The Book of Hidden Things

The Book of Hidden Things (Titan) by Francesco Dimitri, an important author in his native Italian, is his first novel in English. Hidden Things is the story of four friends who meet up every year in the town where they grew up. This year, one of them doesn't arrive.
The Book of Hidden ThingsThe Book of Hidden Things (Titan) by Francesco Dimitri, an important author in his native Italian, is his first novel in English. Hidden Things is the story of four friends who meet up every year in the town where they grew up. This year, one of them doesn't arrive. Unable to involve the police in his disappearance, they start asking questions, only to be presented with more strange information like the story that the missing man helped cure a mafia boss's daughter of terminal Leukaemia. In his home they find a document, titled The Book of Hidden Things, which promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders. Tell ​us about the books you've released in Italy.​ I write what you might call grounded fantasy, that is, fantasy that aims at feeling as realistic as it can. My most famous novel is probably Pan, a story about the return of the god Pan in modern Rome. The story follows a human family caught in his comeback. L’Età Sottile, The Subtle Age, is a bildungsroman on the relationship between a teenager and his teacher of magic, who might well be nothing more than a wealthy eccentric. La Ragazza dei miei Sogni, The Girl of My Dreams, is a love story with magic and monsters, and was made into a film. I also wrote a steampunk-ish novel inspired to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which Wonderland is an alternative Britain where locals have been breathing a hallucinogenic gas for 2000 years. Why did you decide to write in English? I was always fond of English and American fiction, and I hoped that I could bring together different cultural strands. And I love a challenge: I spoke almost no English until ten years ago, and learning to write fiction in another language as a grown-up seemed terrifying enough to be worth trying. The book contains quite a lot of religious iconography throughout - is this something that interests you? A lot! We are spiritual beings. You might be a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim, a Wiccan, but you still have the same questions within you about what you’re supposed to do with the time you have on Earth, what happens next (if anything), the weirdness of this planet, galaxy, universe. Our answers go from ‘whatever’ to ‘ALIENS MADE ME DO IT’, but as much as we disagree on them, the questions themselves connect us all. In the novel the notion of sacrifice plays a big part of the action and leads to some very dark moments—were these difficult to write? If your daughter had cancer, and you could save her by killing another kid, what would you do? If you could become immortal by keeping a mass murderer your prisoner for ever, would you do it? And what if the mass murder repents, after three hundred years? The thing is, all of us, Gandhi included, could rip somebody’s hearts out at the right conditions, and you can never be sure what the right conditions are for you. Writing about this should never be easy. Male friendships and relationships are very much at the core of this novel, is this something that interests you or were these connections inspired from real life? My friends (of any gender) mean everything to me. I have been friends with one of my closest mates for thirty years or so, and with my wife for a little less than that. I don’t care for the idea that boys should be boys, and that all we want is get drunk, get laid, and get rich. Penis-endowed folks have emotions too, and they are worth exploring. The notion of what or where home is, is a central theme in the book, as an Italian author now living in London how much of this do you think is a personal reflection? The theme is close to my heart. I moved to Rome when I was 18, and years later I packed up again and moved to London, going from being a respected professional to someone who couldn’t order breakfast. Southern Italy is ‘home’, with its dazzling beaches and blood-red earth; Rome is ‘home’, with its ruins and relics and black-clad priests and tourists in shorts; London is ‘home’, with the skyline of the City beckoning like a fantasy town when you come back from the countryside. Home is something you never stop making and finding and unmaking and losing. All in all, home is a work in progress.

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