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The Intellectual as a Detective

From Leonardo Sciascia to Roberto Saviano


Angelo Castagnino

The Intellectual as a Detective: From Leonardo Sciascia to Roberto Saviano offers a fresh perspective on both Italian crime fiction and the role of the intellectual in Italian society. By analyzing the characterization of men of culture as investigators, this book addresses their social commitment in a period that goes from the Sixties to today. The connection it establishes between fiction and real life makes this book an interesting addition to the debate on crime literature and its social function in Italy. The detectives created by Sciascia, Eco, Pasolini, Saviano and other novelists foster a reflection on how the narrative aspect of characterization has been used in connection with a historical perspective. Thanks to its broad scope, not limited to a single author, this book can be studied in undergraduate and graduate classes on the Italian detective novel, and it can be a helpful resource for scholars interested in characterization and the transforming figure of the intellectual in Italian society.
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Introduction: The Intellectual as a Detective

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The Intellectual as a Detective

This work discusses the character of the intellectual as a detective in the Italian novel from the Sixties to today, a period in which several novelists have used crime fiction in order to reflect on the social function of intellectuals, their relationship with the institutions and their recurring condition of isolation. It is possible to argue that the narrative aspect of characterization has been employed in connection with a historical perspective on culture and its role in Italian society, particularly considering how the solution of a criminal case in fiction symbolically refers to the quest for truth that real-life intellectuals undertake. Following a trend that is common to contemporary scholarship, subgenres that fall into the more general category of crime fiction, such as giallo, noir or detective novel, will be discussed together, although the distinctions that this terminology implies will not be underestimated. Such approach is necessary because the attention will be focused on the presence of a detective whose investigation is strongly based upon an intellectual approach, regardless of the specific subgenre in which this presence is verified.

The topic here analyzed is part of the discussion on the relationship between intellectuals and institutions in the Italian Novecento. Particularly after the posthumous publication of Antonio Gramsci’s Quaderni del carcere (Valentino Gerratana’s edition appeared in 1975), the social implications of the intellectual activity have been considered a compelling aspect of the construction of shared memory. Gramsci pointed out the necessity for...

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