Nadia Morbelli (b. Genova) is not your typical Italian fiction author. For one thing, she’s a paleontologist. For another, she’s the protagonist of her debut novel, Hanno ammazzato la Marinin (They killed Marinin) (Giunti, 2012), in which she describes herself as “secca come un’acciuga (dry as an anchovy, i.e., thin)” with fire red hair. And for an interesting twist, Morbelli mixes elements of two literary genres in Hanno ammazzato la Marinin, the romance and the regional mystery. The result is a fascinating hybrid: an Italian chick lit regional mystery!
In Hanno ammazzato la Marinin, it’s the night before Easter, and Nadia has just returned home to Genova from a combined business and pleasure trip to Naples. As she relaxes in a hot bath, the power goes out in the middle of a severe storm—but only in her building. Three days later, Nadia finds the police at her door. During the blackout, her nagging neighbor Assunta Mammoliti, known to everyone as “La Marinin,” was murdered. For Detective Prini, it’s an open and shut case: she was killed by a thief caught in the act. For Nadia, however, questions remain—not only about the murder, but about her relationship with Prini.
The language of Hanno ammazzato la Marinin is as fresh and fun as the novel. Morbelli writes in a extremely colorful regional Italian, which includes both dialect and regional terms from the Genova area. There are also quite a few borrowings from other languages, my favorite being the unique Italian use of the phrase beauty farm to mean spa. Most interesting, however, are the many uses of neologisms, prefixes, and slang, all of which provide insight into everyday life and leisure in Northern Italy today. The result is an intriguing and entertaining read.
battitine u belin (Ital. fregatene; Eng. forget about it or don’t give a damn about it)
Sulla maglietta un grosso smile giallo campeggiava sopra la scritta «don’t worry, battitene u belin!».
(On the T-shirt a big yellow smile stood out above the writing “don’t worry, forget about it!”)
ciattella (Ital. pettegola; Eng. a gossip)
Che ciattella incredibile! Mai che si occupi degli affaracci suoi!
(What an incredible gossip! She never worries about her own damn business!)
ceto (Genovese cetu; Ital. pettegolezzo; Eng. gossip)
In caso contrario avrei solluccherato l’orgoglio materno offrendole su un piatto d’argento l’opportunità di essere lei, una volta tanto, il pusher di un cetofresco fresco da spacciare alle amiche attempate.
(Otherwise, I would delight her maternal pride by offering her on a silver platter the opportunity to be, for once, the pusher of extremely fresh gossip to spread to her elderly friends.)
casatiello (Neapolitan, a savory Christmas cake)
Meno male che a Napoli avevo comperato un casatiello e due mozzarellone di bufala, sicché il problema del secondo era in parte risolto.
(Thank goodness I had bought a casatiello and two large buffalo mozzarella in Naples so the problem of the second course was partially resolved.)
agée (a French term in the feminine plural meaning elderly, but used in this context as a delicate way of saying old, i.e., of a certain age)
Con indosso i classici “ori” da signore agée: la collana a cordoncino con un ciondolo della Madonna della Guardia, assieme alla fede del marito, buon’anima, oppure un filo di perle.
(Wearing the classic “jewels” of women of a certain age: the cord necklace with a pendant of the Madonna della Guardia, together with the wedding ring from the husband, good soul, or a strand of pearls.)
Aperta la porta, il poliziotto si era lasciato scappare un bel sorriso che andava a illuminare un volitivo mascellone american style.
(As soon as the door had opened, the policeman flashed a handsome smile that illuminated his large, volitive, American-style jaw.)
leopardate (literally, leoparded, a past participle created from the noun leopardo, or leopard)
Pensa che la tua amica, qui, ieri è arrivata a casa con un paio di scarpe leopardate. Alla sua età!
(Just think that your friend, here, came home yesterday with a pair of leopard print boots. At her age!)
palestrato (literally, gymed guy but used to mean muscular guy, an adjectival participle used as a noun, created from the noun palestra, or gym)
Materializzata in un bel ragazzone abbronzato e super-palestrato con i capelli rapati quasi a zero.
(Materialized in a handsome tanned and super muscular guy with his hair shaved almost completely.)
stra-che-acquisito (Eng. more-than-acquired)
Neanche per uno stupido bagno che è un diritto stra-che-acquisito, e da decenni, per ciascun occidentale degno di questo nome?
(Not even for a stupid bath that is a more-than-acquired right, and for decades, for every Westerner worthy of the name?)
super-grigliata (Eng. super grill, as in a super cook out)
Perché avevamo intenzione di inaugurare la stagione del barbecue con una super-grigliata.
(Because we had planned to inaugurate the barbecue season with a super grill.)
ti sta sul culo (literally, he’s on your ass, but used to mean you don’t like him)
Diciamo che a te l’avvocato sta sul culo.
(Let’s say that you don’t like the attorney.)
mi sta dietro (literally, he’s behind me, but used to mean he’s after me in a romantic sense)
Secondo te davvero mi sta dietro? Prini, intendo.
(Do you really think he’s after me? Prini, I mean.)
Concluding Remarks: Hanno ammazzato la Marinin has the shoes, love interest, candlelit baths, and happy-hour gossip fests that I’ve come to expect from chick lit as well as the intriguing murder essential to the mystery genre. Of course, I immediately bonded with Nadia when she wore five-inch-heeled violet-colored pumps with a matching leather jacket. And I identified with her all over again when she described a waitress’s black-sequined tennis shoes as “a controsenso che meriterebbe un accurato studio antropologico (an absurdity that would merit a careful anthropological study).” But what I really love about this novel is the distinctly Italian settings, food, and familial relationships and the fact that an educated postmodern woman goes toe-to-toe with the police in solving crime.
In translation: As of right now, Hanno ammazzato la Marinin has not been translated into English. But I’m hoping that an English-language translation is forthcoming because Nadia is one cool mystery-solving chick.
On the Internet: If you would like more information about Nadia Morbelli, check out her Facebook page (right now Jessica Rabbit is her profile picture). You can also listen to Morbelli discuss Hanno ammazzato la Marinin in a super cute book trailer by visiting Giunti Editore.