Paola Capriolo: Il nocchiero (The Helmsman)


The latest addition to my website is Paola Capriolo‘s Il nocchiero (The Helmsman). This tells the story of a helmsman, Walter. The job consists of driving a barge from a port, nominally containing animals, though he has never seen the cargo and does not know what is really in the hold. He takes it to an offshore island, where there is a villa, which once had been grand but is now boarded up and closed to visitors. There, he is given charge of an empty barge, which he takes back. This happens every night. In the evening, before work, he goes and sits on the terrace of a café and has a drink, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. One day, when alone, he notices through the window of the café, the arm of a woman wearing a bracelet that looks to have the form of a snake. He sees the arm again and, eventually, enters the café but the woman has gone. The waiter tells him that she has been sitting with a man and he called her Carmen. She does not reappear for a few days. When she finally does reappear, he again enters the café. This time she is there but he is not convinced that it is Carmen, particularly when she says that she is called Linda. They talk, then meet regularly and, finally, he proposes and is accepted. The marriage does not go well but, at the café, he meets a man claiming to be a count and the nephew of the former owners of the villa. He had been at the café previously with a woman called Carmen, but he has lost track of her. But is he really a count and their nephew? Is Linda Linda or is she Carmen? And who is Carmen? What is really in the hold of Walter’s barge and what is on the Island and in the Villa that the company is so determined no-one should see? Capriolo keeps us guessing and gives no easy answers but she tells a good tale of mystery.

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