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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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4. Injustice, Memory and Death in the Novels of Antonio Tabucchi

← 106 | 107 → Chapter 4


The construction of the intellectual as a character is prominent in the novels that gave fame and editorial success to Antonio Tabucchi in the mid-Nineties. Indeed, both Sostiene Pereira (1994) and La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro (1997) are structured around figures that relate to their own condition of men of culture in such a way to allow a reflection on the function of the intellectual in society. As JoAnn Cannon has remarked, the Portuguese setting of these novels does not represent a limit to their interpretation, because the topics presented in this part of the production of Tabucchi (such as power, injustice, death, shared memory) can be certainly considered of universal scope (The Novel as Investigation 3). While La testa perduta di Damasceno Monteiro follows more strictly the structure of a detective novel, its characterization of Firmino as an intellectual has much in common with the construction of Pereira, and an understanding of both figures is therefore necessary for discussing how intellectuals react to the injustice they witness.1

The most evident reflection that emerges from the analysis of Firmino involves the relation between the humanist and the abuses through which power is administered. The character of Firmino embodies two separate aspects of being an intellectual: he is a reporter for O Acontecimento, a newspaper mostly relying on gossip and stories of moral decay and crime, but his inner nature is more inclined to scholarly research, and his dream is to publish a study about the influence of...

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