An amoral anti-hero for Italian Lit Month

 

The Goodbye Kiss by Massimo Carlotto

Translated by Lawrence Venuti

There’s dark, and then there’s dark! You know what I mean, we’re talking the super-noir of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me or Simenon’s Dirty Snow here…  Lean and mean novels with an amoral anti-hero at their hearts.

This is the case for the protagonist of Massimo Carlotto’s The Goodbye Kiss (Arrivederci amore, ciao),  published in Italy in 2000, translated in this edition in 2006.

Giorgio Pellgrini is a wanted man as a political extremist in the country of his birth. He has been hiding out in Central America with a guerilla group, but that turns sour too when he is ordered to execute his compatriot.

“Why me?” was the only question I asked myself.
“Because you’re Italian too.” He spoke with a vicious tone that wouldn’t stand any backtalk. “You came here together, and you’re friends. It’s better if this thing stays in the family.”
I nodded again, and the next night I pulled the trigger. Nobody in the camp said a thing about what happened. They were all expecting it.

After this Giorgio decides to return home, via Paris where he threatens Sergio to find a solution for him.

“We’ve conferred and decided to make you a proposition,” he began. “Your conviction is a done deal… We’ve convince a comrade with a life sentence to confess to your role in the bombing. … The lawyers say it should work. But you have to get used to the idea of doing some time.”

He does his time, a couple of years only – he ratted on his compadres too. However the world he is released into is changing. He’s offered a job as a bouncer at a lap dancing club near Treviso, working for another informer.  He starts creaming off the girls’ tips, to build up a nest egg, he finds a widow to put him up. Then the police want his help again… on a big drugs deal, it’ll end up with the club closing, and he’ll have to make himself scarce again.

He decides to go straight. To find a restaurant to run – he has plenty of money now, but the penal code requires him to maintain a spotless record for a full five years before he can regain his civil rights and be rehabilitated officially – he needs another two years and a bit of luck, which will need extricating himself from the grip of the corrupt cops. Sante Brianese, a shady lawyer, will sort him out for a considerable chunk of his dodgy stash. Giorgio is slow to realise that the lawyer will start to pull his strings once the cops are out of the way!

Giorgio really is a nasty piece of work, a womanizer who despises relationships, a killer and crook, an opportunist, totally self-obsessed, a man of zero morals. The way he treats the widow in particular was despicable. He narrates the novel in the first person, Carlotto giving him a matter-of-fact, spare style of talking to us which comes over very well in the translation. While I hated Giorgio, I did enjoy reading this short novel, and may look out more of Carlotto’s work, including a sequel to this book. (8.5/10)


Source: Own copy from the TBR

Massimo Carlotto, The Goodbye Kiss, trans Lawrence Venuti. (Europa Editions, 2006) flapped paperback, 144 pages.

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