Alternate title: my take on Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
Book 1: The Golden Compass, Italian version by Marina Astrologo and Alfredo Tutino, 354 pages
Book 2: The Subtle Knife, Italian version by Alfredo Tutino, 292 pages
Book 3: The Amber Spyglass, Italian version by Francesco Bruno, 454 pages
All three: as published by Salani, hardcover edition.
Before everything else, I have to point out two things. One, I am a believer. Two, I knew what I was going into.
You see, I had first read The Golden Compass sometime around 1997. I could still remember the general storyline, but it impressed me so little it took me 4 years to get to book 2. The Subtle Knife I could only recall a couple of scenes from, and it impressed me even less. I had that nagging feeling you get when you miss the end of a movie or a story, but I never really intended to go back to it. Until now, 10 years later, The Golden Compass came up when I was looking for books set in Norway (which it isn’t, BTW) (but we are going there to look for Northern Lights, so it made sense, in a way), and I had the chance to get all three of them from the library and the time to read them back to back.
So now. So now I am all angry and sad about these books.
I’m sad, because it’s clear that nothing of the true message of God and the Church ever reached the author, even when he was being educated as a Christian. Because most of the message he is conveying — i.e. that humans should build everything that is good, and be “all those difficult things like cheerful and kind and curious and patient”, to create “the Republic of Heaven” in this world — is not so different from what my faith tells me. Except, of course, that the motive behind all that will be different if you believe in God. I’m sad whenever I meet people who are told (and grow up to tell others) that God is a mean and tyrannical being asking you to renounce everything that there is to enjoy in the world. Because that’s definitely not the God I know: the God that created all that is good for us and gave it to us.
And I’m angry, because any theme you want to write about, you have to read up on and know well, but when the theme is the Church it seems that everyone can write whatever they like, no matter how bad. And I’m particularly angry that this is marketed as a children book, and as a fantasy book, and many will read it completely unprepared, not expecting to be thinking about what they believe. I do understand the author has a message to convey, but I feel he is doing so unfairly.
I’m not being disingenuous. I know well that there are atheists and agnostics in this world, and of course everyone is free to believe in what they like. And I know the Church has been wrong and tyrannical and dangerous. But it has also been loving, and saint, and full of Grace, and it’s not right to point out the one aspect and fully misunderstand or misrepresent the other. And because everyone is free to believe in what they like, we should all start by respecting other people’s beliefs.
And I’m sorry about all this, because Pullman is clearly a good storyteller, he created a believable story and (many) believable words. Even without all the theological implications, I found these less than stellar, but still good, readable, enjoyable. I’m glad I finally read the last part of the story. Too bad I feel that the whole work is unfair and disrespectful.