Let me tell you a story that didn’t happen.
I repeat: this story did not happen.
Maybe it’s all for the best that it didn’t happen, but it could have happened...
Perugia has a population of 150, 000 people.
It has two universities, one of which caters specifically for foreigners.
Ten years ago, there were 35,000 students in Perugia, though the number has been falling steadily to the present 20,000 estimate.
It’s a pleasant town with a lively cultural scene. There’s plenty to do, lots of trendy places to meet. Everywhere you hear foreign voices, which strikes a strange note in a region like Umbria which is so essentially Italian. The main drag, Corso Vannucci, is crowded with young people. They sit in the bars and cafes, and on the stone steps of the cathedral, or Palazzo dei Priori which houses a fine collection of Umbrian and Renaissance art, keeping an eye on the talent. Perugia makes you think of every university town you’ve ever been to – students study some, and socialize some more. Life is one long party, and sometimes they drink. Or get high. Getting high is higher on the agenda these days, but having a drink or three helps.
Let’s just say there are a lot of pushers in Perugia.
And where there are pushers, there are customers.
So, one day – and this is a story that really did happen – an Italian boy, an American girl, an adopted boy who came originally from the Ivory Coast, and an English girl were thrown together in Perugia by the forces of fate, and the outcome was that the English girl was raped and murdered. The other three students were imprisoned and tried, and, after ‘great trials and tribulations,’ two of them were eventually found not guilty and they were released.
The boy from the Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede, remained in prison because he confessed to being present (and DNA evidence tied him to the scene of the crime). He was high that night, he said, his memory of events was uncertain. He may have been advised to confess by his lawyers. By doing so, he was given a shortened sentence. Last month, nine years into his sixteen-year sentence, Rudy was granted a 36-hour parole from prison, where his behaviour has been described as exemplary. On the 26th June, he walked out of prison, intending to buy, as I read this morning, a ‘chessboard, a bottle of perfume and a pomegranate’ before he goes back to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Rudy’s statement was odd – a pomegranate?
His sentence was even odder. He was found guilty of murder and sexual violence in ‘the company of others.’ Who the ‘others’ may be has never been determined, but that’s the Italian justice system. Rudy is serving time for a crime committed in his presence by others who have never been identified...
By a strange coincidence, the other boy in the case, the Italian who was declared innocent after five trials (having been found guilty the first time), was spotted in the centre of Perugia the other day. He was in Corso Vannucci, mingling with the students, Italian and foreign, in the company of The Pills, a group of comedians who run a Facebook page. The Pills wanted to take a ‘selfie’ with Raffaele Sollecito in the town where he was convicted, and then absolved, of the murder of an English girl named Meredith Kercher.
I imagined Rudy Guede walking out of jail to buy that pomegranate, and meeting Raffaele Sollecito...
What would have happened in this story that didn’t happen?
In dreams, the pomegranate symbolizes a rift between rationality and imprudent behaviour.
“Older voters got their way,” she complains after the Brexit vote. Then she quotes a naïve comment from the Financial Times website: “The younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 countries. We will never know the full extent of lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away (?) by our parents, uncles and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of its predecessors.”
This is sentimental claptrap.
There is no generational conspiracy to deprive the young of anything.
Indeed, rather than belittling the democratic lessons that might be learnt from the results of the Brexit referendum, Ms. Cosslett, siding with the deluded “us,” as she identifies herself and others, preaches a bland moral: take no notice, kids, you were right.
The truth is that the older generation have been contributing to European funding for 40 years. EC money comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket. The older generation has been paying for the Erasmus programmes, the foreign research and study exchange programmes, the costs of university tuition, the travel, lodging and accommodation expenses. That money could have been spent on the poor, the underprivileged, the unemployed. Instead, we’ve been financing a redundant European parliament in Brussels and its monthly weekend break in Strasburg (at a cost of only €7 million per trip) for far too long. That money could have been used to combat social injustice, instead of being frittered away by a band of complacent Eurocrats.
“There’s no point going into my own feelings,” Ms. Cosslett says. “I made that mistake after the general election and was mocked by right-wingers... If you are young and experiencing feelings of fury and heartbreak about the result, you are justified in doing so... This is one of those momentous turning points in our personal timelines; if you’re pissed off, you are right to be.”
This is riding the bucking bronco of rampant populism.
Why were Cosslett, the Guardian and the young not ‘pissed off’ before?
If the young want to influence policy, change the future, alter the balance, they can do one of two things: a) work within the political framework to change and improve it, or b) they can write silly blog articles for The Guardian.
I didn’t vote.
I’m a British citizen, but I’ve lived in Italy for the last 36 years.
I don’t feel sufficiently informed to vote regarding the British dilemma: Stay or Leave?
That’s why I have waited until this moment before expressing an opinion.
Everyone who has the right and the desire to vote will have done so.
Now the votes are being counted, and we’re all on the edge of our seats awaiting the outcome.
I would have voted to leave the European Community.
The murder of Jo Cox brought emotions into play which ought not to have influenced the way a nation approaches such an important referendum.
On such a serious and complex matter?
A referendum represents a failure of government, an avoidance of responsibility. Jo Cox may have fuelled some of the violent emotions which contributed to her death while canvassing for people to vote as she would have liked them to vote. Certainly, she fuelled the emotions of millions of people by her untimely death. But while her murder is tragic, its impact on the core question adds nothing to what we did, or didn’t know.
