It was 1994 when Camilleri’s “The Shape of Water” was published. It was the first episode of Inspector Montalbano’s saga, which, after more than 25 years, is about to end. Truly the end of an era. In fact, exactly a year after Camilleri’s death, his last work “Riccardino” will be released just tomorrow. We, Montalbano’s fans, cannot be but absolutely thrilled to discover what kind of finale Maestro Camilleri imagined for his hero. Being very close to retirement, as we ave read in the last books, will he eventually leave his beloved Vigata to join Livia, his perpetual fiancèe,  in Boccadasse? Will he die in one of his missions?

I am pretty confident that Camilleri found a way to close the curtains without being predictitable. In fact, it was 2005 when Camilleri delivered the draft of “Riccardino” to Elvira Sellerio, his publisher, but with the promise to release it in an unspecified tomorrow. In 2016, after eleven years and 15 books, Camilleri returned to those pages because he needed to “fix” the language adapting it to the times. Nothing changed in the plot and not even in the title which remained identical. In fact, differently from the essential and evocative titles of the other books like “the Shape of Water” to “The Snack Thief”, Camilleri with “Riccardino” wanted to mark an end. A definite one.

As Camilleri recounted in an old interview, at one point of his life he had to tackle with the problem of the “seriality” of his novels. A problem that many noir writers have and that he had decided to solve by making Montalbano age, thus dealing with all the changes that this would have entailed and the times that he would have lived. But it was not enough, as there was also a superstition issue, he explained. His two friends, crime writers too, JeanClaude Izzo and Manuel Vázquez Montálban, who wanted to get rid of their characters, had died before them in the end. So “I came up with another idea“:

“I wrote the end ten years ago – the writer revealed surprisingly – I found the solution I liked and I wrote it straight away, you never know if Alzheimer then comes. Therefore,  fearing Alzheimer I preferred to immediately write the ending. The thing that makes me smile most is when I hear that the manuscript is kept in the publisher’s safe … It is simply kept in a drawer.”

He then added:

“Montalbano will end, when I end, only then the last book will come out. What I can say is that it is not so fiction , but rather metafiction where the Inspector talks to me and also to the other Montalbano, the TV one. »

When he was asked if he had planned to make Montalbano die in a shooting, he just said:

“Nothing like this will happen . Montalbano will not die. No autopsy. … He will go away, he will disappear but without dying.”

With these words we have a sample Maestro Camilleri’s craft in creating interest and suspance, as he mocks us pretending to spoil his finale providing his readers with some anticipations, but he is not. Montalbano will disappear without dying, where to? What does he mean? And, if he disappears, isn’t it like dying, after all? So, a day before being released, Riccardino is a hit already. I can imagine Camilleri sneer with satisfaction, while he is lighting one last cigarette.

Il telefono sonò che era appena appena arrinisciuto a pigliari sonno, o almeno accussì gli parse. ‘Riccardino sono’, disse una voce squillante e festevole, per dargli appuntamento al bar Aurora. Ma Montalbano non conosceva nessuno con quel nome… Un’ora dopo, la telefonata di Catarella: avevano sparato a un uomo, Fazio lo stava cercando. Inutilmente il commissario cercò di affidare l’indagine a Mimì Augello, perché gli anni principiavano a pesargli; aveva perso il piacere indescrivibile della caccia solitaria, insomma da qualichi tempo gli fagliava la gana, si era stuffato di aviri a chiffari coi cretini. Si precipitò sul posto, e scoprì che il morto era proprio Riccardino”. (Riccardino. Chpt. 1)

Facing the Uncertain

I have always followed a successful rule in my life: if you don’t know how to solve a problem, copy those who are better than you – and when possible, make some further improvements afterwards. The point is that for what concerns the reopening of schools in September, it seems that every country is tackling this burning issue without having any real clue. We’ll have to find our own way, I am afraid.

In the name of school autonomy, introduced in the Italian system about 20 years ago, the Ministry of Education has proudly given birth to a series of smoky guidelines, inspired , they say, by the principles of flexibility and simplification, which could be summed up as follows: “it is up to you”. In compliance with health indications, there should be daily or weekly shifts and class reorganization with a division into several parts;  lessons might be provided for groups of students of different classes (and even of different years) and reunification of similar subjects for common explanations.

According to the indications of the Scientifical Technical Committee, no more than 15 students will be allowed for each class ( 25 is the average), a distance of one meter must be ensured between the students and between them and the teachers. It might seem a difficult goal to achieve to anyone, but don’t you worry,  the Ministry has cleverly developed a “computer dashboard” with the data of the students of all the rooms available (classrooms, laboratories and gyms). Apparently they had no cadastral maps, how strange. The instrument in question should allow rapid intervention in the most compromised situations in collaboration with local authorities to offer alternative solutions. Moreover, according to the School Building Registry, there are 3,000 abandoned buildings to be recovered for educational activities. The lessons could also be held at locations such as museums, archives, theaters, etc. .

It would sound splendid, but I know how things work here unfortunately and there is one word that makes me doubt more than any other: rapid. Nothing is rapid as far as bureaucracy is concerned in Italy and in summer time in particular, even in emergency times. An example? In my school we have been waiting for the making of ten rooms for three years and it has been said that very likely they will materialize next January, so how could I expect that 3.000 abandoned buildings will be recovered for educational activities in two months only? Let alone how lessons could be held in museums, theatres etc. respecting the protocol distance or the consequent insurance matters.

This said, we are to divide classes, find new places, imagine on line learning integration, but what about teachers? How many teachers are required to make this plan come true? Twice as much? Can a country with 2.500 thousand euros of public debt afford such  a scheme? In my opinion there will be only 4 options for the future:

FANCIFUL: new buildings miraculously will be erected by August 31th just close to schools, so it will be conceivable to split groups and definitely solve the problem of overcrowded classes. Thousands of teachers will be hired putting an end to the problem of precarious employment in education. If possible, some increase in salary would be much appreciated.

AUSPICABLE: Covid vaccine is found and we will go back to normal.

POSSIBLE: the splitting of groups will necessarily have the consequence of making double shifts and finding new buildings, but if we mean to avoid night shifts, an integration with on-line learning will have to be planned.

CERTAIN: after the first Covid case, the school will be closed and we’ll go back to on line learning.

Mala tempora currunt sed peiora parantur. (bad times are upon us but the worst has yet to come”)