The Brewer of Preston: A Novel

3.72 avg rating
( 774 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780143121497: The Brewer of Preston: A Novel

The New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano series brings us back to Vigàta in the nineteenth century for a rip-roaring comic novel.

1870s Sicily. Much to the displeasure of Vigàta’s stubborn populace, the town has just been unified under the Kingdom of Italy. They’re now in the hands of a new government they don’t understand, and they definitely don’t like. Eugenio Bortuzzi has been named Prefect for Vigàta, a regional representative from the Italian government to oversee the town. But the rowdy and unruly Sicilians don’t care much for this rather pompous mainlander nor the mediocre opera he’s hell-bent on producing in their new municipal theater. The Brewer of Preston, it’s called, and the Vigàtese are revving up to wreak havoc on the performance’s opening night.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Andrea Camilleri is the bestselling author of the popular Inspector Montalbano mystery series. He lives in Rome.

Stephen Sartarelli is an award-winning translator and poet. He lives in France.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Wall Street Journal

Shelf Awareness

Publishers Weekly

Library Journal

The New York Times Book Review

Los Angeles Times

USA Today

The Washington Post Book World

The Nation

“Camilleri can do a character’s whole backstory in half a paragraph.” —The New Yorker

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Houston Chronicle

The Village Voice

“In Sicily, where people do things as they please, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is a bona fide folk hero.”

The New York Times Book Review

New York Journal of Books

The New York Sun

To request Penguin Readers Guides by mail (while supplies last), please call (800) 778-6425 or e-mail reading@us.penguingroup.com. To access Penguin Readers Guides online, visit our Web site at www.penguin.com

It was a frightful night

It was a frightful night, downright scary. As a thunderclap more boisterous than the rest rattled the windowpanes, young Gerd Hoffer, not yet ten years old, woke up with a start, realizing at the same time that he needed to go. It was an old story, this pee problem. The doctors’ diagnosis was that ever since birth the child had suffered from weak retention—of the kidneys, that is—and that it was therefore natural for him to relieve himself in bed. His father, however—mining engineer Fridolin Hoffer—wouldn’t hear of it. He could not resign himself to having brought a waste of a German boy into the world, and thus he believed that what was needed was not medical care but a Kantian education of the will. For this reason, every morning that the good Lord brought upon the earth, he would inspect his son’s bed, raising the blanket or sheet, depending on the season, insert an inquisitorial hand, and inevitably find a wet spot, whereupon he would deal the boy a powerful slap on the cheek, which would swell up like a muffin under the effect of brewer’s yeast.

This time, to avoid his father’s customary morning punishment, Gerd got up in the dark to the light of the thunderbolts and set out on a tentative journey to the privy, heart galloping in fear of the dangers and ambushes lurking in the night. One time a lizard had climbed up his leg, another time he had crushed a cockroach underfoot, making a squishy sound the mere thought of which still turned his stomach.

Reaching the latrine, he rolled his nightshirt up over his belly and began to urinate. Meanwhile he looked out the low window, as he always did, onto Vigàta and its sea, a few miles beyond Montelusa. He would get excited whenever he managed to spot the faint glow of an acetylene lamp on some lost paranza. A kind of music would burst forth in his head, a rush of sensations he couldn’t express; only a few scattered words would appear and glitter like stars in a black sky. He would start to sweat and, when back in bed, could no longer fall back asleep, tossing and turning until the bedsheets became a sort of hangman’s rope around his neck. A number of years later he would become a poet and author, but he did not know this yet.

That night it was different. Between the lightning, the thunder, and the flashes on the horizon, all of which frightened him as much as they fascinated him, he saw a phenomenon he had never seen before. Over Vigàta, the sun or something similar seemed to be rising. This, however, was utterly impossible, since his father had shown him, with Teutonic precision and a wealth of scientific detail, that the first light of day always arrived from the opposite direction—that is, from the great picture window in the dining room.

He looked more carefully; there could no longer be any doubt: a reddish half-moon covered the sky over Vigàta. Against the light, he could actually see the shapes of the most elevated buildings, the ones on the Piano della Lanterna, which loomed over the town.

