'When Alice meets Pinocchio'. Two different ways of interpreting the fable


International scholars discuss children's literature classics, comparing Italy and England. 'When Alice meets Pinocchio' will be held on Thursday, November 24th at 9:30am in Ca’ Bernardo room B. Amongst the topics will also be Dahl and Rodari: how and why some children’s classics find fortune abroad, and some do not.

Pinocchio, Alice, Peter Pan, Heidi, Pippi Longstocking & co.: young readers are often more ‘international’ than the grown-ups. At Ca' Foscari the first conference dedicated to Anglo-Italian relations in children’s literature, made of parallels, enthusiasms and misunderstandings in two cultural and linguistic worlds that continue to be studied despite their diversity.

"Take Alice and Pinocchio, two of the most famous and beloved children’s classics - explains Prof. Laura Tosi, Professor of English Literature and expert in children's literature - Alice is a representative of the Pax Britannica, Pinocchio of the Italian Risorgimento. On the one hand there is the middle-class girl who is bored at school, on the other the poor child that forces his father to sell his coat to buy a spelling book. In Alice tea-making rituals, in Pinocchio ancestral hunger. They both represent anti-models - Alice tries to understand the rules of a bizarre world and Pinocchio trusts everything - that exceed the territorial borders becoming universal models for children, cult classics, but widely imitated all the same."

When you give an Italian 'passport' to Alice or Peter Pan and an American 'passport' to Pinocchio, what happens to the characters and the text?
"Just think of Disney's Pinocchio - responds Prof. Tosi. - Americanization has made him a little Tyrolean (while Collodi had fought in the wars of independence against the Austrians) who does not have the hunger or extreme poverty of the original character. He paid a high price to get his passport but it's probably because of Disney that people all over the world know about Collodi."

A price that, going beyond the fantasy genre, has not been paid by the book Heart by De Amicis.
"Heart celebrates the utopia of a secular public school - continues Prof. Tosi - in which the son of the coalminer sits near the lawyer's son, who must esteem each other to build a new Italy and "make the Italians". This Italy is a project, or an interclass dream. An unthinkable concept in the Victorian England, where school stories were set in elite colleges that formed the future rulers and colonial officers of the British Empire."




The history of Anglo-Italian relations in the 'children's list' is also a story of misunderstanding. Nazareno Padellaro, in the national conference for the Child and Youth Literature in Rome, writes: "I consider it harmful, from an educational point of view, to put translations and reductions of foreign books in the hands of our children, because they ... disorient, sometimes irreparably, by superimposing ghosts and feelings that clump together in mental habits of other races. ..... Lewis Carroll is famous around the world for a book called Alice in Wonderland. The nightmarish atmosphere that weighs on the story ends up deforming the sense of reality towards things and the objective judgment of them, which is the innate gift of all Italians."

The last paper of the conference will deal with humor in Roald Dahl and Gianni Rodari, two famous authors with different characteristics: a sense of humor is linked to the peculiarities of each nation, in terms of language, social relations and history. Yet the humor of Dahl had such a hold on Italian children, while the small number of published translations of Rodari are now unobtainable in the Anglo-Saxon world.