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Gian dei Brughi

by Valentina Rizzi

He arrives in Bogliasco at two p.m. under a scorching sun, with his itinerant van/bookshop, the bandit’s moustache and the look of a redeemed villain. It’s Gian dei Brughi in person, during his first Ligurian incursion in Bogliasco at the Ninin Festival, opposite the sea in spite of the heat in front of me. I am walking, I have regretfully left my three-wheeler in Rome frightened by the long way and the arduous mountainous area of Liguria, but this time destiny had a hand in it and precisely when you least expect it, exhausted by a solo journey on a dull train, waiting for your books entrusted to an absent-minded courier, when you long for Bibliolibrò and you miss it so much, here he comes, springing from behind the corner.
It may be the Ligurian splendour, it may be the colours of this land ever-present in Calvino’s prose, it may be his name –GIAN DEI BRUGHI– and the story of trees and outlaws, it may be this climate of censorship coming from Venice, it may be all this that nourishes the myth. I see him get off the van, tired, flushed, after driving for seven hours and a half, but he doesn’t even stop to enjoy a fresh drink that somebody offers him. There he stays, shaking, parking his tree of books drawn on one side of the van and with an imperious look and a sweaty forefront he starts opening the van, wearing the gloves of a true housebreaker, looking around him and pulling down the counters, one after the other. He pulls out three polka dot tablecloths and lots of stories.
When I shake his hand, he looks puzzled, cautious, reserved as in the best piratical tradition. He comes from the mountains, with his bashful look, he doesn’t like to talk and immediately starts to align his books: immaculate, brand new, flamboyant, stashed in a huge bookshop inside the vehicle. He skilfully handles them as if they were a rare treasure. I follow him as I overflow him with my awkward, unrestrained and animated enthusiasm. To break the ice I show him a picture of Bibliolibrò and start to bombard him with questions. When have you begun? Where are you from? What books are you carrying with you? Where do you operate? His eyes look benevolent, he keeps on staring at the three-wheeler in the picture and at me, still messed up by the journey, red-faced, awkwardly searching for a slice of shadow while the others set up the place assembling gazebos and arranging chairs and tables. Will I be plausible as a bandit? “But you are the Illustrated Books Pusher!” His eyes open up in a smile followed by a brusque, friendly handshake. “What about concocting a seven wheels incursion together?”
The bandit who loves to read, surly yet good-natured, touched by my extravagant deeds and by the funny ramshackle object portrayed in the picture, starts listening to me and now seems to be amused, but in the thick of it a gang of toddlers arrives: a couple of three year old twins and another gang of little rascals. With a catlike leap I get into the shelter behind the trees, inside the cabin. They smuggle stories at breakneck speed exchanging them from hand to hand like the pears of The Baron in the Trees. Gian Dei Brughi decides to intervene with a short story, in the hope of getting them on his side. I take a picture and long for joining the funny party, but this time the initiation rite is different from what I was expecting. It won’t be me who tells them stories: the children are sitting alone in a circle and invite us to join them. A moment of silence and we start. The bandit tunes in and so do I. One of the twins begins to read aloud and grabs the spotlight. How will it end? The sun is slowly setting and I join the crew of Gian dei Brughi. In front of a dish of fried anchovies, facing the sea, on the top of a mountain and then together, a fellowship is born, an idea, a mirage. Beware the two of them: Gian dei Brughi and the Illustrated Books Pusher. Coming soon on these streets together with Bibliolibrò.