The Italian- Spanish writer Frabetti talks to Prensa Latina about an issue that he holds dear to his heart regarding children’s literature. Arguably also a “mathematician”, his calculations, reached presumably either through Pythagorean exactitude or crass error, point to having written a total of nearly 50 books.
Jesús Adonis Martínez
Frabetti (1945) was born in Italy, in the land of his namesake Carlo Collodi, the creator of carpenter Gepetto and of course, his flammable son, Pinocchio. Frabetti soon moved to Spain, at barely 8-years-old, and it was there, among the country’s great traditional literary characters such as Don Quijote, Sancho Panza and Lazarillo de Tormes, that he began to write, in Castilian Spanish, for both children and their parents.
The truth is, that on first inspection, Frabetti seems more like a character invented by Tolkien, recently returned from Middle Earth, his hair and beard strikingly white, but as you get closer and begin to talk, his friendliness disarms you. You soon realise that his only fight is a silent one, which despite being almost infinitesimal, is no less calculated than that of a chemist.
“I believe that the literature of our time – I’m talking about, above all, in capitalist societies – is the only stronghold in which children and young people may find messages different to those continually thrown at them from television, film and music… That is to say, from the cultural industries.” So says the man who, as well as being considered an important comic critic, as if that weren’t enough, also knows too well the suspicious art involved in sending signals through visual media
In his opinion, “so-called ‘popular culture’ is continually emitting disastrous messages that encourage consumerism. The only other place that a young public have access to a different kind of message is, precisely, in literature”.
For those that did not attend Frabetti’s talk on the “Magic Trinity”, 0r the importance of reading, imagination and identity, at Venezuela’s International Book Fair FILVEN(Feria Internacional del Libro de Venezuela), these same ideas were discussed and actually pushed a little further; the crowd heard how reading is the path toward the “place of freedom”, that is to say, literature.
The author of books such as ‘La magia más poderosa’ (‘The most powerful magic’, 1994), ‘El gran juego’ (‘The big game’, 1998) and ‘La biblioteca de Guillermo’, (William’s library’, 2004), Frabetti is convinced that even the most incredible traditional children’s stories will never become fashionable, perhaps because each one works like a little metaphorical building brick in the construction of the Self.
Children are building their minds as they read, in the same way that they develop their physical capabilities by playing, explained Frabetti, in a huge circus tent- come-living room, named “Somari”, anchored up in the rafters of the capital’s Teresa Carreño Theatre.
As you listen to him speak with such hope and enthusiasm about the emotional education of children, it only highlights further that Frabetti- a man popular in the world of children’s literature- is not afraid of crossing over into other disciplines, even when they are as arid as the philosophical and political.
He explains to Prensa Latina that at this festival you could easily find yourself with two adult novels and even a volume on scientific socialism.
He confesses that he thinks that these genres of literature are currently travelling in the same direction as stories for children and young people.
“We are trying to change a mentality and finish with capitalism forever. I believe that the fight for socialism is a mission to be fought by every conscious person, because our world is in a catastrophic state”.
President of the Association Against Torture and founding member of the Alliance of Anti-Imperialist Intellectuals argues this point in more depth: “One of the most important elements to this is the dialogue with- and I don’t like to say ‘education of’- new generations. Inviting young people to reflect on and think about a whole range of issues is absolutely essential in the fight for socialism.”
Contrary to scientific development and his position in the New York Academy of Sciences, Frabetti does not fear contradicting certain scientific evidence- like, perhaps, in his book ‘Malditas matemáticas’(‘Stupid Mathematics’, 2000)- and producing new theorem to measure up the dimensions of literary occasions, such as FILVEN or Havana’s International Book Fair.
“They might seem small, but they have a completely different spirit. The big book festivals in rich countries are completely manufactured, where the editors and the authors purely go to sell. On the other hand, the book fair in Cuba, for example, is a real celebration of the book. It knocks all other children’s events right out of the water.”
“The approach is completely different: the messages sent out at these events are small, modest, it is infinitively better and has so much more of an impact than these big events like in Guadalajara in México, Madrid in Spain, or Frankfurt in Germany, they are just purely manufactured”.
Almost at the end of his talk, Frabetti, true to his persona, does not buffer a comment on the “historic, important moment” that Venezuela is experiencing outside the borders of FILVEN, with the sudden death of President Hugo Chavez on the 5th of March.
“Before arriving here I already knew, so this doesn’t surprise me. In any case, it is comforting to see that a figure like Chàvez is so important to Venezuelans and that the Bolivian Revolution continues: it’s deeply rooted in place and will continue to triumph.
Promptly, Frabetti says his goodbyes and in no time at all leaves, off to who knows what imaginary world of letters and numbers.