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Chapter 3 shows that in the Mediterranean novel, food becomes a powerful tool through which Mediterranean writers deconstruct homogeneous national identities and celebrate transculturality in the Mediterranean area. In spite of significant differences, some common traits emerge. These include the representation of eating and drinking habits as a collective practice that involves an extended family, including non-national individuals often belonging to the Mediterranean basin; the portrayal of meal sharing as an event that facilitates communication among different cultures, and a way to celebrate a more extensive Mediterranean culture and identity; the use of food as a tool to present a critique of assumed formulations of regional and national identities; and finally, through the contrast between tradition and modernity, food is used to express anxiety for cultures perceived to be under threat from external, and often global, forces. The chapter concludes that food in Mediterranean crime fiction celebrates unity and a common culture in the Mediterranean area, bringing down national borders and expressing once more the transcultural nature of Mediterranean crime fiction.
Chapter 6 argues that in the Mediterranean crime novel, women are scrutinised by the male gaze, their body parts being vivisected and objectified by the male detective. Focusing the investigation on the male detective and on male teams, these series fail to acknowledge societal changes in terms of female participation in work and society at large. Violence against women is frequent in these narratives, but is never framed in terms of gender violence but of racial and political (or state) violence, if not diminished into an individual crime caused by greed or deviance. The female writers analysed in this monograph also fail to address gender issues convincingly. Both Giménez Bartlett and Aykol centre their series around a female character. Yet these characters simply replicate the male gaze and objectify male characters. They are also constructed as postfeminist women who are commercially motivated and mistake consumerism for liberty. These series also fail to address gender violence, replacing the female as a victim of patriarchally engineered socio-political inequalities with the representation of villainous mother figures capable of emotional manipulation, violence and murder.
Chapter 4 argues that by being imbued with a complex transnational identity that predates the formation of the current nation-states, the Mediterranean detective investigates the processes of democracy and rhetoric of nationhood from a disenchanted perspective. A common history of colonialism, dictatorship and a difficult transition to democracy have spurred Mediterranean crime authors to problematise periods of political uncertainties during which Mediterranean peoples had to adjust to a recently gained liberty and overcome the trauma of dictatorship. Typically, through the investigative act, Mediterranean narratives highlight an historical ‘short circuit’, related to the passage from different forms of dictatorship to democracy, which has lasting effects in terms of illegality and corruption on the present. Indeed, these narratives imply that the disturbances of the present day can only be understood in reference to the events that led to a flawed decolonisation or democratisation. This chapter also shows how some authors return to the very origin of the new state and expose the violence, illegality and exclusionary practices that lay at the core of their foundation.
The Conclusion highlights that there are common characteristics and trends that allow us to talk about ‘Mediterranean crime fiction’. Partially belonging to the family of European crime fiction, Mediterranean crime fiction is more exclusive, because it excludes northern and central European crime fiction. At the same time, it is more inclusive because it includes northern Africa and the Middle East. This book's approach considers southern European, northern African and eastern Mediterranean crime fiction as part of a common tradition, and more importantly gives each component equal significance. It avoids suppressing cultural diversity and contributes to a decentred crime fiction universe by creating a centreless map that does not point at specific countries or cities but at the liquid mass of the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, it shows how Mediterranean crime fiction contributes to the development of the crime genre at large with a concern for environmental issues, a complex discourse on identity and historical responsibilities, and a celebration of transculturality in a genre known for portraying conflict, violence and divisions.
This chapter shows that due to the old configuration of the Mediterranean city and decades, if not centuries, of political corruption, Mediterranean detectives are confronted with a problematic urban environment, which they blame on political greed and laissez faire capitalism. Alongside this negative perception of urban development, through their work and private life, Mediterranean detectives attempt to resist a dominant culture of exclusion, and experience and build transcultural spaces where history and culture are shared. The Mediterranean detective feels a sense of belonging to the different communities that populate the Mediterranean city. By interacting with different people and ethnicities, and by inhabiting inter-class, transcultural and inter-ethnic places, the Mediterranean detective constructs an urban environment that overcomes stereotypical representations of the city as a dangerous and divisive place. Finally, this chapter shows that a focus on the Mediterranean Sea, as an ‘in-between’ space of both clashes and exchange, adds a new literary map in which traditional postcolonial distinctions between ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ are overcome.
