R.oma, pandemic time. Social disparities between the suburbslike that of the Towers, and the center of the capital are increasingly spread apart: the perfect terrain for the the revival of the underworld and gang fights around the market for new and old drugs. In this panorama, a blonde woman, of an almost androgynous magnetic beauty, can achieve deeds greater than her dreams, with the protection and the translated love of an aristocrat that her destiny puts on her path. This is the story of The Swedish (Einaudi), new novel (always criminal) by the writer – and since 1 June a former magistrate -, Giancarlo De Cataldo, who through fiction introduces us to reality and takes us into the human depths of a world that falls looking for the light and chooses crime in lack of other ways to exist. The style is alive, live with a jargon emotion that brings to words the chills, the sweat and the breath of life walking on the brink.

    Giancarlo De Cataldo (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti / Getty Images).

    This new book can be considered as an ideal continuation of his successes Criminal novel And Suburrawhich have also become films and TV series?
    I was working on the series of Manrico, my melomaniac prosecutor, when at a certain point I came across a news about new synthetic drugs and I realized that I had to do something with it, even to return to the period of the pandemic. In fact, a new phenomenon was happening in terms of the Roman underworld, a kind of evolution from the times of Criminal novel And Suburra, effectively. To this was added the literary element of an anomalous love story, through a third party, between a borgatara and a prince of the historic center.

    Giancarlo De Cataldo, from Lebanese to Swedish

    How did the character of this blonde girl, “Sharo”, then for everyone the “Swede” come?
    He inspired her from an encounter. I was shooting in the courtyards of Villa Valmarana, in Vicenza, when among the tourists I saw a tall, blonde, thin, androgynous girl, and I was struck by her. I wondered what would become of her if, instead of being a girl from a refined Northern European background, she had been a bourgeois born in the wrong place and wanted to change her life.

    Given his double gaze on this underworld reality as an author and, for a long time, as a magistrate: is it reality that inspires literature, or can there also be the opposite process?
    The court gave me a chance to look at human types. The stress of the trial squeezes the essence of the person, this is a look that we also find in Balzac, in Dostoevsky who was a passionate spectator of trials, in Tolstoy, who had even been a popular judge. It is certain, then, that there are reciprocal influences: the literary metaphor, or of fiction in general, influences the behavior of everyone and even criminals.

    The Swedish by Giancarlo De Cataldo Einaudi pagg.  240, € 18.

    The Swede by Giancarlo De Cataldo, Einaudi, pp. 240, € 18.

    And can literature contribute to justice?
    I don’t believe in the ethical function of literature, rather I defend its autonomy. Narratives serve to create myths and to tell them. Human beings cannot live without myths.

    His characters are very much alive, and even when bad they seem to be chased by his affection and to arouse it. Is that so?
    I follow the Dostoevskian lesson and put a part of me in all the characters. I draw them in the round, even the secondary ones. In addition, I belong to the generation that saw a great social elevator in the 1960s that allowed for class upgrades and advancement in education for all. Now this lift has tragically stopped. We have all been deceived by the concept of meritocracy: but there is no meritocracy without opportunities offered to all, and here instead the opportunities are dangerously narrowing. Then, in certain contexts, crime becomes the only factor of economic and social ascension. It is painful to say this, but it is so. My affection is not for criminals therefore, but I try to highlight the human root behind the criminal act, I do not prejudice.

    The underworld according to Giancarlo De Cataldo

    Was he like that even as a magistrate?
    I’ve always tried to get to know the people I judged and it should be.

    From the Magliana gang to today, how has the underworld evolved?
    In the period of the Magliana there was an organization that dominated, afterwards there was a return to agreements between families of ‘ndragheta, Camorra, homegrown and imported mafias. When there is calm between these groups, there remains an apparent peace, when one group tries to take over, then fights arise, and it is seen why there are dead. Among the elements adverse to the underworld there is a harmonious civil life, while when there are social hardships, as now, the underworld increases. Crime offers a very simple model: it offers hope that the state does not give.

    In the book, the indirect love between the prince and the Swede then creates a bridge between social levels.
    With this strange love I wanted to allude to the fact that a suburban elite and a downtown elite can sit down to a table and find agreements. They both gain from it, even the rich part, since it can gain vitality from the popular layer.

    His language is very vital, how is it formed?
    My Romanesco teacher – I come from Taranto – was my butcher, I have dedicated to him Criminal novel. And then my son, stage name Gabriele Deca, who rejuvenated a certain talk in me: he is the “trap” verses that open some chapters.

    Here ends the story of the Swedish, almost a happy ending, or will it continue?
    The story ends with two boys who leave Calabria on a mission. We will see…