Book Review: Readings

Massimo Carlotto


The Fugitive

by Massimo Carlotto

Europa, 162 pp., $14.95

It 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."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Book Reviews
<i>Presidio</i> by Randy Kennedy
Presidio by Randy Kennedy
For his debut novel, Kennedy creates a road story that portrays the harsh West Texas terrain beautifully and fills it with sympathetic characters.

Jay Trachtenberg, Sept. 14, 2018

Hunting the Golden State Killer in <i>I'll Be Gone in the Dark</i>
Hunting the Golden State Killer in I'll Be Gone in the Dark
How Michelle McNamara tracked a killer before her untimely death

Jonelle Seitz, July 20, 2018

More by Jay Trachtenberg
Top Books of 2018 for American Road Tripping
Top Books of 2018 for American Road Tripping
Two novels set on the open road and two accounts of life in Trump's White House all made for journeys deep into America today

Dec. 28, 2018

Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
80 local picks from Molly Burch to Brownout

Dec. 28, 2018


The Fugitive, Europa, Massimo Carlotto

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle