Thursday, May 10, 2012

An interview with Davide Cali

It’s a privilege to interview Italian Illustrator/author Davide Cali as part of his author blog tour from the 1st- 16th of May 2012. 

This author blog tour is a count down to his real two-week Australian Tour starting at the CBCA Conference in Adelaide. 

I’d (Ann J) like to focus on The Enemy, written by Davide and illustrated by Serge Bloch
Over the years I have come across a few picture books that deal with war and conflict. I think The Enemy is one of the most successful and the illustrations and text are a perfect match – spare, simple and focused, and pitched to appeal to a wide age range.

Q: What drove you to write the story? 
 Conflict’s an ageless theme – constant and familiar to everyone – the enemy is a great focus.

Well, I simply noticed that t the times we’re living in, media often give us enemy to fight against. I tell a story about a “classic” war, with soldiers and guns, but I think that there is some kind of global war we all fight. It’s more of a “culture” war. The media's manipulation I guess is the real enemy. So, that’s why at the end of the book there’s the message in the bottle. The moral of the story is peace but in a special way it’s the “necessity of communication”. We have to talk, directly, to each other. Today technology permits this to almost everybody. We don’t need to believe in what the press or TV say about the “others”, we just can check it out by ourselves.
Then maybe we won’t be everyone’s friends, we can discover to not like or be liked by the “others”. We’re not forced to be friends, but if we could be “not enemies”, it would be already great.

Q: Serge and you seem to do the perfect dance in this book – focus, pace, humour… 
Did you suggest him as the artist?
Did you consider illustrating it yourself?
Did you work in tandem? Through/with an editor?

After the big success of Moi, j’attends (I Can’t Wait in the English edition) the publisher asked me to create a new book with Serge Bloch. So, for the first book I just sent a story and then Sarbacane thought of Serge as illustrator, in this case while I was writing the book I was already thinking of him.
As you probably know, I’m used to draw the storyboards of my books. For this one I did it thinking of Serge’s way of drawing and composing the pages.

Q: You’ve illustrated your own texts – and collaborated with many other illustrators - How do you know which stories to let go of, to be illustrated by someone else? 

The first time they asked me to give one of my texts to illustrate to someone else, I felt a little confused. I was used to working all alone, not sharing with anybody. Then I discovered that working with somebody is cool, I can write even more stories than before, sometimes just inspiring me towards another illustrator's personal universe.
I keep “studying” illustrators all the time. I try to understand what they like to do and which are their skills, and limits too.

Q: In the illustrations there are real family photographs used? 
Are they your family? Serge’s family? And what era are they from? 
I don’t know who the family is. It’s an interesting question. You should ask Serge!
Thanks so much for this book Davide. It’s a classic!

It’s quite a filmic approach –The focus is so particular – The Enemy – the heart of wars. Very successful look at the stupidity of war, human nature, fear of The Other that leads to hate and then war… So clever the way you have narrowed the field – and have us (the reader) on the outside looking at the action, though hearing the story from one point of view we see the bigger picture – it’s in stereo.

I have recently been reading is Meta-Maus which interviews Spiegelman about why a comic/graphic novel was the perfect medium for him to tell his father’s story in Maus.

Below are a number of other illustrated books that are woven around similar themes – all so differently told.

Q: Just wondered if you’d come across any or some?

Maus by Art Spiegelman
Meta Maus  an interview with Art Spiegelman about creating Maus
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
The Island by Armin Greder
Why? By Nikolai Popov

I know all of these, except Why? and The Tin-Pot . Spiegalman’s idea of interviewing his father gave me the will to do the same with my family, so I did it, for another book, still unpublished. My dad and my mom left Italy when they were young to go to work in another country, where they met and got married (and then I was born). They spent about 20 years in a very different, German speaking country, and I grew up with the tales of their youth and life in Switzerland. A couple of years ago, because time passes by and memories go away, I did them a series of interviews to write down their story. So, I saved a “family story” and at the same time the story of plenty of Italians who left Italy to find a job in a strange country. In the book there are photos too. The title in English could be We had Never Seen the Snow Before.

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