Italians’ interest in the character of Salvo Montalbano was ignited with The Shape of the Water, published in Sicily by Sellerio in 1994. At that time, Camilleri was already a 67-year-old pensioner having left a successful career as a director and TV author.
Andrea Camilleri, the Sicilian author behind the popular Inspector Montalbano television series, has died aged 93.
One of Italy’s best-loved writers, he had been admitted to a hospital in Rome last month after a cardiac arrest.
The crime writer was best-known for his detective books starring inspector Salvo Montalbano based in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigàta.
The adapted Rai TV series was loved in Italy and became popular in the UK, US, France, Spain, Germany and Australia.
Camilleri lost his sight in recent years but said in 2017 it had allowed him to picture things more clearly.
“Am blind, but losing sight made all other senses come back to life,” he said. “They have come to the rescue. Memory has improved, and remember more things than before with great lucidity, and still write.”
He turned violence into humour
Camilleri and Inspector Montalbano changed people’s minds about Sicily.
Together, over a period of 25 years, they transformed a grim landscape of mobsters and mafia violence to a light-hearted, humorous, food-focused near-paradise of an imaginary town called Vigàta.
No other mystery plots have narrated the Sicilian “gioia di vivere” (joy of life) so effectively and with such a colourful protagonist: a detective whose days involve morning swims, spaghetti with clams and an onslaught of hilarious malapropisms from an illiterate receptionist at the local police station.
Where else can find a coroner with a secret passion for cannoli, the cream-filled tubes of Italian pastry.
For London-based Sicilian writer Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Camilleri is “by far the greatest Sicilian writer since the Second World War”.
“He should have been put forward for the Nobel prize,” she said, adding that he was “a man of great intellect, of immense culture and strong and unwavering left-wing principles that, if anything, grew over the years”.
“His passion for justice and support of those less fortunate, be they poor Italians or refugees or boatmen coming from Africa, never wavered.”