Giardino, Vittorio 1946-
GIARDINO, Vittorio 1946-
PERSONAL: Born December 24, 1946, in Bologna, Italy. Education: Degree in electrical engineering, 1969.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, NBM Publishing, 555 Eighth Ave., Suite 1202, New York, NY 10018.
CAREER: Writer and illustrator. Electrical engineer, 1969-78; Graphic novel writer and illustrator, 1978—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Angoulème Prize, 1995.
Orient Gateway, translated by Jeff Lisle, NBM Publishers (New York, NY), 1997.
A Jew in Communist Prague: Loss of Innocence, translated by Joe Johnson, NBM Comics Lit (New York, NY), 1997.
A Jew in Communist Prague: Adolescence, translated by Jacinthe Leclerc and Joe Johnson, NBM Comics Lit (New York, NY), 1997.
A Jew in Communist Prague: Rebellion, translated by Joe Johnson, NBM Comics Lit (New York, NY), 1998.
No Pasarán! two volumes, translated by Stefano Gaudiano, NBM Comics Lit (New York, NY), 2000-2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1946, Vittorio Giardino earned a degree in electrical engineering in 1969; nine years later, he decided to leave his field and become a full-time graphic novelist. In 1979 his first character appeared: Detective Sam Pezzo, who was introduced to readers in the pages of La Cittá Futura, an Italian comic magazine. In 1982 Giardino created Max Friedman and the "Orient Express," a series of spy adventures set in the 1940s; he is still creating these tales. In 1984 he published the adventures of Little Ego in Glamour magazine. Little Ego is a dreamy girl who is obsessed with her fantasy life.
Giardino has also created the story of Jonas Finkel, a Czech boy in communist-controlled Prague. First appearing in A Jew in Communist Prague: Loss of Innocence, Finkel's tale reflects life in a Stalinist country: red tape, betrayal by friends, government intrusion into every area of life, and creeping paranoia. Finkel's situation is made worse by the fact that he is a Jew in an anti-Semitic state. His father is arrested, and the family is not told where he is imprisoned. In the Washington Post Book World, a reviewer praised Giardino's detailed drawings as well as his touching story. As this first installment ends, there is some small hope that Jonas and his mother will be reunited with his father. In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer commented that Giardino tells his story with "virtuosic intensity."
In the second volume of the series, A Jew in Communist Prague: Adolescence, Jonas gets a job in a bookstore and makes friends with a girl at the high school which he is forbidden to attend. However, these ordinary events are played out on a backdrop of Iron Curtain control: because Finkel's father criticized the system, he has been forced out of school and into work, and there is a constant threat that others will spy on him and report him to the authorities, and he will be imprisoned like his father.
In the third volume, A Jew in Communist Prague: Rebellion, Finkel is expected to spy on his boss at the Pinkel Bookstore; the State suspects his boss of being a member of a group that is translating and distributing subversive literature. Instead of spying on his boss, Jonas protects him by hiding the forbidden books the night before his boss is arrested. Jonas himself is a member of a forbidden reading group, and when some soldiers catch him and his friends reading in a park, they run, leaving some of the incriminating literature behind. This puts the whole group in danger of reprisals from the government, including arrest and imprisonment. Jonas falls in love with Tatiana, who is also in the reading group, but her parents forbid her to see him when they find out that he is Jewish and that his father is in prison for crimes against the State. Eventually, they move to Moscow to keep the two young people apart.
In School Library Journal, Susan Salpini praised Giardino's ability to portray nuances of character through the subtlety of his drawings, as well as the realistic depiction of 1950s Prague.
In No Pasarán! Giardino shifts to the era of the Spanish Civil War. The main character, Max Friedman, is a French citizen and successful businessperson who lives in Geneva, Switzerland. His life is mysterious, but he is persuaded to go to Spain by the wife of a friend who has not heard from her husband in two months. On the way, Friedman's train is almost destroyed by a bomb and a gunman tries to kill him. Friedman makes his way toward the Front, searching for his friend, but the local police become suspicious of his motives for asking so many questions. The novel ends in a cliffhanger as Friedman nears the battlelines, clearly paving the way for a sequel. A Kirkus Reviews writer described it as "compelling," and in Booklist, Ray Olson praised Giardino's "cinematic" style.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 1998, Ray Olson, review of AJew in Communist Prague: Adolescence, p. 891; July, 1998, Ray Olson, review of A Jew in Communist Prague: Rebellion, p. 1848; October 15, 2000, Ray Olson, review of No Pasarán! p. 404.
Library Journal, May 1, 1997, Stephen Weiner, review of A Jew in Communist Prague: Loss of Innocence, p. 100.
Publishers Weekly, June 23, 1997, review of A Jew inCommunist Prague: Loss of Innocence, p. 73; January 8, 2001, review of No Pasarán!, p. 49.
School Library Journal, March, 1998, Betsy Levine, review of A Jew in Communist Prague: Adolescence, p. 249; February, 1999, Susan Salpini, review of A Jew in Communist Prague: Rebellion, p. 146.
Washington Post Book World, April 13, 1997, review of A Jew in Communist Prague: Loss of Innocence, p. 12; July 26, 1998, Mike Musgrove, review of A Jew in Communist Prague: Rebellion, p. 10; December 17, 2000, review of No Pasarán! p. 13.