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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Story of Don Juan (The)
by Alessandro Baricco
Age Range: 9-11
Don Juan is the well-known story of the legendary, shameless fictional libertine who devotes his life to seducing women. But its origins are somewhat different: passed down from generation to generation in the oral tradition, the story was originally about a man who committed murder and went to Hell. It was not until the 17th century that the tale was committed to paper by a monk named Tirso de Molina and published in Spain as The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest. Over the years the story has taken many forms including poetry, opera and theatre, becoming detached from its origins and more like the one we are now all so familiar with.
This new edition of Don Juan is retold for a younger audience by the Italian writer Alessandro Baricco. Don Juan loves women; all 2,065 of them from all corners of Europe. One night things go horribly wrong when he kills Doña Ana’s father, Don Gonzalo, who happens to be the Commendatore, one of the most powerful men in the city.
Baricco’s retelling of this classic tale has a great deal of humour which perhaps softens the subject matter, in particular, the dialogue between Don Juan and his man-servant Leporello. The modern narrative, with a fluid translation by Ann Goldstein, is a shorter version than the original and is accompanied by pen-and-ink watercolour illustrations by Alessandro Maria Nacar that enhance the story. The afterword at the end of the book, written by the author, helps to explain the origins of the story.
The only slight concern is knowing which age group to pitch this book at since the subject matter is definitely for older children whilst the style overall lends itself to a younger audience.
The Story of Don Juan is part of the ‘Save the Story’ series, a selection of classic stories from around the world that have been retold for today’s children. The series was conceived by Baricco working in close collaboration with the Scuola Holders in Turin, founded specially to develop new and innovative ways of telling stories.