He knew from painful experience how dangerous it was to wake his father up when he was fast asleep, but he decided that this time the circumstances called for it. Because there were only two possibilities: either the earth, having grown weary of always turning in the same direction, had changed course (the very idea of it made his head spin with excitement, born as he was a poet and author); or his father had, for once, fallen short of his sovereign infallibility (and this second prospect made his head spin even more, born as he was a son). He headed towards his father’s room, happy that his mother wasn’t there—she was in Tübingen to help out Grandma Wilhelmina—and, the moment he entered, he was overwhelmed by the cataclysmic snoring of the engineer, a great hulk of a man measuring almost six foot six and weighing nearly nineteen stone, with red crew-cut hair and a big handlebar mustache, also red. The boy touched the noisy mass and withdrew his hand at once, as if he had burnt himself.

“Eh?” said his father, eyes immediately wide open, as he was a light sleeper.

Vater,” Gerd muttered. “Father.”

Was ist denn? What’s wrong?” asked the engineer, striking a match and lighting the lamp on his nightstand.

“The night’s making light over Vigàta.”

“Light? What light? Morning light?”

“Yes, Vater.”

Without saying another word, the engineer gestured to his son to draw near, and as soon as the boy was within reach, he dealt him a terrific slap.

The child staggered, brought a hand to his cheek, but only hardened in his resolve. He repeated:

“That’s right, Vater, it’s making morning light over Vigàta.”

“Ko at vunce to your room!” the engineer ordered him. Never would he let his son’s eyes—which he presumed to be innocent—see him get out of bed in his nightshirt.

Gerd obeyed. Something strange must be happening, the engineer thought as he put on a dressing gown and headed to the bathroom. A single glance was more than enough to convince him that, never mind the morning light, a fire, and a big one, had broken out in Vigàta. If he listened hard, he could even hear a church bell ringing frantically.

Mein Gott!” said the engineer, almost breathless. Then, barely containing his urge to shout for joy, he frantically got dressed, opened the main drawer of his desk, withdrew a big golden trumpet equipped with a cordon to sling it over the shoulder, and raced out of the house without bothering to shut the door behind him.

Once in the street, he let out a long whinny of contentment and began to run. Thanks to the fire, he would have his first chance to test the ingenious fire-extinguishing device he was planning to patent, which he had built from his own designs over long months of passionate labor during off-hours from the mine. It was a broad cart without side panels, and a thick slab of iron nailed onto its flat bed. Tightly screwed onto this slab was a sort of gigantic copper alembic, which was connected to another, smaller alembic, beneath which a cast-iron compartment, open on top, served as a boiler. The little alembic, when filled with water and heated by the fire below, produced, in keeping with Papin’s astonishing discovery, the pressure needed to drive the cold water held in the larger alembic forcefully outward. Hitched to the big cart was a smaller one that carried firewood and two ladders that could be coupled together. The whole thing was drawn by four horses; a team of six volunteer firefighters would take up standing positions on either side of the large cart. During training sessions and rehearsals, the machine had always produced good results.

Arriving at the top of the street that sliced through the former Arab quarter now inhabited by miners and zolfatari, Fridolin Hoffer took a deep breath and sounded a shrill blast on his trumpet. He walked all the way down the long street, his broad barrel chest sore from the force with which he repeatedly blew into the trumpet. When he reached the end, he did an abrupt about-face and began to walk back up the street, resuming his blowing.

The effects of his midnight horn blowing were immediate. The men of his team, forewarned of the meaning of an impromptu nighttime reveille to the blasts of a trumpet, started dressing in haste after reassuring their trembling wives and bawling children. Then one of them ran to the storehouse where the machine was kept while the coachman took care of attaching the horses, and a third and a fourth lit the fire under the small alembic.

The other inhabitants of the populous neighborhood, unaware of anything but duly terrorized by the blasts of the trumpet, which sounded like the heralds of the Last Judgment, barricaded themselves as best they could behind doors and windows in a tumult of shouts, cries, yells, sobs, prayers, ejaculations, and curses. Suddenly awakened, Signora Nunziata Lo Monaco, ninety-three years old, became immediately convinced that the riots of ’48 had returned and panicked, froze, and fell backwards as stiff as a broomstick relegated to its dusty corner. Her family found her dead the following morning and laid the blame on her heart and her age, and certainly not on the German’s ultrahigh C.

