Publication Date: November 18, 2008
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Though one of the best-known books in the world, Pinocchio at the same time remains unknown—linked in many minds to the Walt Disney movie that bears little relation to Carlo Collodi’s splendid original. That story is of course about a puppet who, after many trials, succeeds in becoming a “real boy.” Yet it is hardly a sentimental or morally improving tale. To the contrary, Pinocchio is one of the great subversives of the written page, a madcap genius hurtled along at the pleasure and mercy of his desires, a renegade who in many ways resembles his near contemporary Huck Finn.
Pinocchio the novel, no less than Pinocchio the character, is one of the great inventions of modern literature. A sublime anomaly, the book merges the traditions of the picaresque, of street theater, and of folk and fairy tales into a work that is at once adventure, satire, and a powerful enchantment that anticipates surrealism and magical realism. Thronged with memorable characters and composed with the fluid but inevitable logic of a dream, Pinocchio is an endlessly fascinating work that is essential equipment for life.
Carlo Collodi (1826–1890) was the pen name of Carlo Lorenzini. He was born in Florence, where his father served as the cook for a rich aristocratic family; his mother, though qualified as a schoolteacher, worked as a chambermaid for the same family. Lorenzini took the name Collodi from his mother’s hometown, where he was sent to attend school. A volunteer in the Tuscan army during the 1848 and 1860 Italian wars of independence, Collodi founded a satirical weekly, Il Lampione—which was suppressed for a time by the Grand Duke of Tuscany—and became known as the author of novels, plays, and political sketches. His translation from the French of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales came out in 1876, and in 1881 his Storia di un burratino (Story of a Puppet) was published in installments in the Giornale per i bambini, appearing two years later in book form as The Adventures of Pinocchio. Collodi, whose writings include several readers for schoolchildren, died in 1890, unaware of the vast international success that his creation Pinocchio would eventually enjoy.
Geoffrey Brock is the prizewinning translator of works by Cesare Pavese, Umberto Eco, Roberto Calasso, and others. He teaches creative writing and translation at the University of Arkansas. His Web site is www.geoffreybrock.com.
Umberto Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna and the author of numerous novels and collections of essays, including The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum, and most recently, Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism.
Rebecca West is a professor of Italian and of cinema and media Studies at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Eugenio Montale: Poet on the Edge and Gianni Celati: The Craft of Everyday Storytelling, and is co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Modern Italian Culture
"Disney's sentimental depiction of Pinocchio bears little resemblance to Collodi's unscrupulous puppet. This new translation revives the sardonic wit and black humour of the original." --London Times
"Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio...is short on Disneyesque sentimentality (there is a talking cricket, but Pinocchio squashes him), long on satire and farce. Geoffrey Brock's superbly crafted translation and Umberto Eco's introduction bring to life this tale of gumption and greed." --O Magazine
"Geoffrey Brock's new English translation of the subversive parable revives Carlo Collodi's sardonic wit and pitch-black humor, while bringing to life the poverty, moral vacuity, and uncensored violence of late-19th-century Europe...Brock — known for his award-winning translations of authors such as Umberto Eco and Cesare Pavese — strips away the sentimental veneer to reveal the original haunting fairy tale. Readers will be familiar with many of the characters, as well as the story's major plot points, but this version thankfully bears little resemblance to most modern interpretations. Pinocchio may have cast off his own strings, but Brock beautifully restores the historical knot." --BoldType