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Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Patience of a Spider

By the time I got to the final climax of this Montalbano book, tears were streaming down my face. Even long before this part, I had begun to sense the emotional center of Camilleri's narrative, the thing that has been stirring me deeply -- his utter lack of morals.

Earlier in this story, Montalbano encountered a woman who sells her body, along with fresh eggs on the side (clearly free-range and organic), to buy morphine morphine for her crippled, bed-ridden husband tormented by chronic pain. One can smell ... absolutely nothing! Not even a trace of judgment in the words --- not even the "Evil society has forced a good woman into shameful behaviors" or "What saintly sacrifice from a pure, moral woman who suffers for her husband." None. In a very plain and respectful tone, he implies to us that this is what she does naturally out of her heart and her instinct, with neither shame nor suffering -- actually, both the suffering and shame are one and the same, as one's suffering comes from the shame.

Then, in the finale, Montalbano expressed both his horror and understanding of another character's intense hatred. I was reminded of the natural, unobstructed, easy-flowing, pure and tender pity for every victim and even perpetrator in all the previous books in the series that I have read or listened to so far. For the first time ever I had a hint of the epiphany of finding God. This would be my kind of God, who looks on our follies and instincts and urges with a boundless kindness, a penetrating understanding, and an all-encompassing mercy that involves no judgment --- no absolution of sins because the word is nowhere in the dictionary. No judgment, no guilt, no shame. Anything that is in our nature has his complete and absolute acceptance, even the darkest and "evilest" and the worst elements according to our own laws. Thus Inspector Montalbano represents a kind of symbol for the kind of God I would like. An indifferent but understanding and accepting universe.

As I gobble down these installments one by one, a growing and astounding realization slowly dawns on me. These people, these characters, they kill, they lie, they harm each other, they help each other, they sacrifice, they do either noble or horrible things, sometimes both, out of intense love, hate, greed, desires, hope, but nothing they have done is driven by shame and guilt --- two very motivators I see all around me all my life, within pretty much everyone. Their minds do not have at least two voices fighting with each other, one crying out "I want this I must do this I have to have this" and another saying "No, it is bad. Only bad boy/bad girl do it. You are a bad boy/bad girl for even thinking it." They never need to suppress a natural part of themselves, including Montalbano who constantly says the wrong thing to his girlfriend Livia, makes her mad, and then they always make up. They may be tormented by love, hate, unfulfilled desires, a burning urge for revenge, but they are never tormented by the tiny voice of judgment in their head: "This is immoral and you should be ashamed of yourself." They do not have internal conflicts --- common to everyone else --- between their natural instincts and external rules, which tell them, from the day they were born, "No! Wrong! Bad!" There is no "should", no "must", no "ought to".

In other words, they have no super-ego.

Thus they have no need for self-deception and self-discipline and self-suppression.

Open sky, open sea, open land. Flow and drift in the powerful waves of nature, of which our nature, our instincts and desires, are a part. There is no feeble consciousness falsifies reality. No little judge in the head constantly stands on guard against oneself.


A curious quirk of Inspector Montalbano is his sleeping cycle. He sleeps at completely random times: sometimes for a wink from 4:30 am to 6 am before being awoken by Catarella's phone call, sometimes in the middle of the afternoon sitting on his veranda while looking out to the sea, sometimes on his couch. But he always meticulously eats great food with clockwork regularity, even when Adelina is not cooking. Not once have I seen him being described as "wolfing down a hamburger/hot dog" while rushing to a crime scene. Unlike Wallander. :D

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