Of Irish blood, Donna Leon (Montclair, New Jersey, 1942) is one quarter Latin American and one quarter German. She grew up in a family that she herself admits was “completely conventional.” And, from 1976 to 1981, when she settled in Italy, she worked as a professor in Iran, at the Chinese University of Suzhou and for nine months at King Saud University in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia.
That fledgling professor specialized in English language and literature has just published A story of your own (Seix Barral), fresh memories, like the vegetables he used to buy at the Rialto market, in Venice, the city where he lived for five decades. They are pages that are at times fun, always reflective, filled with sincerity and prose free of artifice. Today, with 30 volumes behind it and more than 20 million readers around the world, Leon is considered the grande dame of crime fiction after having turned Commissioner Guido Brunetti, the epitome of justice and morality, into a fictional archetype. “There is no worse crime than not having lived,” she warns.
Perhaps for this reason, when she was yawning with her job in New York, she accepted the proposal of an Italian-American friend to move with her to Italia. He arrived at Caposele, in the province of Avellino, and during dinner he fell in love with the Italians in front of juicy food: salami, sausages, pasta, chicken, vegetables, tomatoes, salad, wine, bread, and a wheel-sized cheese platter. “All the dishes were served with the desire to make us happy.” He now lives in Switzerland, enjoys rereading Dickens and the poets in the English language, and confesses to having enjoyed Transylvanian trilogyby Miklós Bánffy: 1,600 pages, he says, full of “fantastic stories.”