The place and the moment are two important incentives to read the Italian, the new novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (newly released by Alphagua). The place is the Bay of Gibraltar. The British Territory, the line of conception, Algeciras ... The moment: 1942, the year in which it began to change the initiative in World War II.
"This place is a palimpsest of borders and characters, it is full of stories that are a wonderful raw material for a writer," explains Pérez-Revert on top of the Peñón. How to capture the essence of the enclave? The Gibraltar of 2021 seems one of those boxes full of twentieth-century memories that are buried with the hope that someone will find them within 500 years. Pueblo Pubs, Protected Housing Towers, Picturesque Townhouses, Old Refinements of the Empire, Casinos and Office Buildings in the style of Macao ... The whole has its charm, although only partly reminds Gibraltar of 1942 Pérez Reverte.
In the Italian, the Peñón looks more like the scenarios of the Sun Empire or 100 days in Beijing, than that of the James Bond's films. His Gibraltar is a poor, claustrophobic and besieged territory. Women and children have been evacuated and their place occupies the British military that get drunk and represent Shakespeare to kill the nerves before an imminent attack. Spain, the country that surrounds them, is, in theory, neutral territory. But in that "in theory" is the key. On the other side of the bay, in Algeciras, a group of elite elite submarinists prepares a blow against the rock.
"I thought there was more collaboration between Spain and Italy. There was a sympathy, a favoritism, but the forms were kept. Actually, Spain was never aware of that operation," explains Pérez-Reverte.
There is something that is important to clarify about Italian: many of the facts that the novel narrates are historical. Pérez-Reverte has researched them for decades with interviews with the survivors of that harassment and their children. "I was lucky enough to access the minutes that the 10th Italian Flotilla, the reports, where the divers explained each mission. They crossed the bay at night, swallowing sea water and breathing soda lime. It took three hours, in darkness, raising the explosions ... There is no fiction in the narrative of its operations, "explains Pérez-Reverte.
However, the characters who star their pages are perhaps the most idealized of all their work, the most attached to myths and classical gods. "In my books there are few love stories and when there are, they are bitter loves, here, love expires to life. Without love this story does not exist. This novel is a story of love, war and sea".
Three main characters support the Italian. Campello is a Gibraltar policeman and is the most Pérezrertiano del Book character: a contradictory man, phlegmatic, brutal sometimes and gentlemanship others. Elena is a Spanish library that launches the action and retains the mystery of the novel: Elena will become spy for a mixture of love, spite, pride and culture. TESEO, finally, is an Italian diver that has a name of Greek hero, as Elena, and that struggles for a cause may be wrong but in touching fraternity with his companions.
Elena and Teseo are explained by opposition. "TESEO is not that hero that tells its story and is in a position of power: On the contrary, it is a naked and clean hero, it is masculine, serious, quiet, does not have too much culture ... Actually, it is an uncle who does Gondolas represents a Mediterranean masculinity and even its sweat smells clean. But it is actually a man who only meets his duty. It is Elena's gaze that makes it hero. "
"Elena", the author continues, "Yes, it is a cultured woman who has been trained to recognize classic myths, to see a hero in TESEO." Recall: "TESEO is the Greek hero that entered the labyrinth. Elena walked the thread that would rescue him." And not only look: When the Italian action progresses, Elena enters into action and she becomes heroin.
Heroes even at the orders of the axis? "My readers already know that I do not make heroes that are white or black," says Pérez-Reverte. If they are heroes it is not because of the cause they serve but by some gesture of loyalty or value, for a moment in which, faced with their antagonists, the brave soldiers are recognized as similar and treated with nobility.
By explaining it with a practical example. The British soldiers of Gibraltar appear in the Italian crossing the Spanish border in search of prostitutes and drunkenness. The grotesque image of her will make Elena taken by the Italians, even though she was and her way of life had challenged Francoism and her fascist allies.
"This book is, fundamentally, a tribute to the Mediterranean homeland, the heroes and the gods, to the classic memory of southern Europe. When Elena sees on the beach a man dressed in black rubber, projects 3,000 years from Mediterranean memory and makes it Ulysses. But it is not only an idealization. In Cyprus I saw Aa the Cypriots flee and recognized Héctor and Andromaca ... whoever reads, sees, "explains the novelist.
There are two other incentives in Italian: the incredible audacity of the operation that the Italian Navy designed to hit the Rock. Very in summary, the assailants plan consisted of sending from Algeciras (eight kilometers from Gibrating Straight) several teams of two dresses mounted on manned torpedoes that would allow them to reach British waters and place their pumps in the helmets of the Enemy warships and flee to swimming. Obviously, it is easier to tell him to do it.
"I wanted to return the dignity to those Italians who have been portrayed a thousand times in films like cowards, as pathetic characters. Once I went with my father to the movies and we saw my best enemy, a movie in which the Italian was Alberto Sordi and It was a complete disaster. Upon departure, my father stopped and said: 'Do not be deceived, the story was not like that' "
The second incentive is the game of intrigue that the British unfolded, embarked on a struggle to the desperate to discover an attack whose method was indecippable. In that game, Campello, the Gibraltar police, Teso, the Italian Submarine, and Elena, the Spanish library, will have to cross at the penultimate pages of the book, as if they were in a scene of a classic movie that should not star in anyone who was Less than Vittorio Gassman and Ingrid Bergman.Updated Date: 22 September 2021, 16:13