Fable of Venice (1977)

Texts and drawings by Hugo Pratt
(collaboration on artwork of the backgrounds of Venice by Guido Fuga)

This single story (Fable of Venice) comprising 98 comic pages was serialized on the weekly magazine “L’Europeo” 
from issue 21/22 (June, 1977).

In this sincere and affectionate tribute to his home town, Pratt sets the adventure in Venice of 1921 in an atmosphere that clearly evokes the presence of the freemasons and the rise of fascism. The reality of the period is interwoven with many esoteric motifs that actually had a place in the history of Venice itself. Corto Maltese has come here to find an emerald that is linked to a magic formula, “the clavicle of Solomon,” which here refers to hidden work that is said to fling open the doors of magic. This quest for the emerald was triggered by Baron Corvo (the pen-name of the English writer Frederick Rolfe) who later in the story enables Corto Maltese to receive a letter from the past. In addition to the writer Rolfe, other real historical figures appear in the story, from Gabriele D'Annunzio (referred to here as “the Poet”) to the young fascists Stevani and Boselli, who were relatives of Pratt. Two female figures are richly developed in this story: Hipazia and Louise Brookszowyc. The first woman is based on the historical novel by Charles Kingsley (Hypatia) while the second is based on the American actress Louise Brooks (Lulù and Diary of a Lost Woman, both directed by Georg Pabst) who Pratt met when he went to visit her at her home in Rochester (NY). In the final pages of the story, Corto Maltese manages to get hold of the famous emerald but when he observes it he perplexedly reflects to himself: “I’d better not investigate further, I may discover that you are made of the same stuff as dreams” . The vision presented here by the author of the rise of fascism as being linked to esotericism and an attempt to rediscover the roots of a distant past in the myths and legends of ancient Rome, is particularly thought-provoking. Note: Among the many publications that came out later, we should remember the quality oblong hardcover books published by Milano Libri in April 1979. This edition comprised only 6,000 numbered copies and is much sought after by collectors partly as it is the first book to contain the complete story.