Andrea Camilleri, Riccardino [Small Richard]
(Palermo: Sellerio editore, 2020)

The phone rang just when he had managed to drift off to sleep, or at least he seemed to hear it, after hours and hours spent in vain tossing and turning in bed.
In the end, only a blank sheet of paper was left in front of him. So he understood what remained to be done.
This is the answering machine of the Author. I am not home. Leave a message with your telephone number after the tone. Your call will be returned.
Montalbano here. Acknowledging that our over ten-year partnership has gone down the pan, it has deteriorated to the point where you have manipulated another character, the chief of police, so that I can’t solve the case my way, I have made a decision. If you take my place in investigations, it means that I am turning into a deadweight.
And so I’m leaving.

Translated by Jessica Sanfilippo-Schulz

The first extract is the opening sentence of the final Commissioner Salvo Montalbano novel and the second extract is from the very last page of the book, which was published in Italy on 16th July 2020, exactly one year after the death of author Andrea Camilleri. The Sicilian protagonist is once again woken up by a phone call. Whilst phones are increasingly used for text messages, Montalbano still prefers using his landline for conversations in a mixture of standard Italian and Sicilian dialect that is typical for Camilleri. Montalbano frequently speaks on the phone with his long-term, long-distance girlfriend Livia, or the comical police officer Catarella. In Riccardino, Montalbano even talks to his creator over the phone. During these dialogues, Camilleri expresses his discontent with Montalbano’s mode of investigating. Montalbano, on the other hand, is ironically dissatisfied with his creator’s choices, such as the novels’ television adaptations and his television impersonation. At the end of the story, Camilleri does not answer the phone and Montalbano leaves a last message on the author’s answering machine. The line seemingly keeps breaking off. Ultimately, and sadly for all fans, both line and words are literally cut off and Montalbano’s voice and Camilleri’s inventive language are muted forever.

by Jessica Sanfilippo-Schulz