Thursday, March 31, 2016

Entertained to Death


It is pretty clear that Hollywood and "stars" have been the bridgeheads for the spreading of Buddhism in the Western world. We're referring to the actors, the singers, soccer players or simply “famous people,” that is to say, that large crowd that performs in the mediatic circus of cinematography, television, newspapers and magazines: beings who were kissed by luck and therefore (it is difficult to see if it was a cause or an outcome) rose to notoriety. They offer to the international public their model of behavior, regardless if the public accepts it or not. 
       Therefore, to advertise to the public a new way of life is an unavoidable aspect of their job. 
       This is another excerpt from Roberto Dal Bosco's book "Contro il Buddismo." (The first one, which was published a short while ago on this pages, relates to the uprising of the "peaceful" Vietnamese Buddhists that led to the toppling of the government of South Viet Nam in 1963.) We hope to publish the book very soon in the United States. Meanwhile, we hope you will find these excerpts interesting.
You comments will be very appreciated.
L. Pavese

Buddhist Human Bestiary
(by Roberto Dal Bosco)

Director Oliver Stone, the author of many motion pictures about Viet Nam, is a Buddhist. Actress Kate Bosworth, a hopeful young woman in odor of anorexia, is a Buddhist. Goldie Hawn, her daughter Kate Hudson, Sharon Stone and Naomi Watts are all Buddhist; as well as Sting, whose erotic confessions, a couples of decades ago, revealed to the vast readership of the world’s newspapers the sexual performance value of the Tantras.
Keanu Reeves is also a Buddhist. He’s the actor who played Buddha in Bernardo Bertolucci’s colossal Buddhist propaganda production movie Little Buddha.

Nevio Presotto

      The pedophile poet of the beat generation, Allen Ginsberg, said he was a Buddhist. Singer Leonard Cohen has Buddhist sympathies, and maybe self-destructive singer Kurt Cobain, who had the merit to popularize the word “Nirvana” once for all, was a Buddhist too.
The list is very long: the unbeatable but odd basketball coach Phil Jackson; Canadian singer Alanis Morisette; lesbian singer K.D. Laing, drug-addict singer Courtney Love. The old singer Patty Smith personally met the Dalai Lama and she was awe-struck.
Sex addict, wife-cheating, pro-golfer Tiger Woods is a Buddhist because his mother was Thai, and declared his wish to return to the faith of the Enlightened, after his marital trouble.
Steve Jobs, the genius founder of Apple Computer, wanted a Zen monk to officiate his wedding. Viktor Pelevin, the celebrated novelist of the new Russia, also made it in the list of Buddhist converts; where even Lisa Simpson, the smart daughter of Homer Simpson, can be found.
In a previous chapter, we told of how Buddha, half a millennium ago, was rejected by the first Westerners who had discovered him: the Christian missionaries. Things went better with the 17th and 18th century European aristocratic intellectuals looking for a thrill; and the Western fascination with the Orient began.
But the true breach was really opened at the end of the nineteen hundreds, when Buddhism reached the Euro-American masses to the point of becoming a religion with a great following that aspires to replace Christianity, not really as a mass cult but rather as the spiritual background against which people unfold their every-day lives.
It is not a secret that “stars” have been the bridgeheads of this process of infiltration: actors, singers, soccer players or simply “famous people,” that is to say, that large crowd that participates in the mediatic circus of cinematography, television, newspapers and magazines: beings who were kissed by luck and therefore (it is difficult to see if it was a cause or an outcome) rose to notoriety. They offer to the international public their model of behavior, regardless if the public accepts it or not. Therefore, to advertise to the public a new way of life is an unavoidable aspect of their job.
        Sinologist and journalist Orville Schell, who investigated the links between Hollywood and the exiled Tibetan government, wrote on “Newsweek” about the “Hollywood Connection” hatched up by the Dalai Lama. Basically, “Since he doesn't have embassies, and he has no political power, he has to seek other kinds. Hollywood is a kind of country of its own, and he's established a kind of embassy there.[1]
        There’s nothing really new under the sun: Benito Mussolini required to be written above the Cinecittà’s film studios, in block capital letters, that: “CINEMA IS THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON.” With the difference that Mussolini had openly promised to create a race of warriors, while on the contrary Buddhism — at least apparently —presents itself as the only way to peace.
        A religion that promises interior serenity before all every day’s worries; that presents itself as harmonious with all things (and with nature, since ecology is a value that cannot be renounced); that promises physical health (and weight loss, another obsession) cannot but make an impression on actors and actresses, who for the most part are slightly anxious people, obsessed with the need to be liked and afflicted by perennial doubts about their physical shape: people who live in a disharmonious relation with the surrounding reality, whether they’re successful or not.

