Illustrations done in a style indigenous to West Bengal test the universality of Collodi’s classic puppet-to-boy tale.
In the text, which is Della Chiesa’s 1925 translation abridged to about half its length, proper names—Mastro Antonio, Geppetto, Pulcinella—preserve the original’s Italian flavor. Chitrakar’s almond-eyed, dark- or golden-skinned figures definitely push that envelope. Chocolate-hued Pinocchio, clad only in a tightly wrapped loincloth and sporting a white pectoral to go with similarly lacy armlets and anklets, bears a heavy-lidded, enigmatically smiling expression throughout. This last is in keeping, as explained in the afterword, with the artist’s conception of him as a “lovable yet godly trickster figure,” like Krishna. Other humans are clad in loose traditional Bengali dress and drawn, like the animal characters, in heavy-lined, stylized ways that don’t always agree with the text. The azure-haired maiden, for instance, “face white as wax,” is honey-colored in the accompanying portrait. The depicted action, too, is so stylized that few if any readers would be able to connect pictures to story without prompts from the captions.
A thought-provoking if not particularly successful experiment. (afterword) (Fantasy. 11-13)