The journals interview: on the 25 th anniversary of her first crime fiction, the Commissario Brunetti author reveals how she is responding to dark times
Cultured, shrewd, honest and fit Commissario Guido Brunetti the more-or-less-ideal guy who is the hero of Donna Leons tremendously successful series of 26 detective fictions set in Venice begins her latest book Earthly Remains by faking a heart attack. Pushed beyond his limits in an interview with a high-end lawyer suspected of international crimes, and who he belief his favourite junior peer, Pucetti, was in the process of perforate, Brunetti gasps for breather, collapses on his pal and ends up on the floor.
It is a wild gesture by the policeman who is more often in elegantly attired power. But it is characteristic, too, in that chivalry and protectiveness both for the lawyers young female victim and for his younger peer are the immediate induce. Brunetti, as this novel opens, cant take any more.
I think hes get darker, hes more vexed by things, says Leon, wished to know whether she thinks her creation who has admirers ranging from Ursula Le Guin to Theresa May among millions of readers in 35 countries has evolved over hour. This year differentiates the 25 th anniversary of her first Brunetti novel, and Leon, who will be 75 in September, is full of enthusiasm for life.
Brunetti, she points out, is still the same guy: He reads, he has a sense of fun and irony, hes happily married, “hes having” nice kids and a decent life, I knew when I first wrote about him that I wanted him to be someone I like. But he is not immune to the wickedness and venality that surround him, and we have verified him investigate dozens of slaughters in plots that, with their historical, watery fixeds, sometimes experience a little bit closer to fairytale than police procedural.
His shortlived breakdown, Leon anticipates, is linked to a change in herself. Its because Ive become darker, she says. I go of happy people and am by nature a happy person, I wake up cheerful and go to bed cheerful but intellectually my eyesight is very bleak.
It turns out that the predatory lawyer and his young victim, who might have been the center of another story, are here not the phase. The moral dishonesty of the city is not what is bothering Leon. Instead, it is the dishonesty of the lagoon. The first suspicious extinctions Brunetti stumbles on, formerly he has been packed off to regain on the nearby island of SantErasmo, are those of bees. Earthly Remains already praised in the New York Times as one of her better symbols Leons coming-out as a writer of eco-detective fiction.
I dont care about politics except how it will have an impact on ecology. It seems to me that more and more people in positions of ability have decided they wont concern themselves with it; that global warming is inconvenient and so they wont talk about it. People with kids, Im astounded they arent armed. I cannot understand the passivity of people in the face of this I get agitated.
Leon voices agitated. A spry, slim figure, she talks and gags animatedly about opera, philanthropy, US and Italian politics, how Venice has changed in the decades since she moved there, her charmed life: Its enjoyable because it was nothing I ever wanted I was never driven or taught aspiration as a kid. My parents just said travel been a good education, have a decent living and have fun, which was miraculously visionary for people in 1950 s America.
But Leon, whose Spanish name is her paternal grandpas her other grandparents were Irish and German has a social conscience. Her parents, who were Catholic, taught her that to poll Republican was a mortal sin and her new novel is dedicated to the liberal US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
It turns out they are friends, having satisfied when Leon took the magistrate and her husband Marty out to dinner in Venice as a favour, after received information that Marty was a fan.
Now she writes Ginsburg letters, because its the only place you can write things and nobody is going to know what you say. Shes all thats between us and them, she adds. I have such respect and desire for her and I would have those sympathies as an American even if I didnt well known. Shes so brave and so smart.
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