AUTHOR: ALESSANDRO BARICCO
Illustrated by Alessandro Maria Nacar
Details: Part of the Save the Story Series
Received from Pushkin
Children’s Books through
Don Juan, the man who loved women. Who loved all women and had to be with as many of them as he possibly could. Because Don Juan is also the man who is only afraid of being bored.
“Don Juan isn’t an imbecile, he’s just a man who loves women, and he loves them so much that it’s impossible for him to love one alone.”
The story starts with a man entering the bedroom of a beautiful young woman who is engaged to be married. Thinking the intruder is her fiancé, the woman allows the man to kiss her only to realise that he isn’t who she thought he was. When the intruder tries to leave the woman’s house he encounters her father, the Commendatore, who he kills in a sword-fight.
The same evening, Don Juan – because that is who the intruder was – encounters a woman he married in the past, only to leave her the very next day and learns that her brothers are looking for him, determined to restore their sister’s honour and kill him.
Next thing Don Juan knows he has the police, the brothers and their swordsmen as well as the ghost of the Commendatore out to kill him. Inviting all his adversaries to his house on the same night can never lead to a happy ending.
Don Juan is a tale about morals and asks a rather interesting and – as the book says in the epilogue – hard to answer question:
“Are we guilty when fulfilling our desires means others are hurt? Or are our desires always innocent, and is it our right to try and fulfil them?”
This is the third title in the “Save the Story” series I have read in recent days and I have to say this one impressed me as much as the previous two – “The Story of Gulliver” and “The story of Antigone” – did.
As I explained in those earlier reviews “Save the Story” is an initiative to ensure that great stories from the past are not forgotten through retelling them for a new generation of readers. The way in which this goal is achieved is rather clever. While nothing about the original story is lost, the retelling is done in such a way that the stories are truly accessible for younger, modern readers. In these books we find subtle hints to remind the young reader that the story is set in the past, such as:
“They went off like rockets – rockets didn’t exist at the time, of course, but just so you understand.”
And while these books are aimed at readers from age five upwards (although I do feel that readers that young would need to have the stories read to them), they do not talk down to the reader. Quite the opposite in fact. I love that these books serve a dual purpose; they introduce (young) readers to wonderful and time-defying stories which can be enjoyed in and of themselves as well as be used as a springboard for a discussion about important and even philosophical questions.
I know I’ve said it before but I can’t help saying it again; these are gorgeous books. The quality of these editions is a lot better than you normally come across when reading books aimed at children. The books look and feel luxurious and with both beautiful fonts and wonderful illustrations – not to mention the classical stories – these books would be a proud addition to anyone’s bookshelf.
Alessandro Baricco is of course the author who first came up with the idea for this series. As far as I’m concerned that was a strike of genius. In these days when it can be a hard struggle to get children to abandon all the electronical temptations surrounding them in favour of a good book it can only be helpful to have books this attractive to help us tempt them.