Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Daniele Bonfanti: L'Eterno Sogno

At first sight it looks like a good book.
Minimalist cover, i would say. All black, with an irregular patterned gradient in the lower half and, in gray, the title "L'eterno Sogno" at the top, written with a simple font.
On the side there is the title, again, with the name of the author, Daniele Bonfanti as well as the logo of the editor Lulu.
On the back the white square with the barcode clashes a little, but it's not that bad. As it often happens some notes describe the author and the story, and it looks like those notes are written by the author himself, and not, as it usually is, quoted from reviews.
And what a self-congratulation!
The first note, in italic, pretends to be a reply in the context of an interview:
"Qualcuno dice che il fantasy e' 'letteratura di serie B'... Credo che Omero si stia rivoltando nella tomba." ["Somebody says that Fantasy is 'second-rate literature'... i believe that it would be enough to turn Homer in his grave."]
If with the word "fantasy" we mean a genre whose characters are elves, dwarves and similar, i think i have never heard anyone dare to define... say... Tolkien's trilogy as "second-rate literature". It would be like reducing The Betrothed (Manzoni novel) to a romantic novelette, or the Divine Comedy to Don Camillo's homily [Don Camillo is a funny character of a popular italian comic show in the 60s, playing the role of a priest].
Maybe Bonfanti refers to some detractors of a "lighter" literary current.
I don't know if it makes big sense to throw things like L'Eterno Sogno, Lord of the Rings, brothers Grimm's tales, the saga of Shrek, the Smurfs and the Odyssey in the same literary boat, but of course, all these works tell of fantasy characters (therefore they are Fantasy Literature?!?), and I think this is just a little pretentious.

Okay... one cannot judge a book from the back cover! Especially after my positive earlier judgement of the front and side.

One of the "reader's rights" established by Daniel Pennac ["Comme un roman" (1992), published in English as "The Rights of the Reader"] speaks of the freedom to stop reading a book at any time.
I don't like anyway to take advantage of this right. To tell the truth, there are some books i quit reading well before the end. For example, I gave up with "Thus Spake Zarathustra" by Nietzsche in the preface, or, with "Kant and the Platypus" by Eco, I was not able to overcome chapter 1. But in these and other similar cases, I beat a retreat admitting my incapability (or recognizing excess of pride when i started reading). Those books were too difficult for me, and their understanding would have required more energy than I could spend, without being sure to be able to go on.
It has never happened, instead, to leave a book because i didn't like it.
In fact, if i am passionate about a book, there is no reason to stop. Even if I do not like it, there is always the curiosity, or at least a hope, that reading it would eventually become more interesting further on.

This one is a book that i didn't like, but i continued till the end, hoping to find something worthy in all of it.
In vain.

Language is heavy, style is boring, even the vocabulary is limited and fastidious. It's surprising to note, for example, the massive and unjustified use of the verbs "emergere" and "riemergere" ["to emerge" and "to emerge again"] (also considering that they end up in water in only one episode three or four pages long!). In Daniele Bonfanti's world, the characters emerge from the grass, from the sleep, from the battle, from the cave. Elves' ears emerge from their hair and the Moon emerges from the mountains!
The characters are described only approximately, and you feel this lack of knowing them fully until the end of the book. For example, I couldn't imagine the protagonist dragon much different than Hanna-Barbera's Wally Gator. Which, actually, in a dramatic context like the story of this book, it comes out totally inconsistent. Especially when he flirts with the all-tender pussicat with her beautiful green eyes.
And what about the story! An amount of adventures unrelated to each other, absolutely without any metaphoric meaning and useless for the developement of the main plot. It looks like their role is just to give some action.

The heroes of the novel are four dragons, two elves, two kennins (a sort of cat), a dwarf, a lerlet (a biped horned reptile) and a... mmmh... a hooded guy. During their trip on the Via, following the blow of the Western Wind, they massacre a bounch of bogolids and goblins (evil and disgusting creatures). At the end they arrive to the Gray Town, where they form an alliance with other bogolids and goblins in order to fight against elves and dwarves who, surprisingly, form the army of the bad magician. Inverted parts, then. Why? No idea!
Everything is resolved by the final duel between the dragon Xaas and the magician. Among spells and charms, this last cannot cope with the brutal strength and he dies in the most concrete way: decapitated by a bite with an ax in his chest. I wonder if atleast this fact does have a symbolism that I can not understand!

At the end the dragon manages to close the magic door, from which the Element of Water could come out flooding the world. But he doesn't destroy it, as he was supposed to. Which suggests the future publication of a second part of the story.
Aenasyan forbid!

