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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Diachronic Messenger


Norman Messenger's 2012 book The Land of Neverbelieve has just now been shipped to Italy (as Il Paese che Non c'è). A delightful and educational publication, it summarizes basically all of the Western traditions about fantastic places and creatures, from Medieval Bestiaries to James Cameron's movie Avatar possibly via Luigi Serafini's cult book, the Codex Seraphinianus. The cross point of such traditions has been the Renaissance, which could -- in both senses -- "draw" at the same time on Medieval lore, rediscovered classical myths, and actual discoveries of unexpected lands, tangible this time, that marked the beginning of modern mentality.

N. Messenger plays with the many registers of the sources, from time to time by reworking Medieval imagery, or inventing funny mixes of animals and utensils, or the other way round, imagining species that could more or less exist under certain evolutionary conditions. A pro of being a Briton (cfr. J. K. Rowling) is that he does not create a mushy "paradise for children" full of exclusively nice and harmless things. A subtle feeling of anxiety adds to the true Renaissance flavor of the book.