Davis' Yan Nascimbene likes to have several projects in the works at one time because he never knows what will bear fruit and what will fall through. And for this reason he's not afraid of going after what he really wants. His attitude is: Why not try?
Well, it's taken several years and a seemingly endless series of letters, emails and faxes, but finally one of his dream jobs is coming to fruition. Notably, February of 2001 will see the publication of "Difficult Loves," a collection of 13 Italo Calvino short stories with 27 Nascimbene illustrations.
"I never gave up," said Nascimbene, who had to work with six people (three publishers, three agents) for two years before a contract was signed. Calvino, who died in 1985, is one of the foremost Italian writers of the 20th century, and a particular favorite of the half-French, half-Italian Nascimbene.
"I love his work," said Nascimbene. "It feels close to me in terms of subject matter and the nature of who he was and where he grew up. He lived in San Ramo, Italy, and then moved to Turin. I was raised in Turin and Paris. He never names Turin but it's so obvious in his images."
Calvino was born in Cuba in 1923. His short stories have been described as whimsical and imaginative fables (adjectives that could just as easily be applied to Nascimbene's illustrations). Calvino was born in Cuba but went to Italy as a young man. He joined the Italian Resistance during World War II and after the war settled in Turin, earning a degree in literature while working for a Communist periodical. He later edited a left-wing magazine. He made his reputation in the 1950s when he published three fantastic tales, securing his reputation as a writer of fantasy and allegory.
"You can read his stories on two levels," said Nascimbene. "He writes about love and loneliness and the difficulty that comes in trying to connect with others. His writing is light, clean and crisp, almost mathematical. And at the same time on another level Calvino is highly philosophical about life. He writes one little story about some mundane event or occurrence and builds up a whole analytical system of life around it."
Nascimbene said he has been eager to do an illustrated Calvino book for the past 15 years, ever since the writer's death. But there were several problems. First, most publishers aren't interested in illustrated books for adults. Second, Calvino's estate is tightly controlled by his widow, Esther, who rarely agrees to any project involving her late husband's work. Several illustrators, better known than Nascimbene, tried to interest her in their work and were turned down.
Yet, she liked what she saw when she reviewed samples of Nascimbene's work. Maybe that's because the same words used to describe Calvino can also be used to describe Nascimbene. He draws about love and loneliness and the difficulty that comes in trying to connect with others. His drawings are light, clean, crisp, almost mathematical. On another level, too, Nascimbene has created a life philosophy around his images. It's a match.
"It was very special to have Mrs. Calvino's OK," he said. "I hope she likes my work. And if she does, I'll look for other Calvino projects," he added. Nascimbene says illustrating the Calvino short stories has been the most rewarding yet stressful job he's ever undertaken.
"The only way you can add to them is by showing an emotional understanding and being very discreet," he said. "Let the story say what it wants to say. I bring in a distant gaze, like a voyeur looking at a voyeur.
"I made sure not to say things that he didn't mean to say. I didn't draw a full view of a character if he didn't describe them. And no carbon copy of the text, because what's the point?"
But now the bad news. When "Difficult Loves" is published, it will be in French through Seuil Publishing in France. Nascimbene says an American edition is possible, but it's not yet an absolute. It represents yet another project for him to work on.
If you don't want to wait for the publication of "Difficult Loves" to see more Nascimbene work, you're in luck. He will be having a show at the John Natsoulas Galley in Davis opening on Dec. 12. A reception will be held on Dec. 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. with a book-signing at 9 p.m.
And he will be offering a class through University Extension this spring on illustrating, writing and publishing children's books. The projects continue….
To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]
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