Here is a sample from the book, where Bonfanti honors us with his fastfood-style theology.
Characters: the elf Aelorn; the girl-kennin Aina; the dragons Dhrek, Xaas and Kab; the dwarf Ghrun.
(...)
Aelorn chiese a Aina: "Ma come un solo dio? Io credo che quello che tu chiami Leone di Fiamma potrebbe essere il vostro Spirito Guida. Ma non puo' essere che esista soltanto il vostro, e' assurdo."
Aina sorrise. "Forse quello che tu chiami Aenasyan e quello che io chiamo Leone di Fiamma sono la stessa cosa, che si mostra con volti diversi."
Aelorn riflette'. "Potrebbe essere come dici. Ma gli altri Spiriti? Ce ne sono centinaia, quanti sono i fiumi e le montagne e le foreste."
Aina scosse la testa. "Noi crediamo che soltanto il dio Sole sia il creatore, e che abbia schiere di demoni a proteggere la sua creazione."
Aelorn annui', ragionando febbrilmente. "Forse questi 'demoni' sono gli Spiriti..."
Dherk chiese, visibilmente incuriosito, rivolto a Aina: "Da quanto dici, questo 'Leone di Fiamma' puo' fare quello che gli pare. E' cosi'?"
"Tutto cio' che vuole, e cioe' cio' che e' bene e cio' che e' giusto."
Xaas scosse la testa. "E perche' non lo fa?"
"Cosa intendi?"
"Ti sembra 'bene' tutto questo?"
"Forse vuole metterci alla prova."
"Complimenti. Bel dio buono. Si diverte a metterci alla prova e per farlo ha proprio bisogno di far morire Kab e Ghrun. Per vedere cosa?"
"Chi puo' dirlo... Lui e' talmente grande che il suo volere per noi e' incomprensibile, a volte..."
"E allora, se non lo capisci, come fai a dire che e' buono, giusto, e tutte quelle cose?"
Aina non ebbe esitazioni. "Per fede."
"Fede? Uno la fiducia dovrebbe meritarsela. Non do fiducia a uno che fa morire i miei amici per mettermi alla prova. Comunque il tuo ragionamento non ha senso. Dici che questo dio vuole il bene. Ma il bene di chi?"
"Di tutti."
"Ma non ha nessun senso. Cio' che e' bene per me sara' il male per un altro. Per noi e' bene uccidere il mago, ma certamente lui non e' d'accordo. Non trovi?"
"Ma c'e' un bene assoluto. E un giusto assoluto."
"E chi le stabilirebbe queste belle cose?"
"Il dio Sole, naturalmente"
"Naturalmente. Allora che le stabilisca per se'. Io preferisco scegliere da solo, senza che mi dicano cosa devo fare, e cosa non devo fare."
(...)

(...)
Aelorn asked Aina: "How come one only god? I believe that who you call Lion of Flame could be your Spirit Guide. But it cannot be that it exists only yours. It's absurd."
Aina smiled. "Maybe what you call Aenasyan and what I call the Lion of Flame are the same thing, which shows itself with different faces."
Aelorn thought. "It could be like that. But what about the other Spirits? There are hundreds of them, as many as rivers and mountains and forests."
Aina shook her head. "We believe that only the god Sun is the creator, and He has legions of demons to protect his creation."
Aelorn nodded, thinking feverishly. "Perhaps these 'demons' are the Spirits..."
Dherk, clearly intrigued, addresses Aina: "From what you say, this 'Lion of Flame' can do what he wants, right?"
"Whatever he wants, which is what is good and what is right."
Xaas shook his head. "So why doesn't He do it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you think it's 'good' all this?"
"Maybe he wants to test us."
"Congratulations. What a good god. He enjoys himself testing us and, to do that, he really needs to let Kab and Ghrun die. To see what?"
"Who can say... He is so great that his will is not understandable to us, sometimes..."
"So, if you don't understand, how can you say he is good, right and all those things?"
Aina had no hesitations. "For faith"
"Faith? One has to deserve trust. I don't trust somebody that let my friends die to test me. Anyway your argument doesn't make any sense. You say that this god wants the good. But whose good?"
"Everybody's"
"But it doesn't make any sense. What is good for me would be the evil for somebody else. For us good is to kill the magician, but for sure he doesn't agree. Don't you think?"
"But there is an absolute good. And an absolute just."
"And who is the one that decide these nice things?"
"The god Sun, of course"
"Of course. So, let him decide for himself. I prefer to choose by myself, without others tell me what i have to do, and what i don't have to do."
(...)

English translation of mine.
To be honest, i don't very much like to speak badly about what i don't enjoy. I much prefer to say good about the things i do like.
But in this case, really, irritation for having wasted my precious time is enough to induce me to reconsider my personal interpretation of the rights of the reader. The hope that a book would eventually become more interesting is not a good reason to continue reading.

1 comment:

Rowena... said...

After what you had mentioned on occasion in regards to this book, I didn't even want to pick it up for bathroom reading material (heehee). Please return it, immediately, to the loaner. I won't like having to dust that thing!

ps only now I noticed the ribbon