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THE DISCOVERY OF CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN LITERATURE

'Libreria' and 'Bookstore' signs on the wall of a bookstore in the Val d'Orcia



The crew behind The Florentine, Tuscany's most widely read English language newspaper, is fundraising for a bilingual Italian literature magazine. The Florentine Literary Review will be published for the first time in October 2016 and showcase the works of contemporary Italian writers in Italian and English translation. 

The launch of the new magazine made me think of #Italianliteratureweek, a hashtag project I had started a few years ago on Twitter to start a conversation about contemporary Italian literature available in English translation. The project was not much of a success. Most English speakers and Italy lovers I got in touch with on social media didn't know and read much Italian literature. Dante's 'Divine Comedy' kept popping up on my Twitter stream. I guess a lot of people have the book standing in their bookshelf, but - just like me - can never find the time to actually read it. 

The late Umberto Eco was another name, which was mentioned several times. Whether this was due to people remembering the film 'The Name of the Rose' or actually having read the book itself I couldn't figure out. The hashtag project was short lived - after all I just couldn't raise enough interest in the argument.  

But things have changed a little in the meantime mostly due to the widely translated books by Elena Ferrante which have taken the world by storm. The new and mysterious shooting star is helping Italy's contemporary literature to get a better rep and raised the interest for Italian writers who are alive and kicking.


two Italian books and a cappuccino on a wooden table
Two of the lovely books by Florentine author Pietro Grossi (both available in English translation)


For Italy travelers I have been recommending to pack the books of two contemporary writers for a while. Silvia Avallone's Swimming to Elba, which tells a working class story set in Piombino (the industrial town on the coast where the ferries leave for the island of Elba) and manages to remind the reader that life here isn't always Under the Tuscan Sun. In a similar vein Accabadora, by Sardinian writer Michela Murgia, tells a much darker story of her homeland than the azure and crystal clear waters we normally associate with the island paradise she has grown up on. (More reading tips for a Tuscan beach holiday are provided in my Castiglione della Pescaia post.)

Finding a readership is never an easy task (I'm writing a book myself and am painfully aware of this right now). And finding a readership in translation is even worse. But books by local writers let adventurous readers discover unknown worlds behind closed doors that the average tourist doesn't often gain access to.

Hence, I can't wait to read my first copy of the Florentine Literary Review. I've already got my ticket for the FLR launch in the heart of Florence this autumn. And you are still in time to support the project by getting yours (or a subscription to the magazine) on Indiegogo.

See you there!


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