There seems to be a lot of “Noir” fiction coming out of Italy the past decade or so. “The Father and The Foreigner” by Giancarlo De Cataldo is another fine example. A very short novel, clocking in at 125 pages, it is a quick but entertaining read with a very interesting concept.
Diego is an employee at the Ministry of Justice in Rome who is the father or a severely mentally handicapped son. He meets a mysterious man named Walid at a clinic for handicapped children. Walid also has a mentally handicapped son. The two form a strong friendship, a bond created by both dealing with coping with their handicapped children. Walid lets Diego into his world, opening him up to his circle of friends but there is something strange about this Walid. Diego suddenly finds himself in the middle of a police investigation regarding his new friend. What is he? A terrorist? A spy? International criminal? All evidence points to Walid having some nefarious connections and the police want him to act as informant to gather information. Torn between his loyalty for his country and loyalty to his friend, Diego finds himself having to confront and reconsider his relationship to “The Other” and his own idea of “normality”.
It is a very entertaining read, although there are certain plot elements which remain unanswered. This is the book’s only flaw. So who is this Walid? You never really know for sure. But the focus here is on Diego and his view of what a “normal life” is and how his relationship with the mysterious Walid turns his world and sense of normalcy upside down.
This comes highly recommended. An interesting twist on the typical “Noir” story.