Tag Archives: #xl8

Marking International Women’s Day II: Eugenia l’ingegnosa

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EUGENIALINGEGNOSA_bassa (1)

Following on from last night’s story of the princess who was too busy studying to accept a marriage proposal, I’d like to present this little gem – Eugenia l’ingegnosa (Eugenia the Ingenious) as part of my celebration of female protagonists, female authors (Anne Wilsdorf), and female-run indy presses (Sinnos Editrice). Oh, I do love a story with a positive takeaway. Not only is it a bargain (two things for the price of one) it’s also excellent for girls to see different role models in their books. You know, princesses are nice, but they don’t always have to be marrying princes.

So, this book’s about Eugenia. Eugenia lives alone with her family on Nascondoni Island. Until she discovers another island – Nonsodove – that looks far more interesting.  Eugenia wants to go there. She tries with a plank of wood first, and fails. She tries again with a sort of floating bridge, and fails. Try and try again, Eugenia finally makes it to the island.  All sorts of things happen there, the most important of which are making lots of new friends and discovering she has a skill for building things. 

Suffice it to say this this is not a book about princesses and pink ribbons. If you want your little girl reading stories about building bridges and revelling in the wonders of the world around us, then this is the book for her. It’s definitely going on my list of books to take into schools and libraries, translate into English and maybe stick under someone’s (publisher person’s) nose. But for now, I’m sticking it under yours as I mark International Women’s Day. 

The idea for this story came from a group of feisty female engineers and architects in Switzerland who have been fighting for women’s rights for years. “We want our book to encourage girls to be curious and not settle for the games and toys they’re supposed to play with just because they’re girls.” Valérie Ortlieb, spokesperson for the group, said, “We  need to give girls activities and models of women that they can identify with. So that when they grow up and start thinking about who inspired them, they’ll think of a woman.” 

Switzerland (and Italy) both have a gender problem in the professional, technical world. Girls make up 50% of students in Architecture faculties but ten years later, that figure drops to 20%.  Maybe if we start our daughters, nieces, grand-daughters or friend’s children reading empowering stories like these when they’re young, they maybe we can inspire the confidence and self-belief to make it where society in general expects/wants/forces them to fail.

Sex in the news but not in our children’s books please

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It all started over a soya milk cappuccino

GiornaliI really need to stop reading the (Italian) newspapers… there’s a limit to how incensed a person can get in public over a lovingly-prepared and meticulously crafted organic coffee and soya milk cappuccino. That’s why blogs are quite useful: they give you a place to vent frustration and rant about all the shocking things going on in the world.  The world out there, that is, not our part of it. Because we all know that the nasty things happening in the papers, or “over there”, certainly don’t happen here.

Or could they?

Misogyny: here, there, everywhere

Today’s offending articles started with the 15-year-old girl who was gang-raped and burned alive in India. That she was more than just a body, a possession, a vessel didn’t seem to occur to her rapists, who may also have been her relatives. Then there was a piece about a female taxi driver in Italy (that’s here, not there) who was raped by a male passenger. Bizarrely, he was just some poor guy who’d split from his wife, had had a tough childhood and was in a bit of a rut.  Not a rapist. Just a nice boy having a hard time and a crazy five minutes. Not a word about the woman whose life was ruined.

Then, I turned the page and there was more.  Not just episodic violence, but widespread and systematic acts of cruelty and aggression against women and girls in the Islamic State. The story talked about how women and girls are stripped naked and categorised before being traded in “slave bazaars”. Now while I was imagining the horror,  my mind was also automatically retrieving images of a young adult novel I recently translated.

But what’s a book got to do with anything?

The real story’s often in the fictionalized one

Nemmeno un bacio prima di andare a letto / A Girl of No Importance is an Italian novel for young adults about destructive teenage love and underage prostitution. Read the rest of this entry

Fact or fiction for kids. Or both?

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Fact or fiction for kids. Or both?

