The current exhibition dedicated to the Gualino Collection, at the Palazzo Chiablese in Turin, challenges the viewers to ponder over the importance of a controversial yet unique protagonist of the last century.
Our interview with Giorgio Caponetti, who has recently written a comprehensive biography about him, allowed us to understand this entrepreneur and patron more in depth.
Your recent work dedicated to Riccardo Gualino is unique. Could you tell us more about its genesis and the challenges of dealing with such a multi-facet character?
A friend journalist asked me to write a book about him during a conference.
I said it was a very interesting idea, but I had no clue about who Gualino might be. I started looking for documents and I immediately thought I didn’t like him at all; then I read his pieces of writing during his exile in Lipari and I discovered his wife Cesarina. My book is actually about their story. Afterwards, I deepened my researches and met his grandson: Riccardo Gualino jr (he died two years ago) who was very kind and allowed me to enter his archives and to become his friend. I tried to depict that marriage, not only talking about Gualino as an entrepreneur, but also giving a different view than the books already existing on him, which analise only one side of his life.
Even if he was one of the most important players of his time, Gualino’s re-discovery is very recent. What is the reason why, in your opinion?
Gualino lived in Turin for only ten years, but he managed - together with his wife - to change its cultural habits. Afterwards, there was a ‘war’ against Agnelli senior and all the fascist entrepreneurs. Gualino was literary robbed by the State and his properties auctioned by a legal representative of the Agnelli family. He was literally ostracised until after the war, when he left for Portofino and then for Rome where he became the great Gualino of Lux Film.
Your book is also a choral biography. You mention Cesarina, Gobetti, Casorati and Jessie Boswell. Was it difficult to have so many voices ‘speaking’ at the same time?
They were all really fascinating characters, starting from the formidable Cesarina. I have recently found one of her letters to a friend, where she talked about all the fun they had had in their lives. This ludicrous aspect has never been mentioned in any book on Gualino, for some strange reason. It was really interesting to put together all the pieces even if I am not a historian. It is my interpretation, but it is supported by facts and it wasn’t a difficult task at all.
Was is challenging to complete such a comprehensive oeuvre?
If it had been really comprehensive, I would have needed double the pages. Especially towards the end, my writing becomes impressionist, trying to cut and let the reader understand Gualino’s diabolic way of thinking. All of the above, respecting historical facts without renouncing a personal interpretation.
Can I already ask you about your future projects?
I would like my two books: Quando l’automobile uccise la cavalleria and Il Grande Gualino to be the first two parts of a trilogy, but I really can’t say more.
My objective, though, will always be to make the readers laugh without mocking them.