Vango: Between Earth and Sky
1934, Paris. Vango, a teenage boy of mysterious origins and with an unusually isolated childhood, is about to be ordained priest, when a shot rings out. Moments later, Vango is on the run, falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The peace brokered after the First World War is crumbling, and fascism is on the rise. In Germany, the newly-formed Gestapo are searching for dissidents; in Russia, Stalin is ruthlessly crushing opposition; and arms traffickers and spies are everywhere. Not even the remote Aeolian island where Vango was brought up is safe any more.
Vango’s quest to prove his innocence takes him across a volatile Europe by train, boat and even Zeppelin in an attempt to evade his unknown enemies and to discover the truth about his own past. As the strap line says: “When people are chasing you but you don’t even know who you are, where do you turn?” Vango is caught between those who love him and try to protect him from his past by keeping silence, and the realization that ignorance is more dangerous than the truth – whatever it may prove to be.
This is a beautifully written, multi-layered book, impeccably translated by Sarah Ardizzone, and it has an intensity and freshness of vision which reminds me of Alan Garner’s work. And, as with Alan Garner’s novels, you have to be fully alert to follow the twists and turns of the plot as it jumps about in time and place. Fortunately, it’s so exciting, it scarcely matters if, occasionally, you get lost. My one criticism is that you never stag-hunt on horseback in the Scottish Highlands; the terrain, peat and heather, would make it lethal. You stalk them, on your stomach if necessary. Having said that, I enjoyed Vango and sophisticated teenagers should enjoy it, too.