The inimitable fascination of the enchanter

GiancarloFusco1974FuscoHe was the one at the end of the night who put the hat on the dawn. Gian Carlo Fusco never left a single night without his words. He stayed up late, drank and, above all, told stories. Always the centre of attention, he led the discussions and everyone was enthralled by him. A real talent. Narrator, spellbinder, showman. Fireworks, irony, an endless stream of anecdotes. Stories, stories, stories: a travelling show. He was born to tell stories, and to give of himself. The rest: life, body, feelings, work and money, were mere details, accessories — sometimes hindrances. He was a talking novel. A novel written in the sand, lost and found again, deleted and rewritten a million times. Each time a different tale. And yes, even the same one he could toss and mix as he liked. Cutting, stretching, changing and inventing, leaving it open-ended. Genius in action, helped by the night and the booze. Irregular, unique — an oddball, as Gianni Brera defined him. A lucky player at the writing table, who always knew how to draw the right card. But also someone who could get into trouble with nonchalance, though he always found or invented a way out. He lived life intensely and narrated it; what he did not manage to do, he wrote. A flag on the border between fantasy and reality. Fusco was that story. Over time, backgrounds, faces, places and newspapers changed, but he remained the same: intense, until the end. Extreme and consistent in spoiling the prodigious talent of a narrator. But he had also been other things, too much of everything: boxer, dancer, soldier, tramp, journalist, writer, screenwriter, actor. But always with freedom. Generous, self-confident, obstinate until destruction. Messy, irregular and never sober in life; precise, refined, outstanding in his writing. His was an upside-down existence. A stampede over the edge of a gorge. On the run or penniless, but always with a smile on his face, of course. A clown on the surface, but beneath the red nose was a unique writer. He fought with a page too narrow for his inventions, moulded his words to the lines imposed by newspapers, sweating to give his best on the white sheet, terrified not to surprise, to appear mediocre. But he was confident and overflowing when he spoke. The king of the moment, of the sudden dart, of the quip, of the portrait in three words, of the invention of nicknames. He was a fleeting baroque companion and a magnificent performer. Manlio Cancogni, the foremost of our journalists, but above all the friend who convinced Gian Carlo Fusco to write, said that “when he spoke, he was as big as Tolstoi the writer; had he been born in France, a country that would have loved his ingenious recklessness, he would have become a chansonnier of universal talent. Those who have not heard him talking of the war in Albania or the mafia in Marseilles, or of the interminable nights in post-war Versilia, cannot understand who Fusco really was: the most enchanting of spectacles has gone; lost forever. Except for us, his old watching friends, subdued forever.” But he didn’t only fascinate his friends. He wrote a lot, giving journalism a new way of expressing itself, something between Hemingway and Tommaso Besozzi, carving out for himself a not inconsiderable role in our literature, ranging from the memorialism of “Le rose del ventennio”, to the feuilleton noir of “Duri a Marsiglia”: “a little Gabin and a bit teatre d’abord, a lot of sequence cinema, morsels of Prévert scattered here and there, or piled up, like the cress next to the Parisian steak”, wrote Giovanni Arpino. He was an anomalous character. A magnificent liar. A pretender. He dismantled and reassembled truths, growing up with the cult of storytelling. His exceptional family had ignited his imagination: his Spanish great-great-grandmother was a gipsy sorceress who died at the age of one hundred and two; his great-grandfather, Enrico Queto, a Jewish mason who was persecuted by the Spanish clergy and became a refugee in America; and his grandfather was a partner of the architect Eiffel and a circus administrator. His mother, Frida Adele Queto, was beautiful and intelligent and, after a short period in politics, became a maker of wooden toys. His father, Carlo Vittorio Fusco, had two degrees, son of a school inspector from Ponte Landolfo, was a naval officer, a liberal, friend of Gobetti, assistant of the prince Aimone di Savoia, who was supposed to become king of Croatia, and with, Fusco’s father the Minister of Justice, but things turned out differently, as recounted by Gian Carlo in “Tomislavo senza regno”. Even when he narrated the truth, it sounded as though he had invented it, not to mention when he mixed up roles and times in his family, or rewrote the lives of his women. At seventeen he began to associate with anarchists and antifascists. He was restless – consider whether someone like him could tolerate fascism! – before taking refuge in France in the thirties, paying for his trip by selling his grandfather’s precious stamp collection. He became a boxer, but it didn’t go well. He lost many teeth, though not the passion for punches, or for those more skilled than him in the ring: Loi, Spoldi, Benvenuti, Musina and Giancarlo Garbelli were all his friends. In 1941 he was a telegraphist of the “Julia” on the Greek-Albanian front. This experience inspired many short stories, sarcastic and melancholic, making him one of the chief mockers of Mussolini and his impossible dreams of war. After the war, he became the star of the Kursaal in Viareggio. People went there to see him dance and listen to him talking until dawn. Two years later, the same crowd who adored him thought he was done for: too much amphetamine, too much alcohol, too many words. He slept under the boats, washed rarely and dressed like a beggar, but sent fantastic pieces to the “Gazzetta di Livorno”. Cancogni read him and asked if they could write some pieces together. The best he sent to the “Mondo”, which published one of them prominently. mostra_pittura_3_di_dante_all_albatrosFusco then moved to Milan and was reborn. He was coming out of a bad patch, and had been expelled by the Communist Party, maybe on account of his unsavoury nocturnal companions or because of a bike he stole to give to someone in need. But his rallies – appreciated also by Togliatti – were very unusual, as he interacted with “the people”. In a square, a comrade shouted at him: “I can see you’re a gentleman’s son”, and he replied: “Maybe you are too, but your mother hasn’t told you.” This is Fusco, but similar stories, ranging from politics to his legendary drinking habit, are countless. Apparently, in a nightclub he once threw his dentures in Francis Turatello’s champagne as a challenge — and the boss, appreciating his courage and aware of his reputation, hugged him. Then there’s the story of a fight with a taxi driver that ended with Fusco giving him all he had to help the man’s sick son; and the one about Nardini, who used to send him a weekly load of grappa addressed to Bar Fusco; or the time when, in a desperate bid to win back his great love, Erina Collini, he tricked his way into making an announcement at Milan station. The list goes on: from the two hundred pastries he gave to the daughter of Enzo Biagi, his dear friend and writing partner on the comedy “E vissero felici e contenti”, to the sketch of the nobleman and the clown performed in the street with the actor Romolo Valli. His inclination to acting led him to make his debut on the big screen, thanks to Carmelo Bene. Small roles in films by Monicelli and Gassman followed, and many screenplays, some of which became full-length movies, while others were lost. He collaborated with the very first Tinto Brass cinema, and appears in some of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia’s films. Towards the end, he became very fat. His body, having lived for three people, was about to give up. He wrote for “Il mondo”, “L’Europeo”, “L’Espresso” and for “Il Giorno”, writing a very popular column: “La colonna”. He then drifted towards less famous magazines. He left the stage in 1984, marginalised by the press. In his day, everyone perceived him as a nonconformist, a maverick, an ungovernable, cursed talent. Today, his avoidance of ambition and power, plots and scheming in order to enjoy himself makes him appear a role model: an Italian Bukowski, cheerful, disinterested and always striking — an authentic narrator of the kind you no longer see at parties or in newspapers.

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One thought on “The inimitable fascination of the enchanter

  1. […] per farla breve il mj fa tutto quello che enzo biagi e giorgio bocca non hanno mai fatto, e se deve scegliere un modello, dice Gian Carlo Fusco (che voi manco sapete chi sia). […]

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