Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Siena Find #3: La Bambina Filosofica

I'm happy to report that during my expedition to locate some interesting Italian comics, I didn't wind up empty-handed. I found two volumes collecting comic strips and other drawings of La Bambina Filosofica ("The Philosophical Little Girl") by Vanna Vinci.

(Those titles are Anatomy of a Mess and Thoughts, Sayings, Works, and Omissions, respectively.)

Although I can't really read Italian, I am really enjoying these books: the cartooning is straightforward, expressive, and fun; the Bambina and her associates are interesting characters; and I'm able to half-translate enough of the text that I'm able to get most of the jokes in a squinty, half-heard sort of way.

It's really easy to like the Bambina. She starts the first book still in her mother's womb, refusing to be delivered — first claiming to be a political refugee, then shouting that she's busy on the internet. Once her mother bribes her by offering to buy her a scooter, she emerges and starts learning to walk, to speak ("Merda" is her first postpartum word), and to bite.

After her playmate's mother summons a child psychologist to deal with the Bambina, she is only sorry that her foxhole isn't equipped with the right weapons to fight him:

("Unfortunately, I only have smart bombs," she mutters.)

By the way, I encourage you to click-and-enlarge any and all of the strips in this post: Vinci has a really appealing line, and you'll be able to read the text and the facial expressions better at a larger size.

My favorite sequence that I've read so far has the Bambina's mother offering to buy her a birthday present. At first, the idea is that she'll get a Barbie doll ("Why? So I can play 'plastic surgeon'?" the Bambina asks). But once they're at the store, her mother changes her mind ...

... Barbie is "anti-educative" and gives a "distorted image of women." I mean, "Just look at those tits!")

The Bambina's mother tries out a baby doll ...

... and the Bambina rejects it as too cute, too mawkish, too saccharine. "Quick! Play me some Motorhead before it's too late!" she gasps.

And then she meets the toy that will be her constant companion for the rest of the strip: Lillo.

It melts my heart to see a cynical little girl fall in love with a stuffed gorilla. In the next strip, she says she has always wanted a stuffed gorilla. "Finally, a comprehensive hominid," she coos, "Who will listen to me without saying a word!"

One of the other things I like about the Bambina Filosofica books is that they are punctuated with recipes, questionnaires, illustrated quotations from philosophers, spot illustrations, and mock paper-doll costumes that put the Bambina into different contexts in the name of fun. Check out this adorable bestiary, in which she is transformed into a hoopoe, a vampire sparrow, a tyrannosaurus ...

... and a porcupine, ready to attack!

I'm not sure whether Vanna Vinci is making any attempt to find an English-language publisher or translator, and I don't know what her chances would be in the American comics market. I'm not sure to what extent her sense of humor would "translate." But I know that if I ever see more volumes of Bambina Filosofica, or if anyone brings them into English, I'll be buying them.

In fact, I'm so besotted with this comic strip that I've done some translations of my own. Click these to enlarge and read:

These last two are especially suitable for the advent of the new fall semester:

I can do a few more of those some time if you like. By the way, I had picked those to translate (and done the translating) before I realized the originals are on the Bambina Filosofica site. But now you can pop over there and check my translation if you like.

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