     Movie actors, if we really think about it, represent the ideal soft belly from which to start any expansionist plan: the performative work often makes them insecure (an actor puts his body and his art in a motion picture, the work coincides with his or her very person); nevertheless, stars have such a hold on the public — who rarely perceives the desperation on which the star system is based — that they are able, ever more often, to sway their fans’ opinions.
        So, with the arrival of the Buddha in Hollywood, celebrities offered their flank to something that maybe they didn’t even fully understand: a vast geopolitical game that involves China, the new superpower to appear on the world stage, as well as, in a much more sinister way, the apocalyptic project of the Kalachakra, the dominion of Shambala, the return of the Chakravartin, the master of the world…the entire arsenal on which the Tantras rely.
        The sexual aspect of the Tantric practices that could be of interest to the high society of the motion-pictures’ world actually plays a secondary role, because after all it is a private matter, while the political characteristic of this process is, as we were saying, a public safety issue that produces huge gatherings of people and diplomatic accidents.
        The first great ambassador of the Buddhist cause was, without a doubt, actor Richard Gere. He was little more than a pretty boy, when he modeled — striking poses with a slightly homosexual tone — for his childhood friend Herb Ritts, a good black and white photographer who died of AIDS in 2002.
        The rumors that Gere was a closet homosexual, as well as the other urban legends about his improbable zoophilic tastes, were quickly put to rest by his marriage with a very beautiful model.
        Richard Gere rose to fame playing a callboy in the movie American Gigolo and his status as a superstar was consolidated by another great success in the same meretricious vein, Pretty Woman. Gere the man drove women crazy (after all, his job required it), but with a specific difference: besides young girls (who are the basic audience in the hysterics that surround the stars), older women, perhaps those in odor of divorce, also seemed to like him (as they liked his gigolo character in his most famous role). These women also happen to be a favored target of Buddhist proselytism, which obviously could never find a fertile terrain among people who are firmly married within different religious traditions.

        Gere became acquainted with Buddhism during a trip to Nepal in 1978. From that moment on, his passion led him to become to all intents and purposes one of the true eminences of the Tibetan diplomatic action in the world.
Richard Gere is an official enemy of the People’s Republic of China, who forbade him to set foot again in her territory and has even convinced the Academy of Motion Pictures, the institute that presides over the awarding of the Oscars, not to let Gere present the ceremony again, because in the past he had seized the opportunity to blast China over the violation of human rights in Tibet.
The height of spite was reached in Red Corner, a motion picture in which Richard Gere points to the Chinese (especially the big shots of the armed forces) as corrupted monsters, willing to commit any possible abuse. Gere founded Tibet House, a Tibetan cultural center within Columbia University, sits in several boards of directors of pro-Tibetan associations, finances monasteries (including apparently the one in Pomaia, Tuscany) and tries to extend the fight to every area of his work as a public figure.
As Lancia Delta automobile’s spokesperson in 2008, he managed to stain indelibly the relations between the FIAT group and the People’s Republic, because in a very revealing ad he travelled in the Italian car from Hollywood all the way to Tibet. The income from the ad went right to the Gere Foundation, an institution that regularly plans anti-Chinese campaigns. FIAT had to apologize to the Chinese authorities.
In conclusion, Richard Gere, who has never hidden his role as the close confidant of the Dalai Lama, acts more as a political activist than as a movie star. Therefore, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that he’s an agent of the exiled Tibetan government.
But there is another “star” that is certainly less glamorous and famous than Richard Gere, but that nevertheless in the Buddhist arena is at the forefront. Supposedly Richard Gere hates him, and it’s understandable, because apparently at pro-Tibetan public events the American Gigolo must always sit several rows back, behind this unsuspected and undeniably comical new entry in the Shangri-La of celluloid.
But the furious Richard Gere shouldn’t get so upset, because at the base of it all there are precise and unquestionable theological reasons. The person in question is Steven Seagal, the very tall and unifacial interpreter of action movies, of which some (for example, Under Siege) were well received by the American audience. In his movies Seagal practices Aikido and handles knives very well; he’s a man of a few words, who is rarely troubled by his enemies, whether they are terrible drug traffickers or mad terrorists.

