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Irene Diwiak: Malvita.

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Vienna: Zsolnay Verlag, 2020
304 Seiten; geb.; Euro 23,70 (A).
ISBN: 978-3-552-05977-1.

Irene Diwiak


Irene Diwiak’s eagerly awaited novel is set in contemporary Tuscany. The twenty-something protagonist Christina is asked by her mother to travel, in her capacity as photographer, to unknown relatives and take pictures of her cousin Marietta’s wedding, because the original photographer has disappeared without a trace. Less than enthused, Christina agrees to this venture since she could do with a little variety and needs the money. Her other cousin Elena arrives in a sports car at the train station in Malvita and drives her to the family home, the remote Villa Esposito. Slowly it dawns on Christina that her relatives – Uncle Tonio, Aunt Adelheid, Marietta, Elena and her cousin Jordie – are not only wealthy but super rich. The next day, taking the car on a spin with her cousin Jordie, they discover the body of the missing photographer. The woman was Marietta’s friend but the cousins don’t seem sad to see her dead. A sudden turn of bizarre events follows. At the bachelorette party, Christina learns that the moneyed Marietta works as a cleaning lady in the bank where she met the groom Marcello, the head of the bank. When Christina, sufficiently drunk, is the first to dance, Marietta grows hysterical and the party comes to an abrupt end. Christina just wants to get out of there. But then she makes an important discovery, just like Alice in Wonderland – Christina, however, does not follow a rabbit, but Jordie’s fat cat Paola …

Irene Diwiak has written a wonderfully quirky novel. In a skillful ironic tone and with larger-than-life characters, she reveals the abysses of the rich Espositos. Diwiak addresses inequality in society as well as between the sexes. Macho and feminist cultures are irreconcilably juxtaposed and their radicalism reduced to absurdity. The question remains: Does the end justify the means? One character sums it up: "If we’re not doing the right thing, then at least we should be doing the righteous thing."

Diwiak plays masterfully with the crime and thriller genre. With a sarcastic style that captivates us from the start, she has presented a successful and entertaining social satire.

Short version of the review by Angelo Algieri, 28 September 2020.
Translation by Ida Cerne.

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