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It is New Year’s Eve 1960 and, in a luxurious flat overlooking Valentino Park, in Turin, a group of people sit around a table. The air is almost electric and no one dares utter a breath. They are waiting for the start of what the landlord calls ‘experiments’ but which for those who are there have an inestimable, metaphysical, supernatural value. Gustavo Rol has the polite, unassuming elegance of someone who walks naturally into any room in the world, and the audience hangs on his every word. Only one man looks at him with suspicion, is sure there is a trick and wants to reveal it. Nino Giacosa is a broken man, on the run: from gambling debts, from the ghosts of the defeat at El Alamein, from Miriam, the woman he loved. From himself. After so many broken dreams, however, he has found something that can fill the emptiness of his existence: a story. The story he is writing day and night in the dingy room of a boarding house is that of a great hoax, concealed by the skilful hands of an illusionist. And it is with this sceptical attitude, his eye on every detail, that Nino starts attending Rol’s soirees. But between the two men, seemingly so different, an unexpected complicity soon arises. And on walks through a cold and impenetrable Turin, Rol tells Nino about his own life, the ‘gift’ he discovered thanks to a Pole he met in Marseilles, his studies and his discouragement at the idea of being admired but never understood.There are the stories we tell others, and then there are those with which we convince ourselves. Sometimes it happens that the two versions coincide, but that was not the case.’Who was Gustavus Rol? A conjurer, a hypnotist, a saint, a charlatan? Still so many years after his birth and death, nobody really knows who he was. Mystery full stop’.

Francesca Diotallevi was born in Milan in 1985. Among her works are Amedeo, je t’aime (Mondadori Electa, 2015), Dentro soffia il vento (Neri Pozza, 2016), and Dai tuoi occhi solamente (Neri Pozza, 2018), a candidate for the Premio Strega and winner of the Premio Comisso youth section, the Premio Manzoni and the Premio Mastronardi. Le stanze buie (Neri Pozza, 2021), now republished in a thoroughly revised version, appeared, as her debut novel, for Mursia in 2013.