Dante for children on newsstands with the «Corriere» – time.news

from GIULIA ZIINO

The poem adapted for the younger audience by Daniele Aristarco with illustrations by Marco Somà: from Monday 13 September on sale for a month with the newspaper

“One night, while my parents were asleep, I took small, silent steps into the living room. On the top shelf of the library stood three large volumes. I climbed into a chair, reached out on tiptoe and managed to catch the first of the three. On the red cover, in gold letters, was imprinted: Divine Comedy – Inferno by Dante Alighieri
. The volume was too large and heavy to hold in my hands. I placed it on the walnut table. I remained standing and, trembling, whispered the introductory verses of the Proem: In the middle of the journey of our life …“. Power of the story and taste of the forbidden – “You will be able to read it when and if you want, maybe when you are a little older” the magic phrase of the parents that immediately ignites the challenge and the desire to know – thus begins the journey of a child in the universe of the Comedy.


That child was Daniele Aristarco: then curious budding reader, now an adult who in the meantime has become a writer – also a little accomplice to that Dante spark? Who knows – children’s books. Who, among so many stories and magic, has chosen to tell the little ones just that book when they grow up, and those verses discovered on a night a few years ago. Aristarco (Naples, 1977) does it in a volume – The divine Comedy. The first step into the dark forest – that the “Corriere della Sera”, in collaboration with Einaudi Ragazzi, on Monday 13 September, the day of Dante’s death, sends, where it will remain for a month (the cost is € 12.90 plus the price of the newspaper).

Accompanied on the journey beyond the world by the fantastic illustrations by Marco Somà – with a Dante-dog and a Virgil-fox immersed in dizzying scenarios -, today’s writer tells the story of Comedy, the characters, the symbols with simple but precise words. The title, the journey, the true and literary Beatrice, the shape of the three overworld realms. Not a paraphrase or a summary, rather a tasting guide able to whet the appetite of the little ones for that book that they will then face “live” in the years to come but with which they will certainly come in contact now, so much is linked to the Italian imagination, and not only literary.

To meet Dante and his world (starting to hear the sound of the triplets that accompany Somà’s drawings as author’s captions) it is never too early, Aristarchus wants to tell us. And it’s not just: the history of Comedy made easy for young readers, it has ancient roots. One pioneer was the English Rose E. Selfe who published hers in 1887 How Dante climbed the mountain, reading of Purgatory for the use of the children of that time. In Italy the history of the “reduced” poem for children is intertwined with that of the “Corriere” and with that of another Dante centenary, that of 1921, when Ettore Janni (1875-1956) published da Alpes In a small boat. Book of Dante’s first acquaintance (the title quotes the second canto of the Paradiso: in the “small boat” are the readers still lacking the philosophical and theological preparation suitable for facing the open sea, the paradisiacal matter).

Abruzzese, literary studies, refined flair and pen, Janni had been called to the Corriere by Luigi Albertini, of whom he had become the right hand man. Antifascist, signatory of Benedetto Croce’s manifesto, with Albertini he would also have been ousted from the newspaper a few years later, in November 1925, for fascist revenge, to return after the fall of Mussolini, in 1943, as director. But before all this, in that 1921 year of the seicentenary of the Poet’s death, Janni had conceived and written his guide to accompany young people through the pages of Comedy
: reprinted several times until the 1950s, his book wanted to educate young people to the cult of the father of the language so that “from century to century, from people to people, from language to language the name of Dante will belong to the world like that of the great mountains, great rivers, great cities ».

The occasion of the 600th anniversary will give the trigger: the following year, in 1922, it will be Dino Provenzal (1877-1972), school teacher and writer (also of fairy tales in the “Corriere dei Piccoli”) to try his hand at Dante of the little ones (subtitle: How three boys came to understand the Divine Comedy) published for editions related to Giuseppe Prezzolini’s magazine, «La Voce»: this volume too – in which an uncle talks with three nephews explaining the three canticles to them – will have a long life and reprints for decades. It is from 1928, however, The little Dante by Gherardo Ugolini (1885-1960), published by La Scuola. The lesson of Janni and the 600th anniversary has passed and the way is open: Dante belongs to everyone. Even the little ones.

September 12, 2021 (change September 12, 2021 | 20:33)

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