Beyond physical courage, there is something more: it is the courage to be yourself and to affirm it in a world that does everything to engulf you, absorb you and spit you out like any other consumer object. This is the parable of Rika, a 17-year-old Japanese who in Italy finds herself living a terrible adventure that will highlight her ability to resist and keep faith with the promise she made after another bad experience in Tokyo, learn to say no. Rika is the protagonist and narrator of the new novel by Mario Vattani, recently appointed Ambassador to Singapore after his experience in Osaka and before that in Cairo and a few years spent in Rome. After “Doromizu” and “La via del Sol Levante”, in this third book on Japan, “Rika” (Idrovolante Edizioni, pp. 240 – euro 18.00), Vattani chooses to start from a news episode that really happened in 2011 to a very young Japanese tourist in Rome to build a coming-of-age and catharsis novel. “With ‘Rika’ a phase of my life also closes: it is a bit of a farewell, or perhaps a goodbye, to writing – explains Vattani to Adnkronos – These last years spent in Rome have been the time to think, elaborate and On the other hand, writing is this. For me it was a novelty and also an amazing experience: I found myself putting together things I had lived, Japan, Egypt, experiences I had had and that in some way have turned into texts. Now this phase is over. I see life punctuated by the rhythm of the breath: inhale and exhale, do and tell. There is a moment for action and one for elaboration, almost like in balance between pen and sword of which Mishima spoke “. “Now – he adds – this period ends because the prospect for a diplomat is to go abroad, and life abroad is an operational life, made up of action, so you can’t think and tell, you have to do. And I wanted to close this phase with one of the stories that struck me most, and moved me. A descent into hell which is followed by a catharsis, a resurrection “. “‘I really’ met ‘Rika, even if not in person, but in a totally different role of mine, when I was diplomatic adviser to the mayor of Rome – says Vattani – I was involved every time something happened that had to do with foreigners, and so it also happened in the case of this Japanese girl who had a very bad adventure in 2011. It seemed to me really a symbol, because among tourists the Japanese is considered the most correct, but also the most docile and defenseless, and she it proved quite the opposite. And not because she had reacted physically to that attack: she was a normal girl. Yet with her courage, her determination, being ready for anything in order not to give up, it seemed to me an example. only for women. This story shows that wherever one is, even in the most absolute solitude, the individual manages with his own personality, with his own courage, not only to save himself, but to transform himself into something better “.” The book is dark and violent in some ways – continues the diplomat – but I wanted to dedicate it to my daughter, who is a teenager, because, I would like to say, the important thing is not to get lost, not to fall for it, not to be fooled by the false teachers who sing and tell about big problems and big solutions but in the end they only aim to consume the youth of these children, their purity, their dreams and their future. The future, I say to these guys and also to myself, is what each one builds for himself and the total courage of this little girl, even in the face of death, the ability to remember that he has promised himself something, is a very powerful defense tool against a false and cynical world, full of bogus messages that only aim to use young people to like, be followed, earn “.” Rika’s battle is not just a battle for physical survival but a battle for self-affirmation. So much so that the real villains of this story are not the most violent, those in whose hands Rika ends up in Rome. The baddest of all is instead an Italian she meets in Tokyo, one of those guys we know well, those who use women, girls, who party and use them as decoy. Nothing original. On the other hand, in this book they are all bad, all just follow their interests, because that’s the way the world is. Yet we have a wonderful tool to rebel against all this, a tool called courage, and the courage is also to say no, to remain true to oneself. This is the moral of the novel. “” The world of ‘Rika’ – says Vattani – is a miserable world, like Dickens. The Tokyo I wanted to tell is petty, just as Rome is also different from how we know it because it is seen by different eyes, a capital of undone, distant beauty. But it is in this greyness, in this darkness, that the light of this little girl can be seen shining, in the courage to keep faith with her promise not to be fooled anymore. ‘Rika’ is a bit like my testament as a writer: an explosive, violent, ugly story that brings out the immortal beauty of youth “.” Writing a female book, in the present, in the first person was a challenge, not I had never done it – continues the diplomat – and I have to thank all the women I know and in particular my daughter, because it is also through them that I was able to make a transformation, kill my identity and acquire another one. This book changed me: it changed my way of seeing men and changed some of my thoughts and behaviors with respect to the world of women. It was very difficult but exciting, and now for me Rika is alive: seeing this book come out was like seeing her walking in the world “.