Chapter 5 argues that, because of the specific transcultural history and culture of the Mediterranean area, the Mediterranean crime novel articulates a criticism of prevalent ideas of homogeneous national identities that disregard complexity, and instead of unifying, fracture and alienate cultures and individuals. It contends that Mediterranean crime fiction contributes to the discourse on identity with a sophisticated, multilayered analysis that develops at three levels: national, postcolonial and supranational. What brings together these different discourses on identity and belonging is the theme of internal Orientalism, that is, the tendency of nations or regions to view the cultures and religions to some of their parts ‒ typically the South and East ‒ as more conservative and primitive. As this chapter argues, building on a discourse started in Chapters 1 and 3, the Mediterranean novel reflects the discriminatory cultures and practices of the nation-state and advocates for inclusion. In so doing, they provide a counter-narrative to the current political moment in Europe and in the world, which is marked by stasis, borders and exclusion.
This chapter argues that, in spite of inevitable differences, Mediterranean detectives are liminal characters who belong to minority cultures and often need to negotiate their sense of belonging with the hegemonic culture. All the identity variations present in Mediterranean crime fiction are symbolic of the complex network of cultures, identities and influences that characterise the Mediterranean area. The liminality of the detective speaks of a rich and diverse cultural and literary arena in which a national hegemonic culture is often – but unsuccessfully – politically superimposed. It also speaks of a desire to unsettle the populist rhetoric that sees ‘fortress Europe’ at the centre and northern African and eastern Mediterranean countries as periphery. Chapter 1 also highlights how Mediterranean detectives are ‘intellectual’ detectives who refer to Mediterranean history, culture and myths. This characteristic has a double function: on the one hand, it emphasises transculturality as a key feature of the Mediterranean basin; on the otherhand, it promotes a discourse on the dignity of crime fiction.
The Introduction positions this book as part of the new critical move to map and interrogate crime fiction’s transnationality. The main point is to combine a sustained focus on individual texts and their particular local and national contexts with a broader, comparative approach that explores the ways in which the translation, circulation and reception of crime fiction within the Mediterranean basin produces a more complex portrait of the genre than would be possible if one just focused on national crime fictions as discrete entities. This chapter argues that by considering southern European, northern African and eastern Mediterranean crime fiction as part of a common tradition, and more importantly giving each component equal significance, this book contributes to the debate about the Western and Eurocentric dimension of world literature. This introduction also argues that, for the relatively limited dimension of the region as opposed to the global, a regional approach is able to give close attention to particular languages and specific texts, while at the same time providing ‘peripheral literature’ with more critical mass and cultural power.
Contributing to the growing debate around the definition of Mediterranean noir, Barbara Pezzotti's groundbreaking study is the first in English to propose a rigorous classification of Mediterranean crime fiction. Intersecting crime fiction studies and Mediterranean studies, this interdisciplinary book provides a coherent and stringent definition in which the Mediterranean setting is not in the background, but is a meaningful arena where transnational space, globalisation and environmental issues are discussed; questions of regional, national and transcultural identity are investigated; and the themes of gender and violence are tackled. Pezzotti offers new ways of reading established crime novelists, such as Andrea Camilleri, Jean-Claude Izzo and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, alongside less well-known writers. To date, no other book-length study has taken a transnational and transcultural approach to these authors, and here Pezzotti invites us to consider the wider Mediterranean dimensions of their crime narratives, beyond their national contexts.
Scholarship underestimates the role publishers have played in making crime fiction a popular genre worldwide. This chapter analyses the origins and development of crime fiction collections like the Italian I libri gialli (The Yellow Books), the French Série Noire (Black Series), the Argentinian Séptimo círculo (Seventh Circle), the German Goldmanns Taschen-Krimis (Goldman’s Pocket Crime Novels) and the British Green Penguins, among others. It argues that crime collections have enabled popular culture to gain a foothold in often hostile and elitist literary environments. It highlights how, by translating foreign crime novels, they have adapted crime tropes into a local context and facilitated the establishment of local traditions, thus facilitating crime fiction’s global reach. It also suggests that crime collections have sometimes performed an act of resistance towards cultural hegemony. Finally, it argues that, by fostering both imitation and innovation, they have helped create a network of mutual influences that has resulted in new forms of crime fiction, turning the genre into transnational and transcultural literature, that is, world literature.
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