Critical acclaim and plenty of good vibes surround “Il cacciatore di meduse” (“The jellyfish catcher”, a novel by Ruggero Pegna, recently published by Falco and succesfully presented at many book festivals. After the presentation of the book at the Prize “Sele D’oro” in Oliveto Citra and many other literary events, after the release of a braille version of the novel, even the website of the renowned Italian periodical Panorama has honored it, choosing it for the cover of an article on 20 books about immigration. It is a very inventive and touching story, the account of the journey of a migrant kid from Somalia who faces the desert and the sea with his mother, carrying a wooden Pinocchio in his bag, until he finally disembarks in Sicily, “the land of white people”.
At a time when we are used to witnessing the dramas of thousands of migrants getting to our country, we are unexpectedly presented with the incredible story of a Somali kid and of his migrant friends from all around the world: a tale in which their voices convey the plight of the “poor and different”, those who are made object of discrimination because of their poverty or the color of their skin.
A story whose settings are the coasts of Sicily,the crystal-blue sea of Lampedusa where the kid disembarks, and San Vito Lo Capo, the town near Trapani where Tajil goes to dwell, on a bench illumined by the stars.
This touching novel, which has a lot of surprises in store for readers from the incipit until the unimaginable ending, has a lot to say about contemporary history, as it embraces topical themes such as racism, immigrant reception, solidarity, integration, faith and cultural divide.
When he finds himself amidst the waves, Taijin craves the land and is prey to a stream of hopes and dreams, face to face with a myriad of incredible situation that his childish innocence and inexperience help him see as episodes of a big adventure, halfway between reality and a fairy tale, of which he is the protagonist.
«All of us have one reason to escape and thousands to keep hoping», writes Ruggero Pegna.The story of Tajil, a kid who didn’t know he was different because everybody in Chisimaio, his village, had the same skin color as him, offers the only possible solution to today’s quandaries: namely, that we should warm up to the others and understand their feelings, respecting them and their diversity.
By means of a fluent and linear style and of a poetic language whose main features are its delicacy and expressiveness, the author stands before his chosen topic as if it were a medal, whose two faces he aims to show to readers: on the one side, good reception and integration, on the other hostility and cultural discrimination; hence a couple of opposites, a mirage and an almost insurmountable obstacle, a duality which will be overcome thanks to an unexpected meet-in-the-middle solution.
“The jellyfish catcher” calls for real emotions, just like the music played by a pianist in the book, the sounds produced by the appropriately black and white keys of the instrument, sounds that are full of poetry and sweetness. The novel has a strong message, charged with a significant ethical value, which is likely to shake the readers’ consciences and show them the bleakness of passing judgment on the others because of their belonging to a different culture or form of civilization. The narrative enraptures its readers, fascinating them with the descriptions of a natural environment that is beautiful and difficult at the same time, conveying an atmosphere of vibrant humanity and leading them to identify with the main character and share his bitterness and disappointments, as well as his hopes and desires.
«I am a black kid. I don’t know why, but such is my color and I am happy with it, because it makes me look like mom, grandpa and all the people of Chisimaio. If I were white, I would have felt ashamed of living there. Now that I’ve grown up and I’m here, I don’t care if they call me a nigger. I am alive and I’m happy, and this is beautiful. During the journey I noticed that people grew lighter as we came nearer to Italy, and they are almost completely white now that we’re here. I don’t know the reason, and no-one would tell it to me. ».
One of the effects of reading Ruggero Pegna – a sophisticated, attentive novelist – is the sensation of being drawn to overcome those prejudices and cultural barriers that even today prevent the diffusion of the civil coexistence of different cultures.
«My grandpa used to say that the Earth belongs to everybody, and that’s why I feel good here, among people with skins that are different than mine […] I think grandpa was right when he said that goodness doesn’t come from the color of our skin, but from that of our hearts».