The fact is that Steven Seagal was recognized by the Tibetan sect Nyingmapa (a competitor, albeit small, of the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpas) as the reincarnation of an important Lama who lived centuries ago, Lama Chungrag Dorje. It was the head of the sect, an authoritative Buddhist figure, the Lama Penor Rinpoche, that confirmed that the action movies hero was in every respect a precious tulku.

Seagal Chungrag Dorje

Even if it’s possible that Steven Seagal bought his “title,” by now the matter is irreversible; and in 1997 Seagal could be seen in Bodh Gaya (Bihar, India) sitting under the tree of the bodhi, the very spot in which the Buddha received enlightenment. Hundreds of surrounding monks were being blessed by Seagal, who looked very satisfied of his transition (unique in the history of cinema) from star to god.
All Steven Seagal’s movies contain an exorbitant amount of violence.  Moreover, each mission our hero is assigned is carried out with a coldness devoid of any emotion. Whether he is a soldier dealing with terrorists or a cop fighting drug dealers, in Seagal’s movies the hero is cold and invincible, the perfect operator in the art of killing. But the brutality of Seagal’s movies doesn’t seem to bother that Buddhist clergy who regards him as the reincarnation of one of their important colleagues.
The matter of cinematographic violence also recurs in the case of Uma Karuna Thurman. In the movie Kill Bill, the two-part work by that director painfully obsessed with vengeance, Quentin Tarantino, Uma commits a massacre after another, going as far as quartering with a katana as many as eighty-seven people in one single scene; with amputated limbs, eyes torn out with the fingers and blood that literally flows in torrents.
And yet such violence shouldn’t figure in her moral framework, even less in her Buddhist father’s, who nevertheless declared that he enjoys his daughter’s violent movies too.
Versatile actress endowed with an almost alien beauty, Uma Thurman, blond and blue eyed, is actually a second generation Buddhist. Her mother was a beautiful German-Swedish model who was briefly married to the prophet of LSD Timothy Leary. Beauty was also the trait of Uma’s grandmother, whose features were sculpted in the statue of the woman who has welcomed those who enter the Swedish harbor of Smygehuk since 1930.
Uma’s father Robert is instead a very famous scholar (he’s a professor at Columbia University) in the subject of Tibetan Buddhism; though it would be safe to say that Dr. Thurman is also a sort of spokesperson for the Dalai Lama in Western universities. After a long journey among the Sufis in Turkey and in India, Thurman eventually found his way in the early nineteen sixties, becoming the first American to be ordained a Tibetan monk; something that he doesn’t tire to remind to his colleagues Tibetologists.

The Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman

Thurman, who is a veritable bulldog of the Tibetan cause, was named one the twenty-five most influential people in the United States in 1997; the same year in which Hollywood dished out the two biographic pro-Lamaist movies Seven years in Tibet and Kundun.
The Kundun’s favorite New York apostle — who’s also the co-founder with Richard Gere of the above-mentioned Tibet House — in 1993 told an audience of Western students in Dharamsala that if they wanted to become masters of the Vajrayana they should show up with a plate of feces and a fork and eat that rich dish, hence complying with the doctrine of the rochig (samarasa in Sanskrit), that is, “the only flavor”: the undifferentiated state of the enlightened mind.
In 1996, Dr. Thurman oversaw an exhibit on the Kalachakra, in Bonn, Germany, that included a grand finale centered on the war of Shambala: a painting illustrated with minutia the massacres of the “Buddhist Armageddon” — that’s how the final battle was referred to by the exhibit catalogue, in which the professor got carried away by his enthusiasm for the restoration of the dominion of Shambala over the fate of the world that will be finally wrested away from the forces of evil. And during an annexed conference Dr Thurman talked, not without shocking some in audience, about his project of global conversion to Buddhism, and the future dominion of the Dalai Lama over the masses who will have become anti-militarist, anti-materialist and devoted to collective monasticism.
In his essay, The Inner Revolution, Dr. Thurman adds that the true modern era began in Tibet in the year 1500; the European revolutions, whether social, political or industrial, do not count, because the future lies in Buddhist spirituality. In his other book, Essential Tibetan Buddhism, Dr. Thurman advances the truly captivating thought that the occupation of Tibet by Mao Zedong was really an act mystically planned by the Lamas, who therefore were forced to undergo a process of purification of their creed and then, contrary to what they had done during the previous   millennium, found themselves in the position to be able to spread their religion throughout the world.
The conversion to Buddhism of America is the task that Dr. Thurman has assigned to himself, and he is confident he’ll be able to witness it in his lifetime. The Hollywoodian success of his daughter — who thanks to her tabloid love stories managed to work her way not only in the Mecca of the movie industry but also in the London’s high finances circles — has surely helped Dr. Thurman’s Buddhocratic propaganda scheme and the plan of global dissemination of the religion that was paradoxically inaugurated with the expulsion from Lhasa.
The scheme is rather clear, even and especially if one looks at its darker side. Robert Thurman was ordained a monk by the Dalai Lama himself, but the person who looked after his studies was a Kalmyk monk, Geshe Wangyal (1901- 1983). In the initiation chain, Wangyal was in turn initiated by the controversial Lama Agvan Dorzhiev (1854-1938) who was an important player in the last phase of the geopolitical clash between the British and the Russian empires that has been called The Great Game.

