Despite the popularity of bestselling Italian author Elena Ferrante, who was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and whose latest novel, The Story of the Lost Child, was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, the flow of translations between the U.S. and Italy continues to be one-sided. Very few books are coming to our shores.
Italy is the world’s sixth-largest importer of U.S. books and magazines, and its publishers acquire a disproportionate number of American titles. In 2013, the country’s publishers bought 2,500 American titles, and sold only 168 to their U.S. counterparts. Between 2012 and 2014, according to research on Italian literature conducted by Chad Post of Open Letter Books and Three Percent, nearly three times as many French books and twice as many German books were translated into English. During that same period, only 174 books were translated from Italian and published in the U.S.
As part of its efforts to increase the flow of Italian books into the U.S., the Italian Trade Commission established a Publishing Task Force in Chicago to promote Italian authors and publishers. This year the task force is putting its promotion muscle behind Andrea Molesini and his award-winning debut novel—also his English-language debut—Not All Bastards Are from Vienna, which came out earlier this year from Grove. Inspired by wartime notebooks kept by his great-aunt during WWI, Molesini’s historical novel received a starred, boxed review in PW. “This is a powerful tale of endurance, sacrifice, love, and war’s suffering and cruelty,” wrote the reviewer, who also praised the book’s “powerful depiction of a family’s strength and mankind’s justification for war’s barbarity.”
While “the classics are the classics, we’re trying to open the market to contemporary authors,” the task force’s Elena Phillips says of the decision to bring over Molesini. “We’re trying to show that there’s a new wave of writers who can touch anyone,” and praises Molesini’s novel as “very engaging.” What she thinks will most appeal to American readers, she adds, is his ability to capture the conflict between different generations, to depict the effects of war, and to show that although everything changes, everything stays the same. History repeats itself.
Molesini will be signing both the English-language edition of his novel and the Italian edition, published by Sicilian publisher Sellerio, in the Italian Pavilion (booth 1205), today, at 2 p.m. In addition, he will be in conversation with Marcello Barison of the University of Chicago and PW reviews editor and author Mark Rotella. The chat takes place at the Italian Cultural Institute, 500 N. Michigan Ave., #1450, 7–9 p.m. The latter event is free, but RSVPs are requested through EventBrite (http://www.eventbrite.com/e/andrea-molesini-and-friends-tickets-24515348066).
Although Molesini is the only Italian author the ITA is bringing to BEA, it has a large display of books, from children’s books to coffee-table books, art, archeology, photography, travel, sport, and fiction. Among the Italian publishers represented are 24 Ore Cultura, White Star Edizioni/De Agostini, and Guerra Edizioni.
This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.