The Secret Rose (1987)

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

This single story comprises 70 comic pages and was serialized in the magazine “Corto Maltese” from issue 42 
(March, 1987), edizioni Rizzoli.

As with his other works, Pratt carried out extensive research, but for this one especially he researched Swiss history and mythology, even going as far as to consult the French alchemist André Malby who specifically produced a serious study on the occult in Switzerland. Corto Maltese’s adventure this time is indeed highly surreal and dreamlike and is packed with references to a mythological background that changes according to the varied actions that involve the Holy Grail, Death, the Devil, the Sandman and others. There is a whole range of strange characters pitted against Corto, who is finally acquitted at the end of a long (and very amusing) debate. In this episode Pratt makes Corto Maltese drink from the “source of the Alchemy Rose” thus giving him a sort of eternal youth, a key for the initiatory passage to a spiritual imaginative world. The writer Herman Hesse, who Corto Maltese met in Montagnola in 1924, is a character who is directly connected to the content of this story thanks to his novel “Klingsor's Last Summer”. Another real figure is Tamara Lempicka, a very talented artist who was famous not only for her portraits, but also for her beauty. Rasputin and Corto’s friend Professor Steiner also appears. Note: When first published in “Corto Maltese” the exact wording of the title was “Le Helvetiche – Rosa alchemica” (note the H in front of Elvetiche). Later the work bore only the title “Le Elvetiche” (T.N. “The Secret Rose”).