 Dorzhiev, who was born by the great Lake Baikal, was sent by the 13th Dalai Lama to maintain the ties with the Russian Czar, and shortly before the October revolution he was dispatched to Saint Petersburg to open a temple and, practically, to obtain the conversion of as many Czarist aristocrats as possible.
Dorzhiev maintained that the Czarina Alexandra was the reincarnation of the Tara Bianca, a Buddhist goddess, and that the Romanovs were the descendants of the dynasty of the Suchandra, the rulers of Shambala. For the high society of that time, like for today’s Hollywood elite, Buddhism became very trendy, and Dorzhiev enjoyed a lot of support.
 Practically speaking, it is the same job that Dr. Thurman is attempting to do now, a few decades later, but in a different empire. And on July 14, 2004 it was Dr. Thurman himself who celebrated the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Agvan Dorzhiev, in the Saint Petersburg’s Buddhist temple.
Inasmuch as Agvan Dorzhiev is recognized as the reincarnation of the angry divinity Vajrabhairava (the “Ferocious Adamantine One”), it is not unthinkable that part of that evil spirit could also be found in Dr. Thurman, since according to the Lamaist reincarnation mentality the spirit of the master lives in each of his disciples, in virtue of the initiation chain.
If history, like Tibetans believe, is dominated by demons and spirits, then the history of the Thurmans is perfectly in line with the plan: with spirits that fly over Czars and movie stars; and demons driven away from Tibet, who will exact their revenge conquering the world.
But the Dalai Lama wasn’t the only one that recruited celebrities. The second most important agent of Buddhist proselytism is the Soka Gakkai, a sect founded on the teachings of the monk Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282), who left apocalyptic sermons (he called the final era of Japan, Mappo) and professed ideas of outright intolerance towards other religions.

Nichiren’s teachings suited perfectly the ideology of the so-called “Japanese Fascists” (of the 20th century) who nevertheless jailed the two founders of the sect, Josei Toda and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi; not because they opposed the militarist violence of Japan in those years, but because they had refused to worship the goddess Amaterasu, the main divinity of the other great Japanese religion, Shinto. In other words, it was not an act of heroic resistance on the part of the Soka Gakkai sect, who boast a story of early martyrs and catacombs, but an act of religious intolerance instead.
Unfortunately, the nationalist and violent aspects of the Nichiren’s teachings today have been almost forgotten but, even remaining on a more concrete ground, there is certainly no lack of controversy as far as the Soka Gakkai sect is concerned.
Soka Gakkai was the religious movement that managed, best than any other, to attract the Japanese masses who were still shocked by the changes brought about by the defeat in WWII. The movement, led by the charismatic leader Daisaku Ikeda, soon grew out of proportion, but managed to set up hundreds of centers throughout the country, in the universities and lastly it even organized its own political projection represented in parliament, the Komeito Party. This combination of politics and religion generated much controversy.

