Happy 102th birthday, Gianni Rodari!

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Gianni Rodari tells a tale. Photo credit: New York Times
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by InTrieste

What do you think when the name Gianni Rodari comes into mind? For many non-Italians, the answer is Who?

Understandable, as many of Rodari’s books aren’t widely known in the English-speaking world, though his legacy can be felt in every corner of modern Italian literature. 

Born on October 23rd 1920 in Omegna, Piedmonte, Rodari was one of the most famous Italian writers and journalists, capturing the spirit of the 50s onwards with his inventive short stories and 1951 children’s book, Il Romanzo di Cipollino, named the Adventures of Cipollino (little onion) in English. 

1957 cover of Il Romanzo di Cipollino. Picture credit: Doppio Zero.

The book describes a kingdom of anthropomorphic vegetables who rise up against the unjust treatment of Principe Limone (Prince Lemon) and his band of aristocrats. Considered by many a seminal text on political repression, almost 70 years later the book is still being reprinted and read across the world. The book was even adapted into a ballet and staged by the Taras Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine in 1974.

A prolific author, Rodari also wrote Favole al telefono, fairy tales to be read over the telephone when away from home, and Frecca Azzura (the blue arrow; which was later made into an animated film) about living toys who rescue the Befana (an Italian folkloric old lady who brings presents on Epiphany).

He also published Grammatica della Fantasia (grammar of fantasy) in the mid-70s, a text on the process of creative writing. Rodari died in 1980.

Telephone tales. Picture credit: Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Londra.

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