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Freedom starts as early as childhood

Davide Finco, University of Genoa


Abstract: Scandinavian countries are still popular in Italy for their children’s books, nowadays likely the second point of literary interest after detective stories and a sort of avant-garde children’s literature which testifies Nordic culture vitality and its attention to the new trends and topics; but there was a period when some children’s writers, the most famous of which were women, really contributed to the renewal of Italian children’s literature, set a trend and, at the same time, indirectly reinforced the stereotype of Nordic countries as lands of freedom, opportunities and utopias. This was possible thanks to some Italian writers and editors who gave a crucial input to the development of the national children’s literature from the late 1950s, while acknowledging the importance of Scandinavian works in their education and considering the mediation of Nordic literature in Italy as a fundamental part of their contribution.

We may say that this phenomenon began with Karin Michaëlis’ series (1929-1939) on Bibi – a young girl who is unusually free to travel around Denmark and abroad – which was early translated into Italian, with some adaptations but on the whole overcoming the fascist censorship. Later on, Astrid Lindgren’s adventures about Pippi Longstocking (1945-1948, collected in 1952) played a revolutionary (as well as much discussed) role when it appeared as one of the first titles in the new editorial series for youth “Il Martin Pescatore” by Vallecchi in 1958. Tove Jansson’s Mumin-series (1945-1970) is to be mentioned, too, as a source of inspiration for some authors through a peculiar (quite Nordic) view of the world in a very fantastic setting. My paper is meant to briefly reconstruct the status of Italian children’s literature in that period and define the Scandinavian influence with the help of statements by Italian children’s writers and descriptions taken from histories of children’s literature and handbooks of that time. As mentioned, this topic will be thereafter useful to assess what image of the Nordic culture emerges from the Italian perspective in relation to this seminal experience.

Theme: Scandinavia in the Eyes of the World

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