A novel, or perhaps a memoir, recounting years in hiding abroad after a conviction for murder in Italy.
The publisher maintains that Carlotto, a master of Italian noir (Death’s Dark Abyss, 2006, etc.), has produced another “vibrant novel.” But the narrator, one Massimo Carlotto, sure sounds like the author, and the facts of the case, insofar as he’s willing to share them, sound indistinguishable from the 1976 murder conviction that sent the author to prison, into a legal maze of appeals verdicts, reversals and regime changes, and finally off to Mexico before he was sent back in 1985 for more of the same before his pardon in 1993. When Carlotto (the narrator) focuses on his time on the run, he’s immensely entertaining. Adopting a tone of scorching sarcasm—the coyote who betrayed him to the Mexican authorities is “that well-known kidder”—he describes his life as “an accidental fugitive” with no plan and no resources, the succession of false identities (Bernard, Lucien, Alberto, José, Jason, Max) he made part of his repertory, his chagrin at purchasing tableware and bed linens he knows he’ll soon be leaving behind, his harrowing ten-day search for a friend’s child lost in the Mexico City subway and the illness that almost killed him in prison and colored every move of his life outside (“If you have to become bulimic, Paris is the right place for it”). The resolute avoidance of strict chronology allows the narrator to avoid describing the original crime he was convicted of or saying very much about the endless rounds of legal wrangling that followed. That’s probably just as well, because when he talks about socialism or camaraderie, he’s prosy and boring (“I met and became friends with wonderful people, who helped me to grow as a person”).
Contains moments of tedium. Overall, though, a powerfully dreamlike evocation of life on the lam.