PINOCCHIO IN VOLO TRA IMMAGINI E LETTERATURE, edited by Rossana Dedola and Mario Casari

Milan, Mondadori, 2003

Ever since 1881 when Pinocchio first set off on his adventures through the Tuscan countryside, Carlo Collodi's wooden puppet has been on the move. From Lithuania to China, from Norway to Persia, there is hardly any country in the world that has not heard of this wayard little fellow. And like all good national ambassadors, Pinocchio has always taken the time to converse with the locals. Writers publishers, producers, directors and artists across the globe have all been charmed by this little Italian, and many have taken time out of their busy lives to empathise with his mishaps, to reflect on the significance of his adventures, and to compare them with experineces of their own. The phenomenal impact and influence that this puppet has had, and continues to have, on adults and children throughout the world is apparent from the thousands of editions of his adventures to be found on bookshop shelves, the numerous translations and the many film and television adaptations.

The attention that the wooden puppet has received has not, of course, always left him unaltered. Quite the contrary in fact: to date Pinocchio has had more facelifts, make-overs and implants than a Hollywood diva, sometimes having been transformed beyond all recognition. His willingness to be assimilated and to 'fit in' wherever he goes, is not, however, something that should be viewed with disdain. For in studying the manner in which this puppet has embraced diversity, allowing himself to be transformed into whatever his audience most required, there is much to be learned, not just about the puppet and his creator but about the many cultures with which he has come into contact.

PINOCCHIO IN VOLO, edited by Rosanna Dedola and Mario Casari, is one of the few works of PINOCCHIO criticism which pays tribute to both the national and the international dimensions of Collodi's classic. In addition to scholarly articles on the motifs and socio-political messages of the original text, this study includes several erudite contributions on the many Pinocchio paralleli, that is to say on the many companion Pinocchios (be they translations, adaptations or revisions), that have emerged across the globe since the work was first created.

Most of the articles contained within the volume were first delivered at a conference on PINOCCHIO which took place in the Scuola Normale in Pisa in 2004, and several are by well-known experts in the field such as Daniele Marcheschi, Mario Casari and Rossana Dedola. The editors were eager, however, not to exclude independent contributions, and the articles by Lietta Manganelli, the daughter of Giorgio Manganelli whose PINOCCHIO: UN LIBRO PARALLELO (1977) brought a new perspective on the classic, and Roberto Innocenti, the award-winning Italian illustrator whose PINOCCHIO (1988) earned him international acclaim, provide the perfect accompaniment to the more academic pieces. Anyone who has enjoyed Innocenti's illustrations for the classic as much as I have, will particularly enjoy reading his piece in the volume because it is the only article in print today in which the artist explains the thinking behind his creation.

When one considers the huge volume of academic criticism that is currently available on PINOCCHIO, it is amazing that there are still new things to say about this nineteenth-century children's book. Studies, such as this one by Dedola and Casari clearly demonstrate, however, that when it comes to PINOCCHIO there is still enormous potential for research. While the text has become, to quote Innocenti, 'la tesi di laurea per ogni illustratore' ['the degree thesis for every illustrator'], there are still very few critical works that focus specifically on the illustrations. Valentino Baldacci and Andrea Rauch's PINOCCHIO E LA SUA IMMAGINE which contains an exhaustive list of all the Italian illustrations of PINOCCHIO has no international equivalent, and non-print forms of art, such as sculptures and mosaics have been almost completely ignored by the academic establishment, something which Rossana Dedola's article in this volume sets out to redress.

The impact that PINOCCHIO has had outside of Italy in its many translated versions and adaptations has also only begun to be investigated. While works such as PINOCCHIO IN INGHILTERRA, PINOCCHIO IN GERMANIA and PINOCCHIO IN SPAGNA have shed significant light on the fortunes of the puppet within Europe, there has been a marked absence of research on the puppet's travels in other continents. Mario Casari's article in this collection, which considers the manner in which the names and places in PINOCCHIO have been rendered in Egyptian and Arabic translations of the text, is the first to examine the fortunes of PINOCCHIO in the East, and Prayer’s companion essay, which views the many Indian translations of the classic in their socio-historical contexts, similarly explores new territory.

At its core PINOCCHIO is a story about the creation of national identity, and in many countries interest in the classic has tended to coincide with the rise of nationalist sentiment. Pádraig Ó Buachalla's Irish translation of the classic first appeared in 1933, shortly after the foundation of the Irish State, and in China, as Antonella Musto notes, the work first became popular in translation in the years leading up to the creation of the People's Republic. This is not to say, however, that the text has ceased to be significant in recent years. Ó Buachalla's translation was republished in Ireland in 2003 and in China the period between 1997 and 2004 alone witnessed the publication of 24 different translations. In Japan, too, as Maria Gioia Vienna observes, PINOCCHIO has enjoyed a constant presence on school curricula, something which Vienna believes derives from the Japanese people's fascination with the text's unique pedagogic message.

In addition to articles on the international translations of PINOCCHIO, PINOCCHIO IN VOLO contains several reflections on the connections between Collodi's classic and earlier works for children. John Meddemmen's article compares Collodi's puppet to the many talking objects which peppered English fantasy texts during the 1800s while Daniele Marcheschi's piece discusses the many eighteenth and nineteenth-century authors who shared Collodi's humorous approach to childhood. Further chapters, such as those by Roberto Scarpa, Filippo Marcelloni and Lorenzo Garzella address the numerous theatrical and cinematic adaptations of Collodi's classic that have appeared in recent years. Scarpa focuses in particular on the work of Carmelo Bene, while Marcelloni and Garzella reflect on the production of Roberto Benigni's 2002 film version. All in all PINOCCHIO IN VOLO is an extremely coherent and valuable study. The articles all bring new perspectives to bear on the timeless classic, and there is no doubt but that they will pave the way for further research.

[Lindsay Myers]