Roberto Piumini

Roberto Piumini was born in Edolo, near Brescia, Italy in 1947 and is considered the most important contemporary Italian author for children and young adults. He studied Education and then worked for a few years as a teacher, actor and puppeteer, before he found his way into writing. In the meantime he has published many novels for children, young adults and adults, theatre plays, poems, fables, fairy tales and ballads, screenplays, television and radio texts, song lyrics and opera librettos.

Although he had already been immensely popular in Italy for a number of years, ‘Matti e il nonno’ (1993;Engl: Mattie and Grandpa) was the first of books to be published in Germany. In it, Piumini describes the fictitious walk that a seven year-old takes with his dying grandfather. As in classical fairy tales, during their mutual journey they have to make decisions, overcome tests of courage and adventure and they have to draw lessons from their experiences. With unobtrusive implicitness, Piumini narrates about loving, saying-goodbye, the ability-to-let-go and not-being-forgotten. In picturesque yet clear language he writes – as the dedication in the book emphasises – “for all those, who talk to children”. ‘Matti e il nonno’ was nominated for the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (1995).

One of the most important pieces in his literary work is his poetic tale ‘Lo stralisco’, published in 1993. Without using complicated words and depicted with poignantly delicate narrative images, Piumini tells a meditative story about our perception of the world, to which death also belongs. With each individual stroke of his brush, the painter Sakumat makes the world come alive on the walls of the palace, within which the fatally ill Madurer is confined. The critics praised Piumini’s small, gentle story about friendship and the lifegiving potential of art as a “gift for one’s own life” (‘Die Zeit’).

Light-footedly and without pointing fingers, Piumini’s stories seem to be carried on a completely different breeze. The fascination lies in the astounding mixture of adventure, worldly wisdom, fantasy and the beauty of his language. Thus he follows in the footsteps of Gianni Rodari (1920-1980), who freed Italian children’s and juvenile literature from its “childishness” and patronisation. Piumini realises the importance of inventing fascinating narrative panoramas and giving his texts multilayered depth. This is also the case in his novel for young adults ‘Motu-Iti. L’isola dei gabbiani’ (1997), for which he was awarded the Rattenfänger Literaturpreis in 1998. His story about the just and prudent chieftain Tou-Ema, who is the ruler on the famous Easter Island, is an “impressive yet simultaneously thought-provoking book about power and its misuse” (‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’). Roberto Piumini’s highly acclaimed books have already been translated into eleven languages. The author lives in Milan and in Buonconvento, near Siena.

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