The vote is not for or against Jo Cox and the opinions she held dear.
The question is Europe, the future of Europe, the unity of Europe.
Does Europe exist as a community, as a union of confederate nations?
I believe that it does not.
Walls and barricades are going up all over Europe in defence of borders, and in defiance of the Schengen agreement. The lack of a unified European response to the question of immigration, an incapacity to assist genuine refugees, is a major political and social failure which will impact on the nature of every country inside the European ‘curtain’ in the coming years.
The abandonment of Greece, the heartless destruction of the Greek people, would have seemed appalling to Lord Byron, but now it’s the norm. The payment of Turkey to accommodate Syrian war refugees is cowardly and unsatisfactory.
The German government encouraged the flow – remember Merkel’s decision to ‘welcome a million (well-educated) Syrian refugees’ without consulting her European partners? Then, she changed her mind. That shift of policy pushed France, Austria, the Balkan states, and Britain to turn their backs on misery.
Is this political unity? Is this a caring community? Is this Europe?
Refugees won’t disappear. They have to go somewhere.
Indeed, the Mediterranean basin seems destined to become a dumping ground for the unloved and the unwanted. A two-tier European system? It exists already. Italy is overrun with so-called ‘boat people’ from Africa – the ‘rejects’ no European country wants – whose only resource is to beg, or labour under the burning sun picking plums or tomatoes for €1 a day.
Europe has created slavery, and turned its back on the problem.
At a political level, Europe has also failed to guarantee democracy.
Millions of lives were lost in the fight against totalitarianism seventy years ago, yet right-wing extremism is growing fast in Europe – in France, Poland, Austria, Germany and Britain. Italy – once a Fascist state – has been ruled by a Europe-approved oligarchy since 2011, when elected premier, Silvio Berlusconi, was rejected by the European Commission. It all began with The Economist (July 30th, 2003 – Is This Man Fit To Rule Italy?), and ended with a complicit smile for the tv camera between Merkel and Nicolas Sarkosy.
Five years later, there is still no sign of an Italian election on the horizon.
Europe doesn’t need elections.
A council of experts – non-elected yes-men – dictates the financial and political ‘road map’ (God save us from these mumbo-jumbo Anglicisms!) which the chosen representatives of each country must follow if they wish to keep their seats in Berlaymont, the home of the European Commission...
I could go on for hours, but will stop here.
I hope that Britain votes to leave the EC.
I hope that other countries will hasten to follow the British example.
Some books are big, thick, and heavy...
The problem is that big, thick books can become heavy in a negative sense.
It isn’t just a question of the physical weight you’re holding in your hand, the book spine bending and breaking as you leaf through the pages. It’s more a matter of information overload, the risk of growing bored as the reader struggles with too many names, too many scenes and more plot twists than he/she can remember with ease.
There used to be a wonderful book show on Italian tv called The Art of Not Reading. Two Italian crime writers, Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentino, talked about literature and books, the great classics especially, pulling volumes from their bookshelves in an informal and light-hearted way that was truly entertaining. One of the things they used to do – I remember Don Quixote getting this treatment – was to weigh the book on a pair of scales before going on to discuss whether the book was too long, too big, too heavy, and so on.
Cervantes got a drubbing, I recall.
The Cartel by Don Winslow is a big, thick, heavy novel.
I haven’t placed it on the scales, but it would weigh in as one of the heaviest books I have read in quite some time. And yet, it isn’t heavy in the negative sense. Not at all! Indeed, I would say that it is one of the finest books that I have read recently. Okay, there are too many characters, too many awkward Mexican names and nicknames. There are twists and counter-twists galore, and the story rages on and on for over 6oo pages, but... it isn’t heavy.
So, what’s the secret?
Well, it seems to me, quite simply, that Don Winslow set out to write a big book in every sense – a sprawling tale of drugs and crime, senseless murder and senseless revenge, and it all ties together in the end, because the story is so big, and its core is so personal, as one man sets out to wreak his just revenge on all those who have done harm to those whom the hero loves, respects, and has lost in the war against drugs. Indeed, there is hardly a wasted word.
How much does The Cartel weigh?
That’s what Fruttero and Lucentini would have asked as they pulled out the scales.
The answer is simple.
It’s worth its weight in gold.
We started blogging on 15th May, 2008.
Since then we have published over 600 articles on many topics.
The current count stands at 475 articles online, others having been removed and published as Kindle e-books, “Inside Italy” and Fifty Shades Deeper Inside Italy.”
But this it!
After 8 years, it’s time to stop, time for a change.
We are planning to update the website in the autumn – without or without a blog.
In the meantime, you might be interested in reading all or any of the following:
The Hanno Stiffeniis novels
CRITIQUE OF CRIMINAL REASON
DAYS OF ATONEMENT
A VISIBLE DARKNESS
The Seb Cangio novels
YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE
THE RIVER KILLERS
Recent short stories
THE ADVENTURES OF MORIARTY
THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF JACK THE RIPPER STORIES
IL CUORE NERO DELLE DONNE (Italian only, published by Guanda)
We would like to thank regular followers of the blog pages.
We’ve had a lot of fun!