The Epic Story of the Billionaire Who Took Over Italy. La Rizzoli Book Shop di New York ospiterà la presentazione negli Usa della biografia di Silvio Berlusconi. Gianni Riotta in conversazione con Alan Friedman per la casa editrice Hachette Books

In esclusiva, per i lettori di alanfriedman.it, il prologo della versione in lingue inglese di My Way, pubblicato negli Usa da Hachette con il titolo BERLUSCONI: The Epic Story of the Billionaire Who Took Over Italy. Il libro verrà presentato a New York domani alle 18, al Rizzoli Book Shop di Broadway, insieme all’ex direttore del Tg1 e editorialista de La Stampa Gianni Riotta.

It is a hot summer’s day in Moscow in late July. Red Square seems to be overrun by an army of tourists, many of them Chinese and Japanese. They stand out in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral and pose for selfies. The storm squalls and dark clouds of this morning seem to have been washed away, and now, to the right of the cathedral, the imposing walls of the Kremlin are bathed in a wan sunlight. But the wind is blowing hard from the west, and the forecast for the afternoon is for a heavy downpour. The weather in Moscow is notoriously changeable. To get to the Spasskaya Tower, where the staff of President Putin is waiting, you have to cross the immense square. Along the eastern wall of the Kremlin stands the mausoleum of Lenin, a huge, black, marble structure that houses the body.

The clock mounted high on the Spasskaya Tower marks 4.20 p.m. There is a certain stillness in the air and from the vantage point of the tower the tourists who are scattered across Red Square appear to be moving in slow motion. As we enter the Kremlin there is suddenly a strange and deep silence. The President’s staff walks ahead of us without speaking. We’re about to enter Building Number One, the still somewhat dark and menacing palace inside the Kremlin’s walls where both Lenin and Stalin lived and ruled.The history of Mother Russia is everywhere, all around us. It is palpable, a certain heaviness in the air.

We enter the building and we are led through a long and narrow white corridor with high ceilings. The atmosphere conforms to one’s expectations of what it would feel like to be in a Cold-War thriller. Walking along this corridor on the ground floor of Building Number One in the Kremlin, one can almost hear the whisper of le Carré’s George Smiley or see the cynical wink of James Bond in From Russia with Love. The reality is more real than the fiction. A simulacrum. We’re in the Kremlin now and everything is terribly real, everything. We proceed in silence and we are now on the second floor. This wing of the Kremlin is sumptuous, a string of lavish state rooms that have been renovated in a Neoclassical style. Everything looks polished to perfection. On the pure white walls hang various depictions of the Kremlin and Red Square in past centuries.

We are now in the Chimney Room, the place that has been chosen as the venue for my meeting with vladimir Putin. Only four rooms separate the Chimney Room from Putin’s office, a member of his staff confides. Putin’s office is just behind huge, white double doors that are embellished with gold inserts along the panels. From here, the President has direct access to the Summit Room, where he receives foreign leaders and their entourages. Shortly before 7 p.m., the staff moves towards the Chimney Room. The cameramen have finished setting up, the interpreters have tested their equipment and so there is nothing else to do except wait for Putin.

At 8 p.m. sharp the double doors of the office of the President of the Russian Federation swing open and vladimir vladimirovich Putin appears. He is followed by his aide Dmitry Peskov, members of his staff and by still more security men. The arrival of the President is akin to a Siberian breeze. His face seems tense and drawn but his pace is determined and methodical. The body language is impressive. There is something electric about his arrival, too; everyone is standing at attention. Outside, the darkness has swallowed the remains of the day and the steady rain that was predicted earlier rattles against the panes of the huge windows.

The cameramen are ready to shoot; the microphones are already switched on.vladimir Putin greets me with a smile and a handshake and then takes his place at one of the two chairs that have been placed in front of the fireplace.

The President is wearing a sober dark-blue suit with a white shirt and a blue tie. His black, leather shoes are highly polished; they look new. He is impeccable, flawless, intense. At first, his gaze is impenetrable. Bush must have been endowed with supernatural powers to say he could look into Putin’s eyes and get a sense of his soul.Then, something happens when the subject of Silvio Berlusconi comes up. Within a matter of a few minutes, the man with the eyes as cold as ice, the bear-hunter, the martial-arts expert, suddenly changes his mood. He becomes relaxed and even playful. He listens politely as he receives greetings from his friend Berlusconi. Through the headphones, the voice of the interpreter seems choked with emotion at first. But when Putin begins to speak of his friend, his voice somehow softens. Putin repeatedly refers to ‘Silvio’ rather than the more usual ‘Berlusconi’. Now Putin looks comfortable, and as the clock is ticking he becomes more animated. Between Silvio and vladimir one can feel the empathy.

‘We have established a very good personal relationship between us – very friendly,’ says Putin. The Russian President chooses his words with great care, but he speaks with obvious conviction when he expresses his opinion about the life of Silvio Berlusconi. ‘You know,’ says Putin, the fact is that Berlusconi is the politician who was in power for longer than anyone else in the post-war history of Italy. This means, firstly, that he not only managed to attract the attention of the Italians, but also to convince them that his actions were aimed at ensuring the interests of the Italian people. Secondly, he is a remarkable, straightforward and very interesting person. All this taken together suggests that Silvio Berlusconi, as both a politician and as a man, will surely assume his deserved place in Italian history.

So says Vladimir Putin. But who is the real Silvio Berlusconi? Where did he come from? How did he make his billions? Does he deserve a place in history, and if so of what sort? What is the true story of Europe’s most famous billionaire business tycoon-turned-political leader?