I’ve read this in two days, lying on the beach and enjoying the sun on my skin. It was a perfect summer reading. Not those silly, frivolous books that people associate with summer. But something that can keep you glued to it, for hours and hours, except for a quick dip into the sea to freshen up a little. Summer reading means pure, undiluted pleasure. And this book was all of this.
Imagine “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” mixed with a classic fantasy tale, all spiced up by irony and intelligence. This is “The last elf”.
I’ve read this in Italian, because I know it has been translated recently into English and wanted to check if it was worth it for the bookshop where I work. I will definitely order in some copies, hoping that the translation will be just as good.
It’s the story of Yorsh (short for Yorshkrunsquarkljolnerstrink), the last elf in a fantasy world where elves are despised, feared and deported, just like the Jews were. The reference to the Jews is more than obvious when the author mentions their ability with trade, and also, at the end, when Yorsh leads a group of slaves through a land of freedom and peace (yes, I’m telling you the end, but you’d better read it all anyway!).
However, this is not a simple retelling of Moses and his journey. It’s an extremely funny adventure that involves an old annoying dragon who loves sentimental fairy tales, a brave little girl in a “oliver twist” sort of orphanage, and a prophecy engraved on a wall.
It’s mainly a condemn of any kind of dictatorships and racism. A hymn to freedom, friendship and love. It’s a fairy tale that speaks to children but with a wittiness that should appeal to adult as well.
Some scenes are so hilarious that made me laugh out loud. Especially the meeting between the little ingenious elf and the big bad troll (“You’re beautiful!"), or the funny, old way the dragon speaks, a kind of medieval Italian. But the whole book is full of these great comic scenes entwined with a moving story of loss and pain, poverty and hate. Silvana De Mari is a true storyteller.