Book Review: Readings
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., June 8, 2007
by Massimo Carlotto
Europa, 162 pp., $14.95It wasn't long after Massimo Carlotto fled his home in Padua, Italy on the advice of his attorneys to avoid a prison term that he came to realize that being a fugitive was, in its own way, "a prison without walls." Convicted of trumped-up murder charges, his case would become the longest and most controversial in Italian judicial history, starting in January 1976 and finally ending with a presidential pardon in April 1993.
It wasn't until his legal nightmare had ended that Carlotto started writing. He has since become the acclaimed author of crime fiction best known for his Alligator series and recent novels The Goodbye Kiss and Death's Dark Abyss. But the first book he wrote following his ordeal was this slim autobiography, initially published in 1994, which puts a human face on the toll of his years living as a fugitive in exile. In his youth, Carlotto was active in the left-wing group Lotta Continua, and through these ties he connected with fellow international expatriates in the underground. He lived first in Paris, a haven for political refugees, and then in Mexico City, where he was eventually betrayed by a Mexican lawyer and abused in jail before being sent back to the Italian authorities.
Although he makes his feelings clear regarding the endemic corruption within the Italian legal system, Carlotto largely avoids discussing the complicated and serpentine particulars of his legal case. Instead, he uses a sharp wit and paints a vivid picture of life on the run, complete with an array of colorful characters and harrowing escapades experienced along the way. Most telling perhaps is the emotional trauma he had to endure, be it trying to maintain close personal relationships or battling a life threatening psychosomatic manifestation in the form of bulimia. Carlotto would spend seven years in prison before his release, but the years behind bars and his experience fighting the legal system would provide him with a wealth of firsthand information and personal acquaintances he has since used in writing his "Mediterranean noir."