The Red and the Dark
The Red and the Dark


a novel by

Carmen Covito

Mondadori 2002

ISBN 88-04-50277-0
pages 288
euro 15,20

La rossa e il nero

As she arrives in Syria, Cettina Schwarz dyes her hair red with henna by mistake, a real trauma for her who has always been an unpretentious little blonde, a Swisse-Neapolitan by lineage and sense of order. Duped by a Milanese husband whom she has divorced, she has now an unprecedented chance to invent herself an exciting job: she has managed to infiltrate as a photographer the Parma University's prestigious archeological expedition to Tell Mabruk.

An entire city from the Second Millennium b.C. must be dug out before a new dam will submerge its ruins in the waters of the Euphrates, not to mention the thrill of operating in such exotic settings. Cettina sees herself cracking mysteries and seducing Sheiks already, as in an adventure videogame.

But reality, albeit more sensible, proves itself no less enthralling. In a room at Aleppo's historical Hotel Baron, she gets hold of a letter, not so ancient yet mysterious, written and left behind by an English lady traveller in the early Nineteen Hundred. It tells of love and money and espionage, it's romantic, it's of no use to anyone, and in fact, after putting it in her pocket, even Cettina forgets all about it for a while, taken up with the drags of  field work. Why on earth would all the Parmesan archeologists hold it against young Inanna, who might well have the name of a goddess, yet seems so sweet and accomodating? And who's the treacherous mole that's passing information over to a rival archeological mission?

Professor Cavalli-Donati and researcher Viviana Gentilomo barely manage to hold down their discontent. A major find would be of the essence, something special and sensational, which would render Tell Mabruk a site unlike any other in the world and thus spare it from the waters of the dam... Meanwhile Cettina is discovering a strong attraction for Ahmad, very handsome and very dark Syrian excavation joint-director: she would be willing to yield to his blazing gazes, but how to, if the memories of her divorce are burning her so much already? Even love, as life's historical dimension, is now at risk of being a lost object that must be unburied before it is forever gone.

Amidst fierce ironies and brilliant inventions that impart the plot the most unexpected turns, this novel of light and pleasurable writing interwines in a surprising way the scientific spin of  archeological methods and the mythologies of adventurous dream, comedy and investigation, the modern want for our roots and the taunting consciousness that every reflection can but be an allucination or an ambiguity.

A new novel by a provocative narrator, aware of the transformations in social customs and language and capable of bringing to life strong, moving plots.

Previous works translated by: Grasset (France) - Delfini (Greece) - Prometheus (Holland) - Lumen (Spain) - Diogenes (Switzerland and Germany) - Norma (Latin America)

Credits: thanks to Ercole Guidi for translations