World without Corto

/, Essays, Blesok no. 34/World without Corto

World without Corto

#3 He had proven his affection towards the revolutionary cause, which shook the world those years, for many times. When he had to choose, revolution was always closer to him, and it is especially clear in the episodes from Asia. It is Corto’s trip to Siberia in 1919 that Pascal Morelli chose as a topic of his animated film, which to the hero of the comics gives something very unusual, even unpleasant for the fans of Pratt’s skills, namely – movement and sound. At that time, the civil war is in Russia, a bulletproof train full with emperor’s gold travels through Siberia. The secret Chinese communist association Red Lanterns finds Corto in Hong Kong and begs him to help them get that gold, of course, in the name of higher goals. Corto accepts the offer and postpones the debate about the prize. As usual, he is not best with money. In this way, he gets involved in the Asian chaos, dominated by the beautiful countesses, mad barons, and Asian masters of war and revolutionary forces that are facing the future. In the end, Corto manages to help his red friends and get out of it all alive and without a single dime, but his sentimental nature can not separate work from feelings. In this way, Corto still suffers from his affection to Changai Lee, a young and dangerous commissar, and a future collaborator of Mao Tse-tung. Revolution and love do not go hand in hand; Corto had to understand, once again put on his sailor’s coat and leave Changai Lee on her way to a better and brighter tomorrow, getting out of that exciting episode with yet another wound on his heart.
And here, oh, Corto’s weakness is revealed, namely, his serious problems with women. And while Hugo Pratt went from one woman to another as a restless ship, claiming that he had a child with an Amazon Indian, he never attributed similar features to his character. Corto was and remained a man of one woman, in spite of his occasional infatuations that might be attributed to his melancholic nature. Her name is Banshee O’ Danann. He met this Irish woman during the Irish revolution and only her, of all women he called to come with him to his insecure and exotic travels. Banshee, oh!, refused, convinced that she brought misery to those she loved. After this statement, the heart of the romantic sailor would forever break. The other women brought him only troubles. They either tried to kill him, like Venexiana Stevenson, or seriously were on his way in the service of the enemy, or he killed for them like in the case of Louise Brookszowyc, trapped in the prostitution chain, whom he revenged by sinking in lead the body of the Argentinean chief of police, the damn Estevez.
After the described Siberian episode, he started the search for the treasure of Alexander the Great and in this way he almost lost his life. Unlike J.B. Tito, he would tell Stalin “thank you”, and not the insulting “no”, because, namely, it was Stalin himself who saved his life then. In Azerbaijan, Corto falls into the trap of the Red Army. The local officers, following the regular method, take him to be shot, as they could not know that the Soviet Secretary of National Issues and Corto met in Ancona in 1907, when Dzhugashvili was but a modest receptionist at the seaside hotel. “Do you remember Ancona?” Corto says, when Stalin answers the phone. The fast intervention of the State leader would bring him back to life and enable him to continue the started adventure, which will finish with his empty pockets again. Still, “Thank you, comrade Stalin!”
Besides the temporary piracy, travels to Africa and South America, as well as the introduction to Cabala studies, a personal adventure deprived of a broader historical context, Corto Maltese will lastly return to the stage of the world events at the beginning of the Spanish civil war. At the start of this “last romantic war”, which was still worth participating in, we find him, of course, as a member of the republican international brigades. Thus, the defeat of the republicans in 1939 will be followed by a rarely mentioned, even hushed event: Corto’s definitive disappearance. The interpretations will follow. The knowledge of Torah and Talmud, as well as the meetings with the big scholars, support the theory of his friends and fans, according to which he had disappeared on purpose from the eyes of the public and according to which even now, carrying the secret of his immortality, he wonders around the world unnoticed. Isn’t that confirmed by the episode of Switzerland from the distant 1924, when Corto drank the Paracelsus potion that made him immortal? Pratt himself, under pressure, would deny the upsetting news about Corto’s’ death, and a letter dated 1956 should testify of the withdrawal and peaceful life he allegedly started leading, far from the world’s chaos. Maybe in some Caspian island he finally managed to read More’s Utopia, the book he could not understand during his life among people despite his many attempts. Or maybe he really reached the end of the line that his father’s razor cut into his hand that distant afternoon in Cordoba, disappearing in that way in the vortex of a war that forever destroyed some beautiful illusions? The complete withdrawal of this rising world, his departure without traces, would most probably be Corto’s answer.
#4 Whatever it was, the handsome sailor thus lifted his collar for the last time and turned his back to the modern world, deprived of challenges and real adventures. The world in which the old fashioned costume of the British navy, conversations with the seagulls, thin white cigarettes, sloppiness with women and bad handling of money would be funny as the heroes of the past times are funny. Namely, “in the world where everything is electronic”, as Pratt later concluded, “where everything is calculated and industrialized, there is no room for guys like Corto.” The Maltese knew it well. Pratt himself did not give up easily. He enjoyed the world fame staying at his villa in Switzerland, among his thirty thousand books, and was flattered to be called Corto’s name. As if his own character was surpassed by his own other and it was needed to carefully tell about his life, to come closer a bit more to the one he dreamt of, and instead of him he experienced Corto. And indeed, this magic strive was spread via Corto to his readers as well. As if the elegant sailor, in the “electronic and calculated world” was the one that every citizen of the planet that is turned by profit and inequality, would like to be, just for a short while. With holes in his pockets, and his love for seagulls, with his resistance to every authority, with his disrespect to state laws, borders and social rules, but not without his own morality which he superposes to them, Corto is a complete outsider. His cynical view on the unchangeability of human affairs, careless attitude towards the dramatic historical events he was involved in, and his strong sensitivity for the misfortune of others, make this mixture of a sloppy thief and spiritual aristocrat a real antihero of our time. He is the captain who skillfully guides the ship we get on dreaming we are something other, a ship that leads us far from the world without Corto, just for a moment.

Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska

AuthorIgor Štiks
2018-08-21T17:23:28+00:00 September 1st, 2003|Categories: Literature, Essays, Blesok no. 34|0 Comments