Published here in English for the first time, Glowrushes by Roberto Piumini is an enchanting classic of Italian children’s literature. Set in Turkey in bygone days, it tells the tale of an acclaimed artist, Sakumat, who has been summoned to the palatial home of a young invalid named Madurer. Stricken with a mysterious illness, Madurer is doomed to a short life within the confines of his windowless bedchambers. It will be Sakumat’s task to bring him the outside world via the magic of his paintbrush. What follows is a rich and affecting celebration of art, storytelling and friendship.
His artistry revered across the realm, Sakumat is compelled to paint, each brushstroke feeling like the tender offering of ‘a drop of his life’s blood’. On first encountering the ailing Madurer, he discovers a pale and stunted child. Unable to feel sunlight on his skin or breathe the mountain air, Madurer resides in the innermost sanctum of the palace, his eager and curious mind fed only by picture books of valleys, shimmering lakes and faraway lands.
Intrigued, Sakumat agrees to ‘paint the world’ on the walls of the boy’s bedchambers and armed with precious Persian oils and pigments, the pair embark on a joyful journey into the imagination. Piumini’s profound and beautiful fable charts the growing friendship of the pair. Hillsides, animals and hamlets come to life on the whitewashed walls, and an intensely blue painted sea mirrors their growing bond by spreading ‘like a radiant blossom.’
One morning, Madurer spots a tiny dot on its horizon and wonders whether it’s an unexpected island. On waking the next day, he finds that the dot has grown bigger. He decides it must be a pirate ship, and so the storytelling grows, each day Sakumat painting new details as the boy gives voice to the pictures in his mind.
The symbolism of the ship becomes clear to the reader as Madurer’s stories unfold in Leah Janeczko’s seamless translation.
A wonderful read.
Glowrushes by Roberto Piumini is published by Pushkin Children’s Books, 128 pages.