But wherever she goes, carrying her fragile openness and the excruciating freight of the attendant vulnerability, she experiences the exact same.
Giseles own inmost worry is not about the fragility of physical damage– it is the savage vulnerability of being entirely transparent, her inner world entirely unprotected from the nonstop intrusions of the external world, her sensations and ideas, even the most disquieting stress and anxieties and the majority of private terrors, noticeable like an enormous ever-changing collage.
Ultimately, she realizes that her only salvation lies not in changing the worlds orientation to her however in altering her own orientation to her condition, which in turn modifications her interchange with the world.
Here, the genius of the physical book, untranslatable to a screen, actions in to magnify the level of sensitivity of the story with a syncopation of clear and solid pages. Transparencies of Giseles face layer different mood-states to render the composite confusion of her being (as we all are) half-opaque to herself however her also being (as we just picture ourselves to be) wholly transparent to the world.
To be a complete human being is to befriend the worry of fragility, menacing and intimate as it is– the work of a lifetime that begins in those most developmental and fragile years when we first become mindful of a world different from ourselves, a world we need to reside in, a separateness we should live with, and somehow stay entire.
As word of this living marvel spreads throughout the town and beyond, individuals make trips from all over the world– to see her, to touch her, to ask the well-meaning, impolite questions about whether her moms and dads have actually guaranteed her and how she can be patented.
Couple Child of Glass, the touching and tactile loveliness of which the screen only decreases, with Alemagnas wondrous detailed celebration of the benefits of nature and privacy in the age of screens, then revisit her visual serenade to the happiness of checking out accompanying Adam Gopniks letter to children in A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.
With its undertone of wonderful realism, the story, translated and published in English by the indefatigable Claudia Zoe Bedrick of Enchanted Lion, starts in a little European village, with the amazing birth of a child of glass– a child lady called Gisele.
How to befriend that worry is what Italian artist and childrens book author Beatrice Alemagna explores with terrific allegorical deftness and inflammation in Child of Glass (town library)– a long-belated addition to the loveliest kidss books of its year.
“To be an excellent person is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust unpredictable things beyond your own control,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum observed in considering how to cope with our human fragility. The significant difficulty, however, is that of sculpting such trusting openness from the untidy essential vulnerability of being human, at times too tender to bear the world with all the unmanageable intrusions of its turmoil and unpredictability, intrusions that so often make us feel like we are about to shatter beyond repair work.
The story resolves in an emotional reminder that there is no remedy for our fragility– there is only the guts of not merely dealing with it but accepting it as a wellspring of the tenderness that makes life worth living.
With her large, lovely eyes, the luminescent Gisele finds out to deal with her weird condition of total transparency, blending into the landscape and the city, altering color with the setting sun “and sparkling like a thousand mirrors beneath the moon.”
Alarmed by the visible darkness sweeping across her mindscape as it flits invisibly through all of ours, the villagers turn on Gisele, start scolding and shaming her. Unable to take the abuse, Gisele, “luminescent and gleaming, sensitive and transparent,” packs her suitcase, kisses her farewell moms and dads, and leaves.
Illustration by Beatrice Alemagna courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books; photographs by Maria Popova