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Roma in Noir - the Eternal City as dystopia. Or perfect imperfection

Di Ciolla, Nicoletta (2007) Roma in Noir - the Eternal City as dystopia. Or perfect imperfection. Romance studies, 25 (4). pp. 297-307. ISSN 1745-8153

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Starting from the 1970s, when the first giallisti began to discover the Eternal City as a problematic entity and as suitable as a setting for tales of crimes and mysteries, Rome has occupied a privileged role in the narrative system. As more than a topographical background and often a character endowed with agency, Rome symbolizes grandeur and the kudos of its millenary history, but also chaos and degradation, violence, and prevarication. This essay looks at the representation of the city of Rome in contemporary noir fiction, focusing in particular on the 2005 novel Un giorno perfetto by the award-winning novelist Melania G. Mazzucco. The essay contends that Mazzucco's depiction of the Eternal City rejects both the notion of decodability of the urban setting, typical of classic detective fictions, and the notion of the total illegibility of the city seen in some postmodern texts. Instead, the mapping of Rome serves the purpose of demonstrating its character as a living oxymoron, a site of imperfect perfection — or perfect imperfection.

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