Mar 152005

Suis en train de terminer la lecture de The Broker de John Grisham.
J’aime Grisham. Et quand j’adopte un auteur, je le suis. Grisham tout comme Crichton, j’ai lu la série complète…

Dans The Broker, Grisham ne m’a pas déçu. Un avocat véreux, lobbyiste à Washington s’est fait pincer et encourre une peine de prison dans un établissement à sécurité maximale. Washington a un président pas futé pour cinq cennes, qui dans sa dernière heure au pouvoir accepte d’accorder son pardon à quelques personnes dont l’avocat. Pourquoi?
La CIA expédie le prisonnier gracié en Italie. Ce dernier aboutit à Bologne et encadré par une équipe apprends à vivre. À vivre comme un Italien. Il apprend la langue, les coutumes.
Question de survie.
Différents pays veulent sa peau…
Je ne suis pas pour vous donner le punch…
Beau livre, belles valeurs, comme toujours chez Grisham.
Il décrit Bologne d’une manière fort intéressante. Un peu comme dans Une année en Provence, on se laisse vivre dans un coin de pays, et à le découvrir au fil des jours.
On apprends un peu l’Italien aussi au même rythme que le personnage principal.
À lire! La version originale vient de sortir. La traduction suivra cet été sans doute…

The lezione-a-piedi-lesson on foot-continued the next day when Marco revolted after an hour of tedious grammar straight from the textbook and demanded to go for a walk.
« Ma, deve imparare la grammatica, » Ermanno insisted. You must learn grammar.
Marco was already putting on his coat. « That’s where you’re wrong, Ermanno. I need real conversation, not sentence structure.”
« Sono io l’insegnante. » I am the teacher.

