gadda is one of italys greatest writers of the 20th century; and is virtually unknown in this country. he lived in rome during mussolinis "reign" and was a contemptuous opponent of the duce. his great novel (quer pasticciaccio nella via merulana, in italian) is a detective thriller about a robbery and murder in the via merulana. the hero is no hercule poirot, sherlock holmes or even philip marlowe; he is a jowly, frizzyhaired italian from the deep south (perhaps he has something of the appearance of our own antonio carluccio). he is unimpressed by "Authority" and is cleverer than the rest. does he get his man? read the book.
the book is a brilliant, joycean, evocation of the life of romans in the twenties; especially of humble romans. sometimes his descriptions remind one of dickens, sometimes of dostoevsky. he conveys this in the original by an effortless switch between demotic roman dialect and formal, educated italian; weavers translation wisely doesnt attempt to mimic this, so the reader loses out who cannot read the original. but the power of his writing is still apparent even to us anglophone readers.