At the time, I was due to deliver my second novel to the publisher but all I had was a draft in my impossible handwriting-two thick spiral notebooks riddled with deletions, arrows and corrections that no one but me could decipher. After thinking it over for a few moments, my editor, Campari, came up with the solution: he knew that Kloster had for some time now been using a typist-a girl, very young and apparently so perfect in every way that she had become one of his most prized possessions.

“So why would he lend her to me?” I asked, afraid to believe my luck. Kloster’s name, plucked from on high and dropped so casually by Campari, had impressed me a little despite myself. We were in Campari’s office and a framed copy of the dust jacket of Kloster’s first novel that hung on the wall-the editor’s only concession to decoration-created a resonance that was hard to ignore.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t want to. But Kloster’s out of the country till the end of the month. He’s at one of those writers’ retreats where he shuts himself away to polish his novels before publication. He hasn’t taken his wife with him, so by extension,” he said with a wink, “I shouldn’t think his wife has let him take his secretary.”

There and then he called Kloster’s home, offered effusive greetings to someone who was evidently the wife, listened with resignation to what must have been a list of complaints, waited patiently for her to find the name in the address book, and at last jotted down a number on a slip of paper.

“The girl’s called Luciana,” he said. “But be careful. You know Kloster’s the jewel in our crown-you’ve got to return her intact at the end of the month.”

The conversation, though brief, had provided a glimpse into the very private, reclusive existence of the only truly quiet writer in a country whose authors liked above all to talk. As I’d listened to Campari I’d grown more and more surprised and couldn’t help voicing my thoughts: Kloster, the terrible Kloster, had a wife? He even had something as unthinkable, as positively bourgeois, as a secretary?

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