«In the summer of 1995 I found, among old papers at home, a ministerial decree (which I reproduce in the novel) for the granting of a private telephone line. The document implied such a dense web of delusional bureaucratic-administrative requirements that I immediately wanted to write a fictional story about it (I finished it in March 1997). The grant dates to 1892, that is, some fifteen years after the events I counted in The Brewer of Preston, and therefore someone might ask me why I persist in pestle in the same mortar again and again, bringing up, almost in photocopy, the usual prefects, inspectors, etc. Anticipating the remark, I put my hands out. The opening quote is from Pirandello’s The Old and the Young, and it seems to me it says it all. To the extent possible, since this story is exactly dated, I have faithfully quoted ministers, high state officials and revolutionaries by their real names (and the events in which they were involved are also authentic). All other names and facts are instead invented out of whole cloth». Andrea Camilleri