The team of firefighters, meanwhile, having completed their preparations, gathered closely around the engineer. They were nervous and excited about the great opportunity before them. The engineer looked them in the eye one by one, then raised an arm and gave the signal to start. In a flash they climbed aboard and headed off to Vigàta at a gallop. Every few minutes Hoffer gave a blast of the trumpet slung over his shoulder, perhaps to warn any rabbits or dogs that might find themselves in his path, since there certainly were no people about at that hour on a night of such dreadful weather.

For Gerd, too, who’d been left alone at home, it was a strange night. Hearing his father leave, he got up out of bed, went and locked the front door, and lit all the lamps in the house, one after the other, until he was in a sea of light. Then he sat down in front of the mirror in his mother’s bedroom. (The engineer and his wife slept in separate rooms, which was the biggest scandal in town and considered scarcely Christian, but in any case nobody really knew what religion the German and his wife belonged to.) He took off his nightshirt and, sitting there naked, began staring at himself. Then he went into his father’s study, grabbed a ruler from the desktop, and returned to the mirror, which was a full-length glass. Taking in hand the thing between his legs (dick? peter? cock? peepee?), he held it along the ruler. Repeating the action several times, he remained unsatisfied with the measurement, despite having pulled on the skin so hard that it hurt. He laid down the ruler and, discouraged, went back to bed. Closing his eyes, he began to address a long and detailed prayer to God, asking Him, by apposite miracle, to make his thing like that of his classmate Sarino Guastella, who was as tall as he, weighed the same as he, but was inexplicably four times longer and thicker down there than he was.

When they got to the Piano della Lanterna, below which lay the town of Vigàta, the engineer and his men realized, to their consternation, that the fire was no joking matter. There were at least two large buildings in flames. As they stood there watching, and the engineer contemplated which side of the hill they should descend with their machine in order to attack the flames most quickly, they saw, by the dancing light of the blaze, a man walking as if lost in thought, though swaying from time to time. His clothes were burnt and his hair stood straight up, either from fear or by choice of style, it wasn’t clear which. He was holding his hands over his head, as if in surrender. They stopped him, having had to call to him twice, as the man seemed not to have heard them.

“Vat is happenink?” asked the engineer.

“Where?” the man asked back in a polite voice.

“Vat you mean, vere? In Figata, vat is happenink?”

“In Vigàta?”

“Yes,” they all said in a sort of chorus.

“There seems to be a fire,” said the man, looking down at the town as if to confirm.

“But how come it happent? You know?”

The man lowered his arms, put them behind his back, and looked down at his shoes.

“You don’t know?” he asked.

“No, ve don’t know.”

“I see. Apparently the soprano, at a certain point, hit a wrong note.”

Having said this, the man resumed walking, putting his hands again over his head.

“What the hell is the soprano?” asked Tano Alletto, the coachman.

“She’s a voman who sinks,” Hoffer explained, rousing himself from his astonishment.

A spectre is haunting the musicians of Europe

“A spectre is haunting the musicians of Europe!” Cavaliere Mistretta declared in a loud voice, slamming his hand down hard on the table. It was clear to all present that by “musicians” he meant musical composers. The cavaliere dealt in fava beans and was not very fond of reading, but occasionally, when speaking, he liked to indulge in apocalyptic imagery.

The yell and the crash made the members of the Family and Progress Social Club of Vigàta, already nervous after more than three hours of intense discussion, jump in their seats.

Giosuè Zito, the veteran agronomist, had a very different reaction. Having dozed off some fifteen minutes earlier because he’d been up all night with a terrible toothache, he woke with a start after hearing, in his half sleep, only the word “spectre,” then eased himself nimbly out of his chair, knelt on the ground, made the sign of the cross, and started reciting the Credo. Everyone in town knew that three years earlier, when asleep in his country house, the agronomist had been scared out of his wits by a ghost, a spectre that had chased him from room to room amidst a great racket of chains and harrowing laments straight out of hell. After finishing his prayer, Giosuè Zito stood up, still pale as a corpse, turned towards the cavaliere, and said in a trembling voice:

“Don’t you ever dare make any mention, Godless man that you are, of spectres or ghosts in my presence! Is that clear, you Calabrian mule? I know how terrifying a ghost can be!”

“You, my friend, don’t know a bloody thing.”

“How dare you say that?”

“I say it because I can,” said Cavaliere Mistretta, annoyed.

“Explain yourself.”

