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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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Venere privata (1966) introduces the protagonist, Duca Lamberti, in the opening pages. Lamberti is a physician who has been struck off by the Italian Medical Association (Ordine dei Medici) for a case of euthanasia, for which he has spent three years in prison. As soon as Lamberti is released from prison, Càrrua, a chief inspector and friend of the protagonist’s father, helps him find a job. Davide Auseri, son of wealthy engineer Pietro Auseri, an entrepreneur in the plastics sector, is an alcoholic who spends most of his time isolated from the outside world. Lamberti’s job is to help the young man to stop drinking, and understand the rea- sons for his behaviour. Shortly afterwards, Lamberti discovers that Davide Auseri thinks he should be held responsible for the suicide of Alberta Radelli. One year earlier, Auseri had met Radelli on the streets of Milan, and they had spent the day together, driving on the motorway, but as soon as they were back in Milan the girl had started panicking and had appeared so nervous and hysterical that Auseri had dropped her off in Metanopoli, on the south-eastern periphery of Milan. The following day, Davide had read in the newspaper that Radelli’s body had been found in Metanopoli and that she had committed suicide. Subsequently, Auseri finds a small unidentified object in his car which Lamberti identifies as a Minox camera film. Once the film has been developed, its contents are revealed: erotic photographs of the naked body of Alberta...

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