Rediscovered: The “Human Typewriter” on the Fattest Man in Milan

A few months ago I read Giorgio Scerbanenco’s A Private Venus — only the second book translated into English by this writer, so prolific he was called the “human typewriter”. . . . I’ve met several authors who could lay claim to a human typewriter label — guys who have done 300 novels, guys who have knocked out more than 500 novels.

You know, it makes me tired just to think about it.

Most of Scerbanenco’s output apparently fell into the romance genre, so no wonder it was never translated, but late in his life he tried his hand at noir with the Duca Lamberti novels and assured his reputation. I wasn’t as wowed by A Private Venus as I was by the noir novels (also only recently translated) from Jean-Patrick Manchette.

I did like it, though, and if you’re looking for something different in the form, you might want to try it — and then wait for more to work their way through the translators’ hands.

One bit in Venus struck me as something worth quoting in a quick post, and perhaps gives an indication of whether or not you might want to risk a read with Scerbanenco:

They called him Signor A rather than Signor X, because the man wasn’t an unknown quantity: he was something specific, the chief pimp. Duca didn’t know his name or physical appearance, but he knew he existed. It’s like when you say the fattest man in Milan: you’ve never seen him, you don’t know if he’s a chemist or a restaurant owner, if he’s fair-haired or dark, but you know he exists, it’s just a matter of finding him and weighing him, and then you’ll immediately recognise him because he’s the one who weighs more than anyone else in Milan. Of Signor A, though, there was still no sign.

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