The philologist of the cold case – Corriere.it

from Alberto Casadei

Two unsolved crimes, irony, Sicily. Rosa Lentini, the researcher (by chance) created by Nino Motta alias Paolo Di Stefano, returns to “Girls too curious” (Bompiani)

After The Pizzuta hairdresser (2017), philology and irony also characterize the new research of Rosa Lentini, a scholar inserted in the university who, however, disappointed with that environment, is now more passionate about cases left without culprits. In Girls too curious of Nino Motta (Bompiani, p. 240, 17 euros), even the action is restarted a few months after the one that had led to the resolution of a cold case from 1956 in the imaginary Sicilian city of Pizzuta, where Rosa and her mother Evelina move from Milan for the summer holidays. But above all, in the new novel, check some information discovered by his friend Don Ciccio Drago, former commander of the carabinieri, about two murders that occurred in 1974. The first is that of Angelo Valvo, an engineer and then a related antiquarian. in the environments of the insurrectionary right, a character with a restless life full of mysteries. And while investigating that death, writing accurate and controversial pieces, young journalist Wanda Girlando is murdered, apparently for love reasons, but perhaps because she came to uncomfortable truths. Rosa, a scholarly researcher, is accustomed to examining manuscripts according to strict principlesfor the elaboration of the “shield codicum”, the graph that indicates the relations between the different witnesses of a work. But inconsistencies seem to prevail in life and the details are never put in the right place: thousands of pages compiled by investigators on the Valvo and Girlando cases have yielded no definitive results.


Rosa’s first motivation, in fact, is not to show more skill in examining court documents, but to correct mistakes, finding out, for example, what really happened to Wanda. So here’s that the philologist, in her police investigation, must overcome obstacles and reluctance,questioning witnesses several times, noting inconsistencies that eventually lead to a significant trail. In doing so, with the help of Evelina he dives into many areas of Sicily pare, between Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa, the provinces that declared themselves away from the mafias, and instead welcomed forms of crime and collusion even to unsuspected levels. But it is not a crime of denunciation or controversy that we should expect from the pages of Girls too curious (despite being based on authentic documents), but rather a smiling and bitter acknowledgment of some features of Sicilianness that have long been a metaphor for Italics in general.


It is necessary, therefore, to make explicit what many readers already know, that is, what the author indicated on the cover, Nino Motta, is a heteronym of Paolo Di Stefano,having been the main character in a 2003 novel of his, Everyone happy. Also in the latter, the protagonist returns from Lombardy to his Sicily to investigate, interrogating former comrades, about a disappearance that worried him, that of Santino Rocco, a child whose death, perhaps by accident, had caused Nino. In addition, since 2020, with the premiere of Noi, an extensive autobiographical narrative and a precise family fresco, Di Stefano has expressed strictly personal aspects of this return, through the various stories, to some constant nuclei, for example those of unjust deaths and necessity. to do everything to understand why.

After all, Rosa, like Nino, is another side of a relentless search: one would like to achieve the certainty that “everything is subject” and that the chaotic set of incongruent relations can be reduced to an essential graph,after removing the superfluous, useless noise from the repetitions. But there is no doubt that the patient collection of testimonies and the curious passion for what most have escaped are still not enough to understand the “contaminations” that often occur in human relationships as well as, in philology, between manuscripts. and manuscript: it seems that even the great critic Gianfranco Contini liked to repeat that the hidden facts remain much longer than the best ecdotic analysis can shed light on.

Philological rigor must therefore be married to the alienating flexibility of irony. And Motta-Di Stefano puts a lot of irony into his story – about the many Sicilian stereotypes (honor, horns …) and also about the many stereotypes about stereotypes – perhaps quoting Gadda and Camilleri or playing with etymologies and paraetymologies. Rosa Lentini points out in many ways how difficult it is to reconcile the tension to know exactly the facts and facts,and the need to deal with the infinite variables of an existence: even his own, fluid and marked by relationships with “divorced” men, always ready to disappear, and with his now autonomous and unsympathetic teenage daughter. But precisely the humorous spirit allows the protagonist, in alliance with her mother, a volunteer student and helper, to overcome even the strongest chess and move forward with air and a certain dose of rebellion against what everyone would expect from she.

It is then possible, in conclusion, to understand many of the crimes of 1974 and even more mysteries arise, for example with regard to another young woman, Teresa Carullo, who had already tried to shed light on those facts and had almost succeeded, but then she to find a premature death. Only what he had guessed would allow us to start the investigation towards a solution, and yet suspicions arise in the queue about what really happened to him. “Too curious girls,” as Wanda had been, may receive posthumous compensation thanks to the bitterness of philologist-detective Rosa, but her final codicum emblem leaves room for uncertainty. Basically, philology does not lead to a truth but to a plausible hypothesis from the data that have come down to us.and, if his method is applied to stocks, unfortunately there is much that cannot be verified. That is why Paolo Di Stefano, in fiction production, practices different types of writing, each of which faces events from its own angle. Here, between treacherous texts and clever mistakes, we follow the tasty and ironic reconstructions of one of his most successful avatar characters, the disenchanted and fervent seeker of justice (and perhaps, by itself, of some small happiness) Rosa Lentini.

June 17, 2022 (change June 17, 2022 | 10:50)

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