Sellerio has established a rock solid reputation for publishing quality literature with a regional feel, and its latest release, Ferragosto in giallo (2013), is no exception. Like its predecessors Un Natale in giallo (2011) e Capodanno in giallo (2012), this sizzling hot collection of gialli (mysteries) centers around a specific holiday. In this case, the mysteries all occur on Italy’s August 15th holiday Ferragosto, a term that derives from the Latin Feriae Augusti (Festivals of Augustus).
Ferragosto in giallo is a great beach read. But if you can’t get away from the office for an August vacation, then these mysteries are the perfect mental escape from the hellish heat. Why? Because they’re the work of the best mystery authors in the business: Andrea Camilleri (b. Porto Empedocle, 1925), Gian Mauro Costa (b. Palermo, 1952), Marco Malvaldi (b. Pisa, 1974), Antonio Manzini (b. Rome, 1964), Francesco Recami (b. Florence, 1956) and Alicia Giménez-Bartlett (b. Almansa, 1951), whose story was translated from the Spanish by Maria Nicola.
Thanks to the diverse origins of its authors, Ferragosto in giallo is a linguistic and cultural gold mine. It contains a number of dialects and virtually all of the varieties of Italian. There are also a lot of stylistic elements that make these mysteries that much more fun and fascinating to read.
zabetta (Ital. pettegola; Eng. [a] gossip)
Non c’era nemmeno la signorina Mattei-Ferri, la zabetta del condominio, che sul fatto che qualcuno guardasse la televisione a tutto volume in ambienti di uso collettivo avrebbe avuto senz’altro qualcosa da dire.
(Notably absent was Miss Mattei-Ferri, the gossip of the complex, who, about the fact that someone was watching TV at full blast in a common area, would have without a doubt had something to say.) (Recami)
VARIETIES OF ITALIAN
There are nine varieties of the Italian language. For a comprehensive list of these varieties with corresponding definitions, click here.
Iddio (Ital. Dio; Eng. God)
Caro Schiavone, ringrazi Iddio che non la cacciano dal corpo di polizia.
(My dear Schiavone, you should thank God that they’re not kicking you off the police force.) (Manzini)
capocciate (Eng. head butts)
Hanno sfondato il vetro, preso a capocciate un’impiegata, afferato i soldi e scappati a piedi.
(They smashed the window, took out a female employee with some head butts, grabbed the money and escaped on foot.) (Manzini)
arrivista (Eng. social climber)
Luca odiava il direttore, Turrini. Un pezzo di merda arrivista che pensava solo alla carriera.
(Luca hated the manager, Turrini. A piece of shit social climber who only thought about his career.) (Manzini)
in disparte (Ital. da parte; Eng. aside)
Le metta in disparte. È un ordine.
(Put them aside. It’s an order.) (Camilleri)
dispositivo (Eng. device)
Allora, in pratica la sigaretta elettronica contiene un sensore: un dispositivo in grado di rilevare il flusso dell’aria, e quindi di accorgersi di quando lo pseudo fumatore aspira.
(So, in practice the electronic cigarette contains a sensor: a device capable of detecting the flow of air, and therefore of registering when the pseudo smoker inhales.) (Malvaldi)
iponatremia (Eng. hyponatremia)
Potresti andare in iponatremia, cioè carenza di sodio nel sangue, e sviluppare un’encefalopatia letale.
(You could go into hyponatremia, or lack of sodium in the blood, and develop a lethal encephalopathy.) (Malvaldi)
mi a detto (Ital. mi ha detto; Eng. s/he told me)
Di fatti un collega mi a detto che le cose per lei mica si stanno mettendo bene.
(In fact, a colleague told me that things aren’t looking good for you at all.) (Manzini)
REGIONAL ITALIAN (of Sicily)
sminchiato (from the Sicilian noun minchia, or dick, but used to mean Ital. rotto; Eng. broken) Abbiamo un piccolo gruppo elettrogeno. Ma da qualche settimana si deve essere sminchiato…
(We have a small generator. But it must have broken a few weeks ago…) (Costa)
Two entertaining artistic devices commonly used in Italian literature are univerbation (writing a phrase as a single word) and approximation (spelling a foreign word as it sounds in one’s native language).
fijodenamignotta (Ital. figliodiunaputtana; Eng. sonofawhore)
Se poi lo prendete quel fijodenamignotta me lo faccia sapere.
(If you end up catching that son of a whore, let me know.) (Manzini)
slofùd (Eng. slow food)
Vuoi vedere che questi pasti slofùd non solo ti fanno morire di fame, ma ti fanno pure ingrassare?
(What do you want to bet that these slow food meals not only make you die from hunger, but they even make you fat?) (Costa)
Concluding remarks: Mystery novels, detective fiction, thrillers, noir and the like represent a study of society. This is why mystery collections like Ferragosto in giallo are terrific cultural resources. Short story collections are also ideal for beginning and intermediate students of Italian. So, regardless of your level, consider picking up a copy of Ferragosto in giallo for your reading and language-learning pleasure.
Note: Costa gets the credit for using one of the most interesting words in the book: ambaradan (Ital. guazzabuglio; Eng. confusion or chaos). This term is a compound of Amba Aradam, a mountain in northern Ethiopia that served as the site of a 1936 battle between the Italians and the Ethiopians.
Possibly the best line in the book comes from the ever-hilarious Malvaldi, who describes one of his characters as “fuori luogo come un porchettaro in una sinagoga (as out of place as a pork seller in a synagogue).”
In Translation: The authors represented in Ferragosto in giallo have been translated collectively in more than thirty countries. With any luck, this collection, as well as the other novels in the Sellerio holiday mystery series, will eventually be translated into English.
On the Internet: For more information about Ferragosto in giallo and its distinguished authors, visit the Sellerio website.