 

I have a ten-year old.  We both love to read. Only she likes facts and I prefer fiction. This makes if quite hard when you’re at the biggest children’s book fair in the world (honest, BCBF really is that big) and you’re supposed to bring the little person back something “cool”. It might seem like an innocuous little word, but for a nearly fifty-something who doesn’t really do non-fiction, it could’ve been quite a headache. If I hadn’t discovered a cracker of wee book at the book fair, that is.   Suonare il Rock a Teheran [Playing rock music in Teheran].  Where fact meets fiction and a middle-aged mum has a chance of appearing cool with her kid.

 

Are facts fun?

Some brains were made to flutter freely through words, visit imaginary places, frolic in fantasy land,  hang on cliffhangers and marvel at twists and turns.  Others were made to seek out and retain information. I’ve always known which category I fall into. No times, no dates, no historical settings in my comfort zone. Until fact became fashionable, that is, and I had to pick up something cool at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

So, what does a moth-eaten mother who craves a half-hour of pure concoction give to a middle-grader who has not only read but also remembers who ran the fastest 100-metre hurdles wearing swim fins and why bottom farts are smelly.

giraffe

 

Fictionalized fact: the compromise.

suonare il rock2

I’d die without music, singing is the only thing that makes life bearable.

Well, they say go with what you know.. so I went to Bologna Children’s Book Fair and I didn’t head for the non-fiction shelves. I didn’t hang out in the discovery hall. I just did what you normally do at book fairs. I wandered. Into the Feltrinelli stand. And that’s where I found Suonare il rock a Teheran (Playing rock music in Teheran).     Read the rest of this entry

Us and Them

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Books good

Reading is good, right? It enlightens and informs and opens up new worlds to us? It takes us on journeys and makes us feel good.  I’m definitely one of those people who wholeheartedly subscribe to the maxim that, “The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries“.   I also like to run in my spare time, but I find climbing inside a good book is a little less demanding on the ageing achilles and a lot more enriching for the mind. Which gets a pretty good work out too.

 

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Newspapers bad

Today I was reading an Italian local newspaper (I know, not a book, but still words on a page) and instead of feeling all nice and warm and fuzzy, it made me want to roll up the paper and bang a certain Salvini, Farage or similar foreigner-bashing politician on the head with it. Certainly not one of those “keep calm, read a book” experiences.

I won’t bore you with the details because I think just mentioning Nigel Farage and foreigners in the same sentence is too much publicity for a xenophobe in a suit.

As I said before, books are always the answer. So maybe I was reading in the wrong place? Back home, I scanned the tomes piled up on my desk for something more soothing that would prove that not everyone is bad. That humanity is more than corrupt politicians, mafia bosses,  swindling public officials, self-appointed elite and immigrant-hating Italians, Brits, etc. etc. (“raze the Roma camps to the ground” shouted hate-filled Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s Northern League). Surely there must be someone, somewhere who recognizes who’s really to blame for our dwindling bank accounts, shrinking salaries and flourishing food banks?  Not to mention our depleted planet and rabid greed that keeps 95% of the worlds wealth in the pockets of about 1% of the global population. (Note to self: check statistics).  But that’s another story.

Us and Them

noicopThe story on my desk that caught my eye was this delightful one. Noi (us) written by Elisa Mazzoli and illustrated by Sonia Maria Luce Possentino. But don’t worry, you can read on. It has nothing to do with politics or capitalist corruption. It’s simply a compassionate, poetic story, written in Italian, about children learning to see beyond diversity and make friends with the wonderful people they find behind the barriers. Barriers that we ourselves raise because we’re scared of what’s different. Because we want to protect what’s ours.  Only by doing that, we often don’t realize what we’re missing out on, or what we’re not seeing.

 

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We call him Big Eye.
He’s got one huge eye, so big that the other eye,
the normal one, kind of disappears.
Sticky drool dribbles from his big eye.
But it’s not tears.
It’s a slimy trail just like the one snails make.
It grosses us out. 