“Every last person in town knows that on that famous night, which you’ve been endlessly telling and retelling us about, boring everyone to death, on that night, I say, you were attacked not by a ghost, but by your scallywag of a brother Giacomino, who dressed himself up in a sheet because he wanted to drive you mad and cheat you out of your share of your father’s inheritance.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? I mean there was no ghost. It was your brother Giacomino monkeying around!”

“But I got scared just the same. It had the very same effect on me as a real, flesh-and-blood ghost! I got a fever of a hundred and four! My skin broke out in hives! Therefore, you, out of respect, should use a different word!”

“And how might I do that?”

“How the hell should I know? Use your own words when you speak, not mine.”

“Look, I cannot and I will not use a different word. Because I thought of that word all by myself! And I can’t think of another, at this precise moment!”

“Begging the pardon of all present,” intervened the Marchese Manfredi Coniglio della Favara, with a mincing manner an...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Camilleri, Andrea; Sartarelli, Stephen [Translator]
Published by Penguin Books (2014)
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
Dionysos Books
(Arabi, LA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New item. May have light shelf wear. Bookseller Inventory # 160819640

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
5.08
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Andrea Camilleri
Published by Penguin Books, United States (2014)
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano series brings us back to Vigata in the nineteenth century for a rip-roaring comic novel. 1870s Sicily. Much to the displeasure of Vigata s stubborn populace, the town has just been unified under the Kingdom of Italy. They re now in the hands of a new government they don t understand, and they definitely don t like. Eugenio Bortuzzi has been named Prefect for Vigata, a regional representative from the Italian government to oversee the town. But the rowdy and unruly Sicilians don t care much for this rather pompous mainlander nor the mediocre opera he s hell-bent on producing in their new municipal theater. The Brewer of Preston, it s called, and the Vigatese are revving up to wreak havoc on the performance s opening night. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143121497

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
8.82
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Camilleri, Andrea
Published by Penguin Group USA (2014)
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
Paperbackshop-US
(Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Group USA, 2014. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # VP-9780143121497

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
6.10
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.07
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Andrea Camilleri
Published by Penguin Books, United States (2014)
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Paperback Quantity Available: 10
Seller
Book Depository hard to find
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. The New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano series brings us back to Vigata in the nineteenth century for a rip-roaring comic novel. 1870s Sicily. Much to the displeasure of Vigata s stubborn populace, the town has just been unified under the Kingdom of Italy. They re now in the hands of a new government they don t understand, and they definitely don t like. Eugenio Bortuzzi has been named Prefect for Vigata, a regional representative from the Italian government to oversee the town. But the rowdy and unruly Sicilians don t care much for this rather pompous mainlander nor the mediocre opera he s hell-bent on producing in their new municipal theater. The Brewer of Preston, it s called, and the Vigatese are revving up to wreak havoc on the performance s opening night. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9780143121497

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
9.31
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Andrea Camilleri
Published by Penguin Books, United States (2014)
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Montalbano series brings us back to Vigata in the nineteenth century for a rip-roaring comic novel. 1870s Sicily. Much to the displeasure of Vigata s stubborn populace, the town has just been unified under the Kingdom of Italy. They re now in the hands of a new government they don t understand, and they definitely don t like. Eugenio Bortuzzi has been named Prefect for Vigata, a regional representative from the Italian government to oversee the town. But the rowdy and unruly Sicilians don t care much for this rather pompous mainlander nor the mediocre opera he s hell-bent on producing in their new municipal theater. The Brewer of Preston, it s called, and the Vigatese are revving up to wreak havoc on the performance s opening night. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143121497

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
9.31
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Andrea Camilleri
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
BWB
(Valley Stream, NY, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Bookseller Inventory # 97801431214970000000

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
9.34
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Andrea Camilleri
Published by Penguin Random House
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller
INDOO
(Avenel, NJ, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Random House. Book Condition: New. Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 0143121499

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
6.91
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 2.69
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Camilleri, Andrea
Published by Penguin Group USA (2014)
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Quantity Available: 17
Seller
Pbshop
(Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Group USA, 2014. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # IB-9780143121497

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
7.05
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.07
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

Camilleri, Andrea
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Paperback Quantity Available: 14
Seller
BargainBookStores
(Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 7832582

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
7.27
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.07
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

Camilleri, Andrea
Published by Penguin Books (2014)
ISBN 10: 0143121499 ISBN 13: 9780143121497
New Paperback Quantity Available: 2
Seller
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 0143121499

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
9.01
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 2.30
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book