In The Silence of the Wave, Gianrico Carofiglio, a former Italian senator and organized crime prosecutor, explores the toll of undercover police work.

What was the particular inspiration for this book?

The original idea was to tell the story of a melancholic boy who lives in his dreams rather than in reality. Then I connected this to the story of a man whose life has been devastated and who tries to achieve a true rebirth. The challenge was to put together two stories that were in no way related to each other.

What led you to work as a prosecutor?

When I was a law student, I didn’t imagine I would specialize in criminal law. Almost by chance (or perhaps only apparently by chance), I found myself working as a prosecutor and dealing with organized crime. It’s been an extraordinary experience. I probably would not have become a writer without it. Giovanni Falcone, the investigating magistrate killed by the Mafia in 1992, used to say that the Mafia is a human fact and, as all human facts, it had a beginning and it will have an end. I completely agree. Thanks to an extraordinary job of the judiciary and of the police, today the mafias are much less powerful and dangerous than before. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down.

What have you learned from the undercover agents you’ve worked with about the pressures of their work?

If it’s not limited to short periods of time, the work of an undercover agent inevitably produces psychological dysfunctions and serious moral dilemmas. The essence of this work, what makes it so dangerous, is that agents experience a double life every day, sometimes for years and years. His or her involvement can become so deep that the cost to them is personally greater than even a spy would experience.

Why is it important that your main character, former undercover Roberto Marías, spent time living in the U.S.?

It’s essential for many reasons. One of these reasons is surfing. The fact that Marías used to surf as a young boy in California is a fundamental aspect of the novel and of his psychological evolution. Surfing, more than anything else, is a powerful metaphor of the sense of this story.

How does your work as a politician exercise different muscles for you than working directly as a prosecutor?

Political work, judicial work, and writing as well, in my opinion, share the same idea of the power of words and of their ability, at times, under certain conditions, to literally change the world.