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Giorgio Scerbanenco

Urban Space, Violence and Gender Identity in Post-War Italian Crime Fiction


Marco Paoli

The works of Giorgio Scerbanenco repeatedly articulate and explore the implications of new forms of criminality that emerged in Italy’s post-war transformation towards its «economic miracle». An indepth analysis of Scerbanenco’s Duca Lamberti series constitutes the critical focus of this study, and in particular the psychological resonances of the role played by the author’s controversial representation of the urban space, its violence, (in)justice and gender roles. In what way do these elements heighten and/or exaggerate the nature of the criminal acts and the reader’s experience? This study therefore investigates a reader’s potential response to the content, the settings, and, above all, the characters Scerbanenco portrays in these four novels.


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This study showed that the Scerbanenco’s Lamberti novels ac- curately and critically articulate and explore the implications of emerging forms of criminality, closely linked to Italy’s post- war transformation and, in particular, to its economic miracle. Scerbanenco’s engagement with socio-economic, political and ethical issues, such as urbanization, capitalism, violence, justice, crime and gender identity, suggests that his works are intellectu- ally and socially committed, although they have never been per- ceived in connection with the post-war tradition of impegno. In fact, it is arguably Scerbanenco’s multifaceted and anarchic (a)political, ideological and ethical approach, his versatility as a popular fiction writer and his prominent roles within leading women magazines that has marginalized him. This is because he does not adhere to a monolithic notion of impegno which, in the Italian context, is gen- erally related to “a specific historical period – from the late 1940s to the 1960s – during which cultural and political leaders con- verged on a shared project, based on strict ideological premises”.1 Throughout the post-war period, impegno was associated with the notion of political hegemony, and intellectuals such as the engaged writer (or filmmaker) had to shape collective consciousness, and co-opt individuals into a communal project for global transforma- tion and revolutionary change. As Pierpaolo Antonello and Florian Mussgnug put it: the ideological and political power of the so-called chiese – Catholicism, Communism and Fascism – envisaged a top-down approach to cul- tural formation, and which cultivated a largely patronizing attitude towards the so-called ‘popolo’, very rarely seen as...

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