With or Without Strings

This is not a new post, but a pointed response I received from a dear friend in Milan.  This is a nuanced understanding of a key word that escapes a non-native speaker. The dictionary is just a touchstone. Please read his response to my Pinocchio post.

I like to add that in my post I had not commented on the eerie drawings that had  accompanied Collodi’s publication.  Enrico Mazzanti was the first to illustrate Pinocchio and Carlo Chiostri did later editions.

The comment:

“You interpret Pinocchio’s metamorphosis in a mostly negative sense – from originality to conformity – from outsider to model citizen.

However, consider that before his transformation Pinocchio is a burattino. The dictionaries tell me it translates as puppet in English. Yet puppet has a variety of meanings, while burattino has a very specific meaning.

It is a device that simulates life by being manoeuvered by humans, either by means of a hand in it, or of threads above it. A being that looks alive and aware, but it isn’t. Pinocchio is a thread-less puppet, a burattino senza fili. Better, it is a burattino manoeuvered by invisible threads. Which is the condition of the majority of humans. In Italian, the word ‘burattino’ is metaphorically used to also indicate a person who has let his or her life be controlled or guided by someone else. In this sense, Pinocchio’s path is one towards Awareness.

My opinion is that Collodi had wanted to show that humans are less free when they think they are freer; and they are more when they look they are less. They are most free (freest?) when they will the will, as Nietzsche would put it (volere la volontà – I don’t know how they translate it in English). The boy Pinocchio wants his will, wants his fate, while the ‘burattino’ was just subject to it, when he was apparently ‘choosing’ (Lucignolo, the Cat & the Fox).

There is no doubt that there is a moralistic side (côté) as I mentioned before, I think this was added by Collodi basically not to hurt his Victorian contemporaries’ sensitivity too much and to better disguise the esoteric core. But the moralistic dimension is in no way the primary intent of his work. ”



About gabrielswharf

gabriel’s wharf is a blog on the random thoughts and writings of author Gabriel Valjan. His stories continue to appear online and in print journals. Winter Goose Publishing publishes his Roma Series.
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