Enrico Maso, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 1 – Summer Holidays
It’s a late July afternoon in Milan. Alberto returns home after the last exam of the session. His flatmates have already left some days ago so he’s alone.
“Finished! Finished!” thinks Albert, settling himself on the balcony and lighting a cigarette. Even Milan seems more beautiful to him now.
Relaxed, he goes back inside and makes a start on his post-exam ritual: clearing his desk.
It has become a kind of good luck custom after every exam that has gone well, in fact, to do those two things, smoke a cigarette (just one!) and then tidy his desk.
While preparing for an exam he fills every blank surface with books and post-it notes, often writing directly on top of it all, making outlines and diagrams. But as soon as the exam is over, out it all goes! Notes, books, all swept away in the general clearout. The desk (and Alberto himself) are ready for the next challenge.
This done, Alberto begins the preparations for his departure. His first year at university has gone well, the exams are over and now he is looking forward to a well-earned break at his grandparents’ home in Sicily.
At Catania’s Aeroporto Fontanarossa in Sicily an old man is waiting in the arrivals hall, his hands clasped behind his back. He looks up when he hears someone call “Nonno!”
“Alberto! You’re here at last! It seems to me that you’re in good health!” he exclaims.
Alberto hugs him, smiling; his grandfather has a way of speaking all his own – like the text of a book, but a book printed many years ago!
As always, his grandfather has come to meet him in his Fiat1100, by now a classic vintage car but still in perfect condition. Like its owner really.
During the journey the old man dutifully bombards his grandson with questions. But when he asks about Anna, Alberto’s girlfriend, the reply is somewhat guarded. Indeed, the young man doesn’t seem to want to talk about it. Has something happened between them?