Gabriella Genisi (b. Bari, 1965) is a critically acclaimed author of fiction, children’s literature and mystery. Her Inspector Lolita Lobosco mysteries, which feature a busty 36-year-old Sophia Loren–Sabrina Ferilli lookalike, was adapted for TV by RAI with Micaela Ramazzotti in the lead role. The series has been described as “noir pieno di colori (noir full of colors)” for its vibrant representation of Southern Italy, specifically, Bari. Notably, Lolita was inspired by Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian Inspector Salvo Montalbano, which explains her big heart, sharp tongue and lustful nature (for men and for food, especially fruit).
In Gioco pericoloso (Dangerous Game), Lolita witnesses the death of the Bari soccer team captain during a critical match. Believing it to be a result of natural causes, she, like her fellow baresi (citizens of Bari), tries to move on from the tragedy. But then Vittorio Lamuraglia, a friend of her “ex ex,” dies in a suspicious accident. And when Lolita learns that the Public Prosecutor dropped the ball on his autopsy, she cries foul. Next she very publicly kicks off an investigation that unexpectedly uncovers a scandal of global proportions—a move that may cost Lolita her lover and her life.
The language of Gioco pericoloso is as intriguing and engaging as the mystery. Genisi writes in the regional Italian spoken in the Bari area, which includes colorful elements from the Barese dialect as well as colloquialisms, neologisms and Anglicisms. She sprinkles additional flavor into the dialogue with approximations, which are foreign words spelled in accordance with one’s native language, and univerbation, the practice of writing phrases as individual words to reflect local speech patterns. The result is a text that is as lively and audacious as Lolita herself.
tortano napoletano (Eng. Neapolitan tortano, a savory stuffed bread with salami and eggs, typically prepared for Easter)
Anzi no, domani gli faccio il tortano napoletano di nonna Dolò e glielo consegno a domicilio.
(Wait, no, tomorrow I’ll make him grandma Dolò’s Neopolitan tortano, and I’ll deliver it to him at his house.)
cornuta e mazziata (Ital. cornuta e picchiata; Eng. betrayed and beaten)
Non credo alle mie orecchie. Avvisaci? A casa mia? Come dire, cornuta e mazziata.
(I can’t believe my ears. Let us know? In my house? It’s like, betrayed and beaten.)
U sà còme se dìsce a Bàre?
(Ital. Sai come si dice a Bari?)
(Eng. You know what we say in Bari?)
A chillu santo ch’è nun fa miracule, nun’ s’appìccian cannèle.
(Ital. A quello santo che non fa miracoli, non s’accendono candele.)
(Eng. One doesn’t light candles for a saint who doesn’t perform miracles.)
spupazzando (Eng. spooning)
Tutto questo livore solo perché la ragazza si sta spupazzando il fidanzato tuo, non mi pare corretto.
(All this hatred just because the girl is spooning your ex boyfriend, it doesn’t seem right to me.)
lucchettari (Eng. an adjective for lock; refers to the practice inspired by Federico Moccia’s book, Ho voglia di te: lovers hang a lock on the central light post at the Milvio Bridge in Rome and then throw the key in the river.)
“Tieni amo’” le dice, come fossero due ragazzini lucchettari a Ponte Milvio.
(“Take it, love,” he says to her, as if they were two lock-hanging kids at Milvio Bridge.)
toppino (Ital. piccola camicetta; Eng. top + –ino (little) = little top)
E poiché si stava agitando nei corridoi del Palazzo, pretendendo di essere ricevuta immediatamente nientemeno che dal Questore, con una quinta/sesta in dotazione e un toppino striminzito a dover contenere il tutto, si rischiava la sommossa, il Questore ha dovuto, e sottolineo dovuto, riceverla.
(And because she was causing a commotion in the corridors of the building, demanding to be seen immediately by none other than the superintendent, endowed with a DD/F bust and a skimpy little top that had to contain it all, we were risking a rebellion. The superintendent had to, and I emphasize had to, see her.)
ammazzacaffè (Eng. literally, coffee killer, i.e., chaser; a liqueur drunk after coffee to kill it’s taste)
Intanto siamo arrivate all’ammazzacaffè, il sole sta calando e la stufa da esterni accesa sulle nostre teste non basta più a dare calore.
(Meanwhile we’ve arrived at the chaser, the sun is setting and the outdoor heater burning over our heads is no longer enough to keep us warm.)
occhei (Eng. okay)
Occhei Angela, facciamo così. Io mio calmo, ma tu mi fai capire bene.
(Okay Angela, let’s do this. I’ll calm down, but you help me understand.)
nossignore (Eng. nossir)
nonsisadichi (Eng. nooneknowswho)
Ecco perché quando stamattina, dopo il terzo caffè, realizzo che la notte scorsa ho sognato che Scatucci non è morto di morte naturale, nossignore, ma è stato ammazzato di nonsisadichi, mi precipito in ufficio.
(That’s why when this morning, after my third coffee, I realized that the night before I’d dreamed that Scatucci didn’t die a natural death, nossir, but was killed by nooneknowswho, I hurried to the office.)
Concluding Remarks: Gioco pericoloso is the fourth novel in the Lolita Lobosco mysteries. And while the cover may have changed (the previous three featured fruit), the substance is the same—simply fantastic. The Lolita books have it all: mystery, romance, comedy, even recipes. But the best thing about the series is the way Genisi weaves thought-provoking and often moving situations and commentary about the social, economic, and political state of Italy and her beloved Bari into the storyline. Her readers are always guaranteed not only a thrilling read, but also valuable observations about life and love.
In Translation: The Inspector Lolita Lobosco mysteries have not been translated into English. Owing to the continued success of the series, however, these translations may be forthcoming soon. Pazienza!
On the Internet: For more information about Gabriella Genisi, read my post on the second Lolita mystery, Giallo ciliegia (Cherry Yellow, or Cherry Mystery), and our 2012 interview. Also be sure to visit Genisi’s Facebook page. She does fun things like setting her dining-room table Alice-in-Wonderland style, so you won’t want to miss her photos.