 

 

NOI

Little by little, we started to talk,
we talked about everything,
the world, the sky, the sea.
about us, about everyone else,
about the snail that was looking at us with its feelers up.
We laughed, and we got our hands dirty.

 

Two boys who once thought of each other as “them” and “us” end up digging in the dirt for secret treasure. Together. They discover all the things they didn’t know that the “other” does. They discover the joy of sharing. They find time for “us” instead of them. They realize that it’s more fun to work together.

Now I feel all warm and fuzzy.

Thanks to Elisa Mazzoli and to Bacchilega for publishing this wonderful picture book. You can also buy it here. And no, I’m not getting any commission for this. I just loved the book a lot. It made me feel good again.

Proverbi Abruzzesi – 3 – Power struggles

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Scottish Enlightenment

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had time to think about this blog. My head’s been full of all sorts of other stuff, like Scotland nearly becoming independent and the reawakening of a nation to claim its identity and voice within the United Kindgom. Oh and work too.  There’s been quite a lot of that too.

For anyone following me on Facebook, you might have noticed a slight surge in the number of political posts I’ve been tacking up on my timeline. Yes, I’m one of those people who were energized by the referendum campaign, one of the sleeping electorate who finally woke up to smell the (burnt) coffee of national and international politics.

Happily, my  own personal Scottish enlightenment has involved a lot of reading too, both online and in books. When I don’t understand something, I go straight to a book in search of answers, or when I’m reading for pleasure, I constantly come across things that tie into real-life experience, shedding light on it or expressing it perfectly in words.  Nothing really changes in human nature.  We just keep doing the same old things, and since many great writers of the past saw it all before us, we just have to look to their words for help in understanding what we’re still seeing today.

Books are always the answer

Like last night, flicking through Michael Rosen’s version of Aesop’s Fables, I picked the story of the wolf and the lamb to read to my little person. As we got to the moral of the story, I couldn’t help thinking how well it described the abuse slung at the Yes campaign during the Scottish referendum and the ability of the other side (the No people) to come up with all sorts of excuses to  deny their own behaviour and still bring the other side down. Fast forward to the current UK general election and press repeat.  Each side pedalling dreams and ridiculing the other side’s vision as lies.

aesopsfablesint

But since this blog is supposed to be about Italian literature, I’d better stay on topic and get back to the lingo of my adopted land: Italiano/Abruzzese.

There’s nothing better than an Italian proverb for hitting the nail on the head.

Local Abruzzo dialect: 

Non créde a suònne, ca le suònne ‘nganne

Italian: Non credete ai sogni, perché ingannano. 

Read the rest of this entry

New Anthology of International Children’s Literature

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FOUND IN TRANSLATION

 il mio nonno 3I’ve covered Il Mio Nonno era un Ciliegio before, but I’m back tooting both my own and the author’s horn this time.

Working with the Italian editor, Einaudi Ragazzi, I made a submission earlier this year to Found in Translation, a competition to find the most promising international children’s fiction unpublished in the English language.

Reader’s reports and the material I submitted,   Read the rest of this entry

Proverbi Abruzzesi – 2 – Weather

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In keeping with the kind of day I’ve had in lovely, wintery-for-once Abruzzo, this week’s proverb is going to be about the weather. But not the one pictured.

Passo Lanciano - Mammarosa

Passo Lanciano – Mammarosa

Our Maiella mountain does look like that sometimes, and I can highly recommend taking a trip up there for some downhill skiing, snowshoeing, sledging, snowmobiling, ski-mountaineering, or wait for it, even ice-running (which I discovered in Abruzzo).  Oh, and you don’t have to be sporty to enjoy it, you can even just spend a few hours in front of the log fire in the ski chalet, with a hot chocolate – rum punch – red wine – coffee (delete as appropriate) in hand, chatting to the wee old man from the soccorso alpino  who I don’t think actually does much Alpine life-saving, more like chin-wagging and grappa-supping. But he’s happy to fill the wait for your polenta, sausages, pasta or arrosticini lamb skewers with action-packed stories of life on the wrong side of snowdrifts, avalanches, blizzards, blackouts… you name it, he’s been through it.