Ikeda at the Coliseum in Rome. 1963

On a parallel track, the Soka Gakkai — that is based on the adoration of the sutra of the lotus and the belief that salvation may be achieved through the repetition of a mantra — took action to conquer the minds of foreign peoples, more and more desirous of that spiritual stability that the modern world seems to want to deny. Today the SGI (Soka Gakkai International) claims twelve millions adepts.
In the United States the sect achieved many conversions among African-Americans: the first to blaze the trail was jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, followed by the public conversion of singer Tina Turner.
Footballer Roberto Baggio is maybe the best known Italian member of the sect. At the 1994 Soccer World Cup, he revealed that it was thanks to an invocation to the Buddha that he had gotten the strength to score the unhoped-for goal that put Italy ahead of Nigeria and qualified her for the quarter-finals. We were not given to understand if Baggio also recited a mantra before kicking the penalty that came to represented the peak (albeit negative) of his career: it was the decisive free kick of the final game with Brazil and Baggio (although he was a specialist of set kicks) inexplicably kicked it too high.
Italian actress Sabina Guzzanti, who’s a convinced Soka Gakkai’s practicing faithful, also did not seem to have attained that state of absolute peace she declared to receive from Buddhism; at least not judging from her acts, which were always charged with a destructive fury against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; or from the statements she made at a speech in which she hoped to see the Pope in hell, sexually tormented by homosexual devils.

The anti-Berlusconi Italian heroin must have really lived with uneasiness the time, in the early 2000’s, in which the Italian chapter of the Soka Gakkai was almost divided, when a staunchly pro-Berlusconi part of the leadership attempted to impose its view to the rest of the movement.[2]
The last catch of the Soka Gakkai recruiters was actor Orlando Bloom, one of the most promising young Hollywood actors. It seems that even his new wife, Australian model Miranda Kerr, was lured in.

 A French government commission has established that the movement can be called in every respect a “sect,” whose former members have denounced has a sort of pyramidal body, based more on marketing than on compassion, where the exploitation of the adepts and even what looked like attempts of “brain washing” are common practices (Guyard Report 1995-1999).
Ikeda, the most prominent figure in the group, looked for legitimization in politics. He met with Margaret Thatcher and Fidel Castro, and he got his picture taken with the omni-present Nelson Mandela; (his socializing with Dictators Manuel Noriega and Nicolae Ceausescu today is kept in the shadow). He built his own very rich art collection (including a Renoir that was paid thirty million Euros), and in his trips he’s always followed by aids who carry bags full of cash.
Ikea directs the movement from Japan, where he keeps the molds of the holy gohonzon’s: the objects sacred to the sect that were obtained from calligraphic writings of Nichiren himself. Practically speaking, he holds the keys of the legitimization of the whole religion.
Ikeda is the object of endless criticism for his alleged authoritarianism, but the adepts worship him and are always very moved by every one of his visits. In 1991, Ikeda was irrevocably excommunicated by the Nichiren Shōshū, the school of Nichiren Buddhism from which, at least formally, he depended. The anti-Ikeda on-line forums, in every language, are countless.
Regardless of how controversial he is, Ikeda remains the Pope of Soka Gakkai. Because, in the final account, whether it is Ikeda, the Dalai Lama or any other religious leader, it is always about one thing: to obtain the same status of the Roman Pontiff, who is maybe the most universal celebrity the world has seen in the last two millennia.
To replace the Pope is the automatic and inevitable secret dream of all the Buddhocrats.

[1] Tibet gets chic, “Newsweek,” 05/19/1997.
[2] Anna Maria Rivera, “I forzabuddisti,” in the Italian daily “Il Manifesto,” 12/2/2002. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dos Gardenias

David J. L'Hoste

            by Giorgio Ballario  

Santiago, Chile, December 17, 1976

“Damned Pisco Sour,” he thought, tugging the sheet up to shield his face from the sun that filtered through the window. “And damned all that cocaine that I did all night long”.
His head was killing him, and he felt his heart pump madly, while the hotel room was spinning like a carnival merry-go-round. With his eyes closed he felt the other side of the bed, but he found nothing. Malusardi jumped up: Isabelita was gone.
He opened the drawer of the side table and exhaled a sigh of relief. His wallet was still there, and also the false passport with which he had entered Chile two months ago. The gun was there too. It was the .380 Walther PPK that Raffaele Mannucci had given him. He closed the drawer and let himself drop on the mattress, humid with sweat. The headache was relentless, and he couldn’t even understand if it was morning or afternoon. He crawled to the side table on other side of the bed, where he was sure he had left his watch; but instead of his dad’s old Longines he found two white flowers. Two gardenias.
Immediately, the notes of the song bounced back into his head. He had danced to them the night before with Isabelita, in a club on the Calle Simón Bolivar, not too far from the country club. The band alternated tangos and boleros to old jazz standards; and when they started Dos Gardenias, the girl had practically dragged him on the dance floor.
“I can’t dance, please forget it.”
“It doesn’t matter, Andrea. Let yourself go…This song is too beautiful not to dance!”
He had let go. And for a few minutes he had forgotten everything. Who he was, where he came from and what he was about to do. For a few minutes he even had felt almost in love with Isabelita. And with life.

