted, then he was convicted again, and then he ran. He ran to France and then to Mexico, where his journey ended and he was sent back to Italy where he turned himself in. Then he received a presidential pardon and his life took yet another turn.

The book covers his case from beginning to end but focuses on the years he spent in hiding. Parts of it read like a virtual how-to on how to live underground. He played different characters in his attempts to blend in- a tourist, or a businessman, or an intellectual. He hung out with revolutionaries and political types, with artists and writers and with ordinary people on the margins like himself. He conducted love affairs and friendships. He witnessed heartbreak, death and horrible things. He became ill in prison and nearly died. But eventually he was vindicated.

The Fugitive is a fascinating and addictive read. The narrative doesn't always stay on track chronologically; he veers from topic to topic sometimes, and one reviewer hit it on the head when he said that the book reads like the conversation you would expect to have with Carlotto over a leisurely Italian dinner with lots of wine and plates passed around. His tone is casual yet there is an urgent emotional undercurrent that works to keep the reader's interest. He comes across as desperate and scared and lacking control, a man who is always trying to maintain control of his life and often failing.

Even if you've never read his novels (which you should do now, by the way) his memoir is a great snapshot of a time and place, of what it was like to be underground and part of a community of political activists and others barely tethered to society as most of us know it. Some of it will break your heart, like the story of a couple he knew in Mexico who literally lost their young son one day in Mexico City, or the anonymous German man who died in Carlotto's Mexican jail cell, who knows why. If you do like his novels, The Fugitive is required reading but it's a riveting great read for true crime fans just the same.


This is my fifth book for the 2013 Europa Challenge!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from Europa Editions.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, both the book and the author sound fascinating! I love memoirs.

Zibilee said...

I like how readable and conversational it is. I haven't read anything by this author, but it seems as if this is a must for me. I like memoirs, just like Kathy, and this one sounds like it has so much tension and action (albeit maybe the quiet kind). I would love to read this one. Thanks for putting it on my radar, Marie!

Lindsey said...

This sounds interesting. There are so many movies about people being framed but who would have thought it actually happens like this?