Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hitler and me

It's my birthday today and I'm afraid it is Hitler's too. All those many years ago (today's is a big one) my mother couldn't have waited three days? Then I would have shared this anniversary with Shakespeare instead. It's his on Saturday and I'm having a real party but here is a virtual party for all those friends and readers who pass through here. You must imagione food, drink, balloons and confetti.

Still, if my mother HAD held on (and that would have been painful), I would not have been an Aries, which I like enormously - first sign of the year, fire sign, ambitious, curly horns. There is a pewter ram's head above the door in my study and other manifestations around the room. And I wear a gold ram's head ring on my right hand.

Since my last post I have been to the Bologna Book Fair, my seventh time. (My Finnish publisher was on her 28th!) In spite of a tiresome cold, I had a good time, staying in a hotel which made really excellent coffee and gave me a Repubblica every day. The headlines were virtually the same for nearly a week: "Berlusconi in crisi." And I've just heard he has resigned - yey!

Busy at the fair all day and with social occasions in the evening, I didn't see much of the city this time, except for when walking back from restaurants. But I met lots of my foreign publishers and saw a lot of my German writer friend, Knister, who is now making a live action film of his Lili Hexe books. He says his dragon is being created by the same New Zealand team and technique as Gollum, so I guess Richard Taylor and the Weta Workshop are involved.

I took only books in Italian to read - Rosetta Loy's "La Parola Ebreo" (The word Jew) and Niccolo' Ammaniti's "Ti Prendo e ti Porto Via" (I'll come and take you away). Just finished the second here but the first was short and finished in Bologna. It's a really good subject - the gradual awareness of a young middle class gentile girl in Italy of what was happening to the Jews in the '30s and '40s.

Pope Pius Xl commissioned the writing for an encyclical condemning racism, of which anti-semitism was a prime example, but died before it was published and it vanished without trace. He was succeeeded by Pius Xll, about whom and the Nazis volumes have been written. One thing is sure: he didn't publish such an encyclical. Who knows if it would have made any difference? Perhaps my birthday-sharer was unstoppable. But people like Padre Kolbe volunteered to die horribly so that a single Jew might survive. And we expect a lot of Popes, don't we? Benedict XVl included.

Stevie came to join me on Friday and we transferred to Florence, where the hotel coffee was terrible, but we had a lovely room with a view of Giotto's campanile and a small slice of Dome. Lots of amazing meals here too but the highlight was Monday morning in San Marco, which I've missed the last few times. Ghirlandaio's Last Supper means so much more to me than Leonardo's and the Fra Angelico cell frescoes were as luminous and spiritual as I remembered. The Noli me Tangere particularly. And there was a special exhibition of early artists which had some examples of ground colours - very useful for The Falconer's Knot.

I have come back with three pages of Bologna follow-up notes but I think they'll have to wait till next week. For now, I'll raise a glass of virtual champagne.