Dos gardenias para ti
Con ellas quiero decir
Te quiero, te adoro, mi vida
Ponles toda tu atención
Que serán tu corazón y el mio. 

Malusardi masticated enough Spanish to understand the romantic lyrics, similar to all old Latin American songs. He had let himself rock by the sweet words, at the same time being very careful though that the piece in the pocket of his jacket didn’t hit the body of his mate, who was holding him tighter and tighter.

        Pero si un atardecer
Las gardenias de mi amor se mueren
Es porque han adivinado
Que tu amor me ha traicionado
Porque existe otro querer

Besides the too many cocktails and the lines of cocaine he also cursed himself. What an idiot! He had fallen for the beautiful dark eyes of that Chilean whore. And truth be told also for her magnificent ass that he had found in his hands while they danced the bolero. And that whore had left with his dad’s Longines…It wasn’t worth that much; but it was dear to him. It was, like nice people say, an heirloom of his father, who was gone.
The young man struggled down form the bed, and leaning against the wall reached the bathroom. “Maybe a cold shower will help to get me back up on my feet,” he thought. He looked in the mirror, and he saw himself ten years older, with a jaundiced face, the stubble and the ringed eyes. He heard a soft ticking, and saw his watch beside the sink, over a piece of paper that read “ADIÓS” and with the lipstick mark of Isabelita’s lips on it. He almost felt sorry for having insulted her a short time before. After all, for only one hundred pesos, he had had a nice evening and an unforgettable night. In Milan, for that price one couldn’t even get a quickie.
The cold shower restored him, but he still felt tired and his headache wasn’t thoroughly gone. He dressed calmly and fastened around his neck the golden rune as he had done for many years, and stuffed the semiautomatic pistol in the inside pocket of his coat.
        He went out wearing his old mirror Ray Ban’s, and was once more amazed by how warm it was in December, while probably at home there was snow already.
        He thought about Isabelita again, when she had demanded that he stole the two gardenias for her from the vase in the restaurant, forcing him to perform a diversion to distract the waiter. Leaving the hotel room, he had pinned one flower to the button hole of his jacket, who knows why. He thought it was a…nice touch. That’s it, nice was the right word. Or, maybe, graceful. As long as people weren’t mistaking him for queer.
        Maybe, one of these nights, he would have seen the girl again. He knew where to find her. She herself had told him that t go back any time to the lounge bar of the Sheraton hotel, where she “worked.”
        Malusardi got a cab and asked to go to the Parque O’Higgins, where he meant to grab a bite and relax in the natural setting. He still had a couple of hours, before he had to go to the Estadio Nacional, for the appointment that Mannucci had talked about. At the metro stop he bought a copy of “El Mercurio,” the most important Chilean newspaper, and the news were front page. After all, the entire country had talked about anything else for a week: the final Davis Cup match between Italy and Chile.
        Malusardi had left Italy months ago: first the escape to Spain, then the few weeks he had spent in Buenos Aires from where he had then reached Chile. But he knew that, back home, the decision of the Italian sport authority CONI and of the Tennis Federation to go play for the Davis Cup against the weak Chilean team had opened a can of worms. “Don’t go play a volée with the killer Pinochet,” or “Panatta makes the millions, Pinochet spills blood by gallons” were the most tender slogans heard in the Italian street protests unleashed by the Left. As usual, politicians and sport authorities had pretended not to hear; and the government, led by Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, had washed his hands of it, in pure Christian-Democratic fashion. “This is a sport matter that does not concern the government. Italy is strongly opposed to the Pinochet regime; and she will remain so, even if our tennis players go to play in Santiago.”  
        “And come they did, those chicken-shits,” thought the young Italian, laughing to himself. He had sat in a cervecería near the Caupolicán theatre and ordered a grilled fillet of beef with a salad of potatoes and peppers, though passing on the great Chilean wine: “I have to stay lucid. A Coke would be better.”
        While he ate he felt a strange sense of agitation grow inside of him, almost of anxiety. The words of Mannucci came back to mind, when three days ago he had entrusted Andrea Malusardi with task he had been talking about for weeks.
        “The time has come Andrea. You must take care of that business.”
        “That’s fine Raffaele; what it is about?”
        “It is not a difficult task; but it requires some attributes.”
        “You know me; I’ve never said no.”
        “I know you, I know you…”
        He hadn’t added anything else. He had only placed on the desk a leather case, and he extracted from it the .380 caliber Walther PPK/S. He had held it for a moment, almost caressing it; then he had put it on the desk and pushed it toward Malusardi.
        “What’s this?” had asked the young man, manifesting a bit of nervousness.
        “It’s a .380 Walther PPK: a very good German-made semiautomatic pistol.”
        “I can see that; what should I do with it?”
        Mannucci had smiled and lit a cheroot; then he had extracted from the drawer a bottle of scotch and poured himself a glass. He had filled another one, giving it to Malusardi.
        “My friend, usually with a gun one does not go to church.”
        Andrea chewed the very tasty fillet with care, sipping the carbonated drink. He had to admit to himself that that day he hadn’t looked very good. Maybe he had even turned pale; and he had surely shown indecisiveness in the eyes of Mannucci. Not to say fear. And Raffaele Mannucci was not just anybody. He had been the idol of Andrea’s youth. He remembered like it was yesterday when Mannucci had shown up, by himself, distributing fliers in front of the Berchet high school. He was not a giant, but when the Reds had attacked him he had decked a couple with his bare hands, without much effort. Then he had pulled out that Asian weapon, the nunchaku, and sent three others to the hospital with a cracked head. Without even taking his Ray Ban’s off.
        What strength, Mannucci! Like that other time, when he had led that punitive expedition against the headquarter of Lotta Continua, to avenge a friend that had been beaten at the university. With a touch of class, he had made the incendiary bombs with champagne bottles, and he had been the first to launch one against the communist windows, wearing a jacket, tie and trench coat. “Style before everything else,” he always said. Then he had been framed too for that business of the bomb in Brescia, and he had to escape abroad. First in Spain, then in Chile. And there he had formed all the right friendships.
