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From a Place in the Heart of Darkness


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This talk examines historical crime and detective fiction set against the background of Italy’s colonies in East Africa. Furthermore, it aims at investigating a tension within the tradition of Italian crime fiction, and, more specifically, of historical crime fiction. On the one hand, by shedding light into the darker corners of Italy’s past, the genre aims at serving as a sort of “new social novel”; on the other, the conventions of detective fiction can hamper the reconstruction of complex experiences such as that of the Italian “impresa coloniale”. A detailed discussion of Giorgio Ballario’s novels featuring the Major of the Carabinieri Aldo Morosini (2008-2012), Davide Longo’s Un mattino a Irgalem (2001), Luciano Marrocu’s Debrà Libanòs (2002), and Andrea Camilleri’s La presa di Macallé (2003) will show how for contemporary Italian writers, Africa continues to be an empty space upon which to project European fantasies, even when their intention is a critique rather than a celebration of empire.

Somigli is Professor of Italian Studies at University of Toronto, where he is a fellow of Victoria College and an Associate member of the Centre for Comparative Literature. He is the author of Per una satira modernista. La narrativa di Wyndham Lewis (1995); Legitimizing the Artist. Manifesto Writing and European Modernism, 1885-1915(2003) (winner of the 2004 prize for best book awarded by the American Association for Italian Studies); and Valerio Evangelisti (2007).