Well, back to my stories about the weather. Read the rest of this entry

Abruzzo Proverbs – 1

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This is the first in my new series of off-the-cuff, having-a-break, flash translations.

Since I’m pretty busy at the moment and can’t really take too much time away from what I should be doing, I was looking for something short, sharp and snippety… something that’ll take me 10 minutes to write and you no more than 10 seconds to read. But still something literary about life in Italy…

Peppino Di Battista

Peppino Di Battista

Rooting around on my bookshelves, I found this.  PROVERBI ABRUZZESI. I IERI E OGGI. 2000. by Peppe Di Battista, published by Rocco Carabba.

Proverbs, well you can’t get shorter or pithier than that, I thought.

Peppe Di Battista gathered them from the Abruzzo towns of Castelfrentano, Lanciano, Fossacesia, Orsogna, Roia Del Sangro, Archi (where we are!), Pizzoferrato, Buonanotte, Casoli, Mozzagrogna, Rocca San Giovanni and presented them in groups:

behaviour – morals – popular sayings, -weather and the seasons – mottoes – luck – villages – vices and virtues – superstitions and customs – animals – life lessons – curses 

So here goes.  Since I like literature with a lesson, today’s proverb comes from the morals section:

Local dialect: Cent’anne de malencunije, nen cacce ‘na lire de debbéte

Italian: Cent’anni di malinconia non toglie una lira del debito 

EN translation: 100 years of sadness won’t reduce the debt by a lira

Meaning: there’s nothing to be gained by living a life of poverty

I like it this a lot, and might even think about learning the Abruzzo dialect to use it as my excuse-du-jour when OT asks how the savings fund is coming (or not) along. 

homework

Well, better go and help the LL with her homework… although hopefully not coming to “blows” like they would have you do in Lanciano:

Bòtte e panèlle, fa le fije bbèlle.

Percosse e pane, fanno i figli belli.

Blows and bread make for beautiful children.

(A strict upbringing with the necessary support from the family will bring good results)

Which is quite similar to:

Pane e mazzate, fije aducate.

Pane e bastonate fanno i figli educati.

Bread and blows make for well-behaved children. 

Back soon with some more.

La Cosa Piu’ Importante – The Most Important Thing

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Where have I been?

It’s been a bit too long since my last post and while I’d like to say I’ve been away setting the world  to rights, I haven’t.

But I did read a book about it.   It’s called La cosa piu’ importante – The Most Important Thing.  And it’s all about putting the world back together.

Laura Novello  and Matteo Gaule

Laura Novello
and Matteo Gaule

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Le Parole Scappate – Runaway Words – by Arianna Papini

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Runaway Words – Le Parole Scappate

Another city, another book fair, another bag full of books.

Italian books, by Italian authors, published by independent Italian publishers. And all on show at Rome’s Piu’ Libri Piu’ Liberi (“the more books we read, the more free we become”) which turned out to be an excellent event, full of interesting people, interesting workshops, and most of all, amazing books. So what to read first?

Having a long  journey to face afterwards, I opted for all the children’s ones…  hours of Italian children’s books …the perfect way to while away the journey home from a busy weekend in Italy’s eternal city with the little lady.

By coincidence,  the first one we picked was by the same author – Arianna Papini – whose book “E’ una parola”  I was enthusing about last month.

Le Parole Scappate – which would translate literally as “Runaway Words” – is a story narrated  in two voices: a young dyslexic boy and his Alzheimer-suffering grandmother.

Runaway Words
(a possible Italian to English translation)

Having picked up so many books at the fair, I had completely forgotten what this one was about, so when I read the first few sentences, it took me a few seconds to get my bearings. For me that’s a good sign it’s going to be a great read. When the first page throws you, shakes you about and forces you to sit up and pay attention you know it’s going to be a gripping journey.

If you like the sound of it, read on.

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