Ugolino lives as a prisoner of a hood because a fire has disfigured him and, in the very modern Venice of 1526, disfigurement is a shame to hide, a horror, a reminder of the misfortunes with which life can overwhelm. But the boy cannot stay long in the room where he is holed up. Not tolerating his presence, his father decides to embark him in the expedition of a friend who can now bear the title of Piloto Mayor: Sebastiano Caboto.
On April 3, 1526, Ugolino is on the flagship of Caboto. The route is to the Moluccas in Indonesia, but the legendary navigator never arrived there. Caboto breaks his contract with the Spanish Crown to pursue the story of some survivors of a past expedition who tell of a city made of gold and silver. At first, the fleet enters the Río de la Plata, then sails up the Paraná and Paraguay rivers. And it is while navigating the Paraguay that Ugolino falls prisoner of an indigenous tribe together with four companions, immediately quartered and devoured. Instead, he, freed from his hood, is spared thanks to his disfigured face because they, the Indians, read in those marks on his face the touch of the Karai, the lords of fire.
It is then that the boy begins a coexistence with the natives that is the discovery of a nature, a culture, a humanity, a language to be learned and understood without gain or pretension. Because in those territories that barely appear on Western maps, there is a whole life to be appreciated, provided that we overturn those maps and our usual perspectives on the world. A life that vibrates in every inch of reality and in the body of Giorgina, the girl who, more than any other creature, gives meaning to Ugolino’s roots, pushing him to ask himself what the ultimate meaning of creation is.
Adrián Bravi was born in Buenos Aires and lived there until the end of the 1980s, when he moved to Italy to pursue his studies in philosophy. He works as a librarian at the University of Macerata. Among his previous novels: La pelusa (Nottetempo, 2007), Sud 1982 (Nottetempo, 2008), Il riporto (Nottetempo, 2011) finalist at the Premio Comisso 2012, L’albero e la vacca (Feltrinelli, 2013).
Pub date: 17 June 2022
Premio letterario internazionale Casinò di San Remo – Antonio Semeria (terzo classificato)