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The New York Times Interviews Fabio Bartolomei

This week, Nick Czap of The New York Times Wheels Blog interviewed Fabio Bartolomei about his first novel ALFA ROMEO 1300 AND OTHER SMALL MIRACLES.

Q. The Alfa Romeo of the title — a Giulia 1300 — plays a quasi-magical role in the story. In introducing it, the narrator, Diego, describes it as “a car we’ve seen in hundreds of movies, sometimes being driven by cops, other times by criminals.” I’m curious how you came to choose a Giulia for this role — as opposed to say, a Fiat 500 — and wonder if you would care to share any thoughts or observations on the Giulia’s cultural or pop-cultural significance in Italy.

A. I chose the Giulia 1300 because it’s a 40-year-old car, the same age as the protagonist of the novel. It’s a car that doesn’t seem to have anything left to say, but nevertheless proves itself capable of a small miracle. I chose her and not some other four-wheeled coeval because it’s a car that I dreamed of driving when I was a kid. I really liked noir movies, not for the story (I was too young to appreciate it), but for the chases. Watch any Italian film from those years — if there’s a chase, nine times out of 10 one of the cars is an Alfa Romeo Giulia. Sometimes it acted the part of the “good guy”; in fact, it was the car used by the Italian police. But other times it was the “bad guy.” As I remember it, the Giulia almost always won.

Q. In your own life, have you had any encounters with/in/involving an Alfa Romeo Giulia, or does the car evoke any particular feelings of nostalgia?

A. I’ve seen lots, but I’ve never driven one. When the novel came out I thought of doing a promotional tour in a Giulia 1300, but then we didn’t get a chance to organize it. It’s a shame; it would have been a great chance for me to realize one of my childhood dreams. A kind of journey in a time machine.

Q. There is something that rings true about the details of the narrator Diego’s work as a car salesman. Are you to any extent a car enthusiast, or has your work in advertising ever taken you into the automotive realm?

A. As I said, I would gladly drive a Giulia, but I’m not really crazy about cars. In my work I have had to study and promote dozens of models: city car, coupe, S.U.V.’s, sports cars. The only models that make my heart race are electric cars. Maybe I’m getting old. The problem is that Rome is a city disfigured by traffic, so I’ve always preferred getting around by scooter or on foot.

Years ago I had the pleasure of driving in the U.S., from Yellowstone to San Diego. Even though my rental car had that horrible automatic transmission, it was an unforgettable experience. It would be hard to do something like that on the tortuous and traffic-congested Italian roads, unfortunately. So, no car. I settle for looking at dusty old Giulias and watching Formula One on TV.

You can read the full article here.


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