Reading Michael Dibdin
文章來源: 7grizzly2022-07-12 09:48:15

From a Samuel Huntington (the political scientist) book I first heard of Dibdin,

where a villain character in one of his crime novels is quoted asserting "There

can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless we hate what we are not, we

cannot love what we are..." It ringed unmistakenly Tao. 30 years ago, I would

have tried to memorize such a maxim to impress others with it as I did with pop

lyrics and WuXia passages.


Most of what I once swore by have faded with the years and yet the quote above

seems to age well. In two weeks, I have devoured five of the Aurelio Zen series:

Ratking, Back to Bologna, Dead Lagoon, Cabal, and And Then You Die (ATYD), and I

am onto the sixth, The Long Finish.


A middle-aged peripatetic Italian policeman, Zen is sent to investigate crimes

all over the country. Each story brings me to a different corner, Perugia,

Bologna, Venice, Vatican/Rome, and Lucca, so far. Italy is not on my list of

places to visit before I die despite that I cook and enjoy 'saucici e fagioli'

every week. From the novels, however, I cannot help picking up a few things about

the cultures of that state, those not often covered by travel brochures. E.g., I

am suprised to learn from a Rome restaurateur's rant that over the 1.9 mile-wide

strait, there is not a bridge linking Sicily to the mainland! Meanwhile, half a

globe away in the Orient, the Bohai Strait tunnel project is proposing a 76-mile

new world wonder. It is also amusing to read Zen's view on the two main branches

of Christianity (ATYD)


  Maybe Los Angles wouldn't be so bad after all, he thought. It sounded like a

  pleasant, old-fashioned sort of place, and at least the people would all be

  Catholics. Although by no means a committed believer, Zen preferred to be

  surrounded by his own sort. Protestants were an enigma to him, all high ideals

  one minute and ruthless expediency the next. You knew where you were in a

  Catholic culture: up to your neck in lies, evasions, impenetrable mysteries,

  double-dealing, back-stabbing and underhand intrigues of every kind. With which

  comforting thought he lowered the blind again and doze off.


The plots were as intriguing as any mystery I read but that was a given from an

acclaimed detective storyteller. To an English-language junkie like me, the

author's way with words brought extra delight. It was the first time, e.g.,

after I learnt 'haute' from the dictionary, I met it in Cabal. Little gems such

as 'pall,' 'riffraff,' 'panache,' 'minder,' etc., brought such thrills. Besides

the stories, I was entertained by new and interesting terms and phrases on

almost every page. Out of habit, I kept jotting them down for revisiting. Here's

a sample when I was reading ATYD.



  49. port, cavort, aft, precipitate

  50. ornithologist, capo, limpid

  51. idyll, roll call

  52. waffle, veer, point-blank, silenced pistol

  54. cool his heels, trolley, shunt

  55. spate

  56. marked man, decant, restive


Most were not entirely new. I was just happy to see them. Dibdin wrote 11 Zen

stories and I need to loot another library for the next five.