        Malusardi ordered a coffee and lit a cigarette. He really bothered him he had looked bad in front of Mannucci, who had helped him to find refuge in Spain when those filthy communist prosecutors had framed him for that homicide story.
        After giving Malusardi the gun, Mannucci had also given him the picture of a guy. “He’s that reporter who keeps feeding the D.A.’s his bull. The one who got the Police and the Carabineers onto us for that attempt on the life of that judge.”
        “What is he doing here in Santiago?”
        “Officially he’s here to follow the final match of the Davis Cup; but in reality he wants to stick his nose in our business. And in General Gutierrez’s, our friend in the secret police.”
The Chilean secret police — the infamous DINA, Dirección de Inteligencia Naciónal — the very powerful organization that was behind all the dirty operations of the regime: kidnaps, torture, political assassinations. In just a couple of months Malusardi had realized that it was a separate body within the state, that enjoyed totally immunity.
It was a DINA agent who had procured him a false Chilean passport when he was in Buenos Aires. And the secret police had also given him a place to stay and a cover occupation, so he could reside in the Latin American country without a problem.
Andrea had hesitated, when faced with the picture of the reporter. He had understood perfectly what was expected from him; but before he could even open his mouth, Mannucci himself had been very explicit:
“He has to be eliminated.”
“Raffaele, I don’t know if I can do that.”
“I’ve told you already, it is not a difficult task.”
“But I’ve never done anything like that! One thing is a fist fight at the university, a punitive expedition, throwing Molotov cocktails; another is killing a man in cold blood.”
“You will have the highest level of cooperation and cover from the DINA. It’s just a question of five minutes.”
“But why me?”
“Because certain favors must be repaid. Our friends gave you a hand to get out of trouble, otherwise now you’d be in an Italian jail, charged with the murder of that judge.”
“But it wasn’t me! I wasn’t even in Rome at the time.”
“Do you think that the police and the communist prosecutors care about that? You and I, the movement, we are the perfect scapegoats. We are Fascists, therefore guilty by definition.”
Andrea Malusardi left the cervecería and lit another cigarette. While he was walking to the stadium the smell of the burning tobacco covered for an instant the smell of the gardenia. When he reached the facility, he shivered at the thought that, just a few years before, thousands of people had been corralled in there like beasts for weeks. And many of them had never returned home.
From Italy, he had formed another impression of the Chilean coup and of the military regime. He thought the soldiers had saved Chile from communism, re-established order and prevented a civil war. Maybe that was the case, but now that he had seen up close he didn’t like that government much anymore.
Mannucci had explained to him the plan. Actually, a very simple one. Outside the tennis club there was a little square, with a couple of cafés with outside tables. The man to be eliminated would have sat in the café on the right, at the outermost table of the dehors. A blonde woman would be sitting with him, and in any case Malusardi would have recognized him easily from the picture. At a chosen moment the woman, who was obviously working for DINA, would get up and leave; and that was the moment to act.
Malusardi should approach the man up to a distance of about four feet and shoot the reporter in the head. It was going to be just a matter of seconds. It would be impossible to miss.
At the corner Malusardi would find a man, dressed in dark clothes, a Panama hat and dark glasses, who would point him to a getaway car with its engine on.
“Leave the car in front of the Banco Central,” Mannucci had told him, “and take the metro to go home. It is an extra precaution, but don’t worry; nobody will follow you.”
        Around the stadium there was a blaze of Chilean flags, red, white and blue with the distinctive white star; but there were also a few Italian tricolors, which had been simply raised by Chileans in homage to the guests, because just a few Italians fans had arrived from Italy.
The sight of the Italian flags caused Malusardi’s heart to skip a beat. How wonderful would had been to approach the arena as a normal Italian tennis fan of the Azzurri! To mix with the joyful crowd, find a seat in the bleachers and cheer the volleys of Panatta and the prodigious recoveries of Barazzutti. Not to mention the tennis double match of the following day, that fielded the Chilean Cornejo and Fillol against the tricolor team of Panatta and Bertolucci.
        One, Panatta, handsome and elegant, endowed with supreme class; the other, Bertolucci, an ugly duckling, squat and ungraceful, but oh so effective close to the net. The forecast of all the experts was a clear one: The Chileans did not have a chance, and the Italian were going to take home, for the first time, the prestigious “salad bowl,” that traditionally was awarded to the winners.
        It was warm, even though of the Chilean capital city was at an elevation of 1500 feet, and Malusardi was thirsty. He would have liked an ice cold beer, but he did not want to risk losing his sharpness in any way; therefore, he opted for an orange juice that a street vendor squeezed for him on the spot. He checked the time. There were still forty-five minutes left to his appointment with fate; and he wished instinctively that everything had already passed.
        He took the picture of the journalist he was going to kill out of his pocket, and it stared at it for a long time. The man was about forty-five, with an anonymous face, hairline slightly receding and a pair of showy sideburns that were already graying. The picture, that had certainly been taken from some distance and unbeknownst to him, portrayed him in the act of taking an unlit cigarette to his mouth. Andrea was even able to make out the brand: it was the same brand he smoked. That man, a little older than he was, with the same bad habit of smoking, will be dead in less than an hour. And he himself will be the killer: Malusardi, who didn’t even know him. Of course, in a sense he hated him. But it was an abstract, nominal, hate; addressed not to the man in flesh and blood but to him a symbol of a system to destroy. After all, the reporter hated Malusardi and all the ones like him; and he wrote it every day in the columns of his newspaper, distilling false and venomous articles.

