It’s about time we talked about Sandokan.
Sandokan is a pirate, created by the fevered mind of Italian swashbuckler/adventure writer Emilio Salgari.
Salgari was born in Verona in 1862, the year after the unification of Italy, and died committing seppuku in 1911.
With over 200 books in his catalog, he was a poor man, and he blamed his publishers for his poverty – he probably had his reasons: not only he was a certified best-seller, but he is still one of the 40 most translated authors right now, 107 years after his death.
Salgari was a strange man, that lived most of his life in Turin – where I was born – and the farther East he ever went was the local library. But he was animated by a colossal imagination, that fuelled his stories and hooked thousands of readers. He wrote pirate stories and swashbucklers, westerns, exotic adventure and the occasional Verne-esque science fiction.
Weirdly enough, while Italy was gearing up for its ill-fated and belated Imperial Adventure, Salgari was an anti-imperialist, and a champion of the underdog. His heroes are normally outsiders, outcasts and people that’s been robbed, cheated and betrayed and is coming back for revenge. Pirates, adventurers, swashbucklers all.
I know a few Salgari enthusiast in the English-speaking world, but he’s a big deal in the Latin countries – in Italy, in Spain, in South America.
Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez were fanboys.
Umberto Eco too. Continue reading