« Let’s go. Andiamo. Bologna is waiting. The streets are filled with happy young people, the air is alive with the sounds of your language, all just waiting for me to absorb. » When Ermanno hesitated, Marco smiled at him and said, « Please, my friend. I’ve been locked in a small cell about the size of this apartment for six years. You can’t expect me to stay here. There’s a vibrant city out there. Let’s go explore it.”
Outside the air was clear and brisk, not a cloud anywhere, a gorgeous winter day that drew every warm-blooded Bolognese into the streets for errands and long-winded chats with old friends. Pockets of intense conversation materialized as sleepy-eyed students greeted each other and housewives gathered to trade the gossip. Elderly gentlemen dressed in coats and ties shook hands and then all talked at once. Street merchants called out with their latest bargains.
But for Ermanno it was not a walk in the park. If his student wanted conversation, then he would certainly earn it. He pointed to a policeman and said to Marco, in Italian of course, « Go to that policeman and ask directions for the Piazza Maggiore. Get them right, then repeat them to me.”
Marco walked very slowly, whispering some words, trying to recall others. Always start with a smile and the proper greeting. « Buon giorno,’ he said, almost holding his breath.
« Buon giorno, » answered the policeman.
« Mi pud aiutare? » Can you help me?. »Certamente. » Certainly.
« Sono Canadese. Non parlo molto bene. » I’m Canadian. I don’t speak Italian very well.
« Allora. » Okay. The policeman was still smiling, now quite anxious to help.
« Dov’e la Piazza Maggiore?”
The policeman turned and gazed into the distance, toward the central part of Bologna. He cleared his throat and Marco braced for the torrent of directions. Just a few feet away and listening to every sound was Ermanno.
With a beautifully slow cadence, he said in Italian, and pointing of course the way they all do, « It’s not too far away. Take this street, turn at the next right, that’s Via Zamboni, follow it until you see the two towers. Turn on Via Rizzoli, and go for three blocks.”
Marco listened as hard as possible, then tried to repeat each phrase. The policeman patiently went through the exercise again. Marco thanked him, repeated as much as he could to himself, then unloaded it on Ermanno.
« Non c’e male, » he said. Not bad. The fun was just starting. As Marco was enjoying his little triumph, Ermanno was searching for the next unsuspecting tutor. He found him in an old man shuffling by on a cane and with a thick newspaper under his arm. ‘Ask him where he bought the newspaper, » he instructed his student.
Marco took his time, followed the gentleman for a few steps, and when he thought he had the words together he said, « Buon giorno, scusi. » The old man stopped and stared, and for a moment looked as though he might lift his cane and whack it across Marco’s head. He did not offer the customary « Buon giorno.”
« Dov’e ha comprato questo giornale? » Where did you buy this newspaper?.The old man looked at the newspaper as if it were contraband, then looked at Marco as if he’d cursed him. He jerked his head to the left and said something like, « Over there. » And his part of the conversation was over. As he shuffled away, Ermanno eased beside Marco and said in English, « Not much for conversation, huh?”
« I guess not.”
They stepped inside a small cafe, where Marco ordered a simple espresso for himself. Ermanno could not be content with simple things; instead he wanted regular coffee with sugar but without cream, and a small cherry pastry, and he made Marco order everything and get it perfect. At their table, Ermanno laid out several euro notes of various denominations, along with the coins for fifty cents and one euro, and they practiced numbers and counting. He then decided he wanted another regular coffee, this time with no sugar but just a little cream. Marco took two euros and came back with the coffee. He counted the change.
After the brief break, they were back on the street, drifting along Via San Vitale, one of the main avenues of the university, with porticoes covering the sidewalks on both sides and thousands of students jostling to early classes. The street was crammed with bicycles, the preferred mode of getting around. Ermanno had been studying for three years in Bologna, so he said, though Marco believed little of what he heard from either his tutor or his handler.
« This is Piazza Verdi, » Ermanno said, nodding to a small plaza where a protest of some sort was stuttering to a start. A longhaired relic from the seventies was adjusting a microphone, no doubt prepping for a screeching denunciation of American misdeeds somewhere. His cohorts were trying to unravel a large, badly painted homemade banner with a slogan not even Ermanno could understand. But they were too early. The students were hah0 asleep and more concerned with being late for class.
« What’s their problem? » Marco asked as they walked by.
« I’m not sure. Something to do with the World Bank. There’s always a demonstration here.”
They walked on, flowing with the young crowd, picking their way through the foot traffic, and headed generally to il centro.
Luigi met them for lunch at a restaurant called Testerino, near the university. With American taxpayers footing the bill, he ordered often and with no regard for price. Ermanno, the broke student, seemed ill at ease with such extravagance, but, being an Italian, he eventually warmed to the idea of a long lunch. It lasted for two hours and not a single word of English was spoken. The Italian was slow, methodical, and often repeated, but it never yielded to English. Marco found it difficult to enjoy a fine meal when his brain was working overtime to hear, grasp, digest, understand, and plot a response to the last phrase thrown at him. Often the last phrase had passed over his head with only a word or two being somewhat recognizable when the whole thing was suddenly chased by another. And his two friends were not just chatting for the fun of it. If they caught the slightest hint that Marco was not following, that he was simply nodding so they would keep talking so he could eat a bite, then they stopped abruptly and said, « Che cosa ho detto? » What did I say?.Marco would chew for a few seconds, buying time to think of something-in Italian dammit!-that might get him off the hook. He was learning to listen, though, to catch the key words. Both of his friends had repeatedly said that he would always understand much more than he could say.
The food saved him. Of particular importance was the distinction between tortellini (small pasta stuffed with pork) and tortelloni (larger pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese). The chef, upon realizing that Marco was a Canadian very curious about Bolognese cuisine, insisted on serving both dishes. As always, Luigi explained that both were exclusively the creations of the great chefs of Bologna.
Marco simply ate, trying his best to devour the delicious servings while avoiding the Italian language.
After two hours, Marco insisted on a break. He finished his second espresso and said goodbye. He left them in front of the restaurant and walked away, alone, his ears ringing and his head spinning from trie workout.
He made a tvvo-block loop off Via Rizzoli. Then he did it again to make sure no one was following. The long porticoed walkways were ideal for ducking and hiding. When they were thick with students again he crossed Piazza Verdi, where the World Bank protest had yielded to a fiery speech that, for a moment, made Marco quite happy he could not understand Italian. He stopped at 22 Via Zamboni and once again looked at the massive wooden door that led to the law school. He walked through it and tried his best to appear as if this was his turf. No directory was in sight, but a student bulletin board advertised apartments, books, companionship, almost everything, it seemed, including a summer studies program at Wake Forest Law School.
Through the hallway, the building yielded to an open courtyard where students were milling around, chatting on cell phones, smoking, waiting for classes.
A stairway to his left caught his attention. He climbed to the third floor, where he finally located a directory of sorts. He understood the word « uffici, » and followed a corridor past two classrooms until he found the faculty offices. Most had names, a few did not. The last belonged to Rudolph Viscovitch, so far the only non-Italian name in the building. Marco knocked and no one answered. He twisted the knob but the door was locked. He quickly removed from his coat pocket a sheet of paper he’d taken from the Albergo Campeol in Treviso and scribbled a note:.Dear Rudolph: I was wandering around the campus, stumbled upon your office and wanted to say hello. Maybe Til catch you again at the Bar Fontana. Enjoyed our chat yesterday. Nice to hear English occasionally. Your Canadian friend, Marco Lazzeri.He slid it under the door and walked down the stairs behind a group of students. Back on Via Zamboni, he drifted along with no particular destination in mind. He stopped for a gelato, then slowly made his way back to his hotel. His dark little room was too cold for a nap. He promised himself again that he would complain to his handler. Lunch had cost more than three nights’ worth of his room. Surely Luigi and those above him could spring for a nicer place.
He dragged himself back to Ermanno’s cupboard-sized apartment for the afternoon session.
Luigi waited patiently at Bologna Centrale for the nonstop Eurostar from Milano. The train station was relatively quiet, the lull before the five o’clock rush hour. At 3:35, precisely on schedule, the sleek bullet blew in for a quick stop and Whitaker bounced off.
Since Whitaker never smiled, they barely said hello. After a cur- son’ handshake was complete, they walked to Luigi’s Fiat. « How’s our boy? » Whitaker asked as soon as he slammed the door.
« Doing fine, » Luigi said as he started the engine and drove away. « He’s studying hard. There’s not much else for him to do.”

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