       End of part one. I hope you enjoyed it. And this is part two . Thank you.

   Giorgio Ballario was born in Turin in 1964. He's a journalist who worked for the news agency Agi. He has been a correspondent for several Italian newspapers (Il Messaggero, Il Giorno, L'Indipendente). He was the editor of the weekly Il Borghese. Since 1999 he has worked for the daily La Stampa as a crime and judicial reporter. 
   In June 2008 he published his first novel, Morire è un attimo (Dying is just an instant) (Edizioni Angolo Manzoni), which was very well received by the critics and the public and was reissued in December of the same year. 
   In January 2009 he published the short story My Generation, in the online magazine, in the section devoted to the period of Italian political violence of the nineteen-seventies and eighties. The story was later published in the collection entitled "Crimini di piombo" (Lead Crimes), published by Laurum Editore in the Fall of the same year. 
   In October 2009, Giorgio Ballario released the second novel of the "colonial" cycle of Major Morosini, "Una donna di troppo" (A woman too many), also published by Edizioni Angolo Manzoni. The novels of this cycle are set in Italian Eastern Africa. The book was among the five finalists of the 2010 Premio Acqui in the Historical Novels Section. 
   In November 2010, Ballario published his new crime novel "Il volo della cicala," (The Flight of the Cicada), which is set in our time and in which the Italian-Argentine detective Hector Perazzo appears for the first time
   Giorgio Ballario is one of the founders and president of the association of Italian mystery writers Torinoir.  

Your comments, as usual, will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you very much.
L. Pavese