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Autumn 1943. According to an ancient curse – invented out of thin air and sold to the German command as a popular legend – hidden in the bowels of a coal mine on the banks of the Rio Fogazza is the Chinese Giant Igniferous Salamander, capable of electrocuting on sight any stranger who approaches. For the Jew Mozenic Aràd, who just before the racial laws thought better of becoming Arid Mestolari, the chance discovery of the deposit is the only hope of saving himself and his family. And so, by assembling a team of people otherwise doomed to certain doom – a high school teacher, a harpsichord player, an errand boy and an unknown number of irregulars who from day to night sew on themselves the titles of geologist, miner, stoker, carpenter or bomb-maker – Aride begins to sell coal to the militia, keeping them well away from the mine with the fear of the blazing fire. Until Major Aginolf Dietbrand von Appensteiner, the commander of the square, becomes suspicious… After La vita dispari, Paolo Colagrande delivers a novel overflowing with intelligence and invention. Page after page, pandering to ‘the imposture of destiny’, he constructs a lie as big as an entire country: the ingenious plan of a handful of Paduan Jews to save their lives.

Paolo Colagrande was born in Piacenza in 1960. He has published the novels Fídeg (Alet 2007, Premio Campiello Opera Prima, finalist for the Viareggio Prize, republished in Tascabili Einaudi, 2022), Kammerspiel (Alet 2008), Dioblú (Rizzoli 2010), Senti le rane (nottetempo 2015, Premio Campiello Selezione Giuria dei Letterati). For Einaudi he published La vita dispari (2019), finalist for the Campiello Prize, and Salvarsi a vanvera (2022).