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In this return to “the early years” this episode tells the story of Corto Maltese’s youth when he arrived in Manchuria at the end of 1905 at the time of the Russo- Japanese War. He has just turned 18 years old and the story focuses on his first meeting with Rasputin, a deserter from a Siberian rifle regiment.This meeting confirms the fact that the two had known each other long before the Ballad of the Salt Sea. Actually, the protagonist of this adventure is not Corto Maltese, who only appears towards the end, but Rasputin and the writer Jack London, who was a war correspondent in the region at that time.
London, it would seem, has already met Corto before and he speaks about him to other characters as though he were an old friend. Pratt’s main aim here is to outline the aspects of the personalities of Rasputin and Jack London with focused and effective portraits.
From this emerges the negative and complex overall personality of Rasputin, who is por- trayed as a man who lacked ideals, honor or loyalty even in his youth. He kills with disconcerting ease and is ready to lie and betray without hesitation. Nevertheless Corto Maltese demonstrates how certain feelings may arise in a mysterious and inexplicable way, by paths we cannot comprehend, just as his own feelings of friendship for Rasputin seem inexplicable.
RECURRING CHARACTERS IN THE ERALY YEARS: RASPUTIN, JACK LONDON
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