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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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Chapter 2. Violence, Justice and Moral (Dis)Orientation

← 122 | 123 →CHAPTER 2


By stressing the differences between what he terms ‘crime novel’ and the ‘traditional detective story’, critic Julian Symons observes that the crime novel is based on the psychology of characters, or an intolerable situation that must end in violence (1993: 191–193). In the crime novel, the characters form the basis of the story and their lives are the focus of the plot, particularly during and after the crime, and their behaviour is important to the story’s effect. Furthermore, setting is central to the atmosphere and tone of the story, and is frequently inextricably bound up with the nature of the crime itself (as Chapter 1 illustrated), stressing the fact that the social perspective of the crime novel plot often questions certain aspects of society, law or justice. Given the wide range of crime novels which may contain these characteristics, including legal crime novels, spy crime novels, political crime novels and gangster crime novels, critic Martin Priestman helpfully identifies two broad groups of crime novels: noir and anti-conspiracy crime novels (1998: 34).144 According to Priestman, the narrative effects on readers are particularly relevant in this context as they emphasize present danger rather than investigating past action, and in order to create this danger in the present, the characters must be threatened by powerful external forces (1998: 43). In the Italian context, this transition is arguably reflected in the passage from giallo to noir.

In Chapter 1, this study concluded that, in his Lamberti series, Scerbanenco emphasizes the...

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