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Italy’s Sci-Fi Pioneer: The Story of Yambo’s Impact on Literature and Cinema

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Italy’s Early 20th Century Sci-Fi Renaissance and Yambo’s Role.

Enrico de’ Conti Novelli da Bertinoro, better known by his pseudonym Yambo, was born in Pisa on June 5, 1874, and passed away in Florence on December 29, 1943. This multifaceted Italian talent was recognized for his roles as a director, illustrator, writer, and comic author. With a particular emphasis on children’s books, Yambo stood out as a leading figure in Italian popular literature during the first half of the 20th century. His adventurous and fantasy-themed publications, primarily featured in magazines, along with his 1910 film “A Marriage in the Moon” (‘Un matrimonio interplanetario’), earmark him as a pioneering figure in the realm of Italian science fiction.

In his 1933 work “Viaggi e avventure attraverso il tempo e lo spazio”, Enrico de’ Conti Novelli da Bertinoro, also known as Yambo, masterfully blended fantastical narratives with informative insights primarily aimed at young readers. The book delves into intriguing subjects, including the quest for the lost city of Atlantis and other enigmas. It’s worth noting that “Yambo” is not just the pseudonym of this celebrated figure but also the name of the main character in Umberto Eco’s novel “La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana”.

Biography

Hailing from a noble family with patrician roots in San Marino, Yambo, born as Enrico de’ Conti Novelli da Bertinoro, was the progeny of acclaimed actor Ermete Novelli and actress Lina Marazzi. By 1894, he was already contributing to Milan’s “La Sera” both as a journalist and illustrator, often incorporating his self-styled “pupazzetti” or “little puppets” into his pieces. In fact, in 1901, he even launched an illustrated monthly in Rome, christening it “Pupazzetto”. Yambo’s collaborations extended to “Novellino” before he transitioned to the Florentine daily, “La Nazione”. His talents also graced the satirical weekly “Numero” from 1914 to 1922 and the illustrated weekly “Il Balilla” between 1925 and 1931.

Ciuffettino, source

However, it was in children’s literature where Yambo truly flourished. His 1902 release, “Le avventure di Ciuffettino”, set the pace, followed by notable titles such as “Gomitolino”, “Lo scimmiottino verde”, and “I filibustieri della lumaca”. Notably, he also penned works that pioneered the sci-fi genre in Italy, taking readers on grand adventures across land, sea, and space. Titles such as “Due anni in velocipede” and “Capitan Fanfara. Il giro del mondo in automobile” explore terrestrial escapades, while “Atlantide – I figli dell’abisso” and “La colonia lunare” plunge into maritime and extraterrestrial voyages, respectively.

In the realm of Italian sci-fi cinema, Yambo was a trailblazer. He scripted, directed, and starred in the 1910 silent short film “Un matrimonio interplanetario”, marking a comedic and possibly pioneering endeavor into the sci-fi film genre in Italy.

The mid-1930s saw him illustrating and scripting some of the earliest sci-fi comic tales for magazines, including “Topolino”.

Tragically, during an aerial bombardment over Florence in 1943, Yambo succumbed to a heart attack. He now rests at the Soffiano cemetery.

Family War, cartoon by Yambo (Enrico Novelli), source

Works

Filmography

Rhea Sylvia (1908)
Il crocifisso d’ottone (Una storia del secolo XVII) (1909)
Otello (1909)
Un matrimonio interplanetario (1910)
Ciuffettino (1910)
Mille chilometri per una lettera (1910)
L’eredità della laguna (1914)
Addio felicità! (1914)
La bambola di Mimma (1914)
Fiorenza mia! (1915)
Il più grande amore (1915)

Books

Dalla terra alle stelle, 1890
Due anni in velocipede, 1899
Gli eroi del Gladiator, 1900
Atlantide – I figli dell’abisso, 1901
Le avventure di Ciuffettino, 1902
Capitan Fanfara. Il giro del mondo in automobile, 1904
Gli esploratori dell’infinito, 1906
La colonia lunare, 1908
Il mammouth, 1909 (con Alberto Orsi)
Il re dei mondi, 1910
Fortunato per forza! (o Il talismano delle 100.000 disgrazie), 1910
L’atomo, 1912
L’uovo di pterodattilo (o L’allevatore di dinosauri), 1926.[3]
Mestolino, 1928
Santa pirateria. Avventure al tempo delle gesta di Fiume., 1939
Ciuffettino Balilla, 1942

Theatre

Un onorevole in vacanza (1901)
Evviva l’automobile! (1904)
La principessa Stella (1908)
Cagliostro (1909)
Papà Gennaro (1910)
Fiorenza mia! (1911)
La novella del calcio (1912)

Topics: Yambo’s influence on sci-fi, Enrico de’ Conti Novelli’s literary works, 20th-century Italian children’s authors, early Italian sci-fi cinema, legacy of Yambo in literature and film

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