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8 February 2023

Interview with Aňa Ostrihoňová, director of the Inaque publishing house

Alessandra Sanniti, director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Bratislava

For several years, Aňa Ostrihoňová has managed INAQUE editions in Bratislava, one of the most active publishing houses in Slovakia in promoting Italian authors. Its catalogue offers a truly impressive range of Italian contemporary novelists.

Could you briefly introduce us to the Inaque publishing house? 

Inaque Publishing House was founded ten years ago, when I returned to Slovakia after a long period abroad. I studied literature, journalism, and translation, so it was natural for me to focus on contemporary European and North American literature. Inaque has four book series, divided into genres: novels, essays, short stories, and the strongest series, Pandora, for which eighty titles have already been published, dedicated to contemporary women writers whose stories come from their unique perspective.

Our goal is to publish titles that last over time: this is why we publish 18 to 24 titles per year. Like all small publishing houses, we focus a lot on visual identity, which is in my opinion particularly important, as a distinctive sign to attract the attention of the reader. 


What is your editorial line for Italian literature, and what criteria guide you in the selection of the books to be published?

 My focus has, from the very beginning,  been on women writers, even though in 2012 there were still no signs of the new feminist wave which was to come. I really wanted to publish The Days of Abandonement by Elena Ferrante, but in the end I started with the My Brilliant Friend saga. During the first phase, I focused on contemporary women writers who explore the experience of their protagonists in all forms – the novels of Donatella Di Pietrantonio, Nadia Terranova, Simona Vinci, Silvia Avallone, Francesca Diotallevi, and Gaia de Beaumont‘s memoirs; then I went back in time and published novels by Mariateresa Di Lascia, and Laura Conti, works by authors who had never been translated into Slovak. 

At the same time, I published Paolo Cognetti‘s short stories, Domenico Starnone‘s novels and Nicola Lagioia‘s Ferocity; translations by Giuseppe Catozzella, Mauro Corona, Veronica Raimo and Veronica Pacini are forthcoming.

Since Inaque is an independent publishing house, it is necessary for it to be self-sufficient, so I publish books which, regardless of my personal taste, have universal appeal while portraying Italian realities and contexts. Among us publishers, these titles are called ‘travellers’, they have their own literary value and are not packaged for a foreign audience.

Among Italian publishers and agents, I have found people who share my tastes, with whom I can talk about literature or social issues – friends I like to spend time with when I am in Italy, with whom we remain in contact even if we are not negotiating anything in particular, and whom I trust, as much as they trusted me at the beginning of our collaboration.  


Do Italian literary prizes, book fairs, and translators from Italian play an important role in the choice of titles?

There is no doubt that literary prizes increase book sales, which is never a bad thing. I am even happier when the winner is a book that I have already acquired and am working on, which is what happened with Giulia Caminito‘s novel L’acqua del lago non è mai dolce or Veronica Raimo‘s Niente di vero. When I choose which books to publish, awards or reviews influence me relatively – for better or worse.

I like to read on portable devices where I can’t even see the cover, I often forget who the author is, I immerse myself in reading without expectations or preconceived ideas: at that point, deciding whether or not to publish the book becomes much easier. 

Translators are important: as a translator myself, I understand perfectly to what extent the literary text can be transferred to the Slovak context. Translation (unless it is science fiction) is always a bit staggered, not only in space, but also in time; sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Some topics return cyclically, others are always present. Translators who have the sensitivity to perceive the atmosphere and synergies between the two countries are invaluable.

I try to avoid book fairs because they make me feel like a child in a candy shop: I want everything. I choose my books in collaboration with translators and, as I said, with friends I have in the Italian publishing industry. Once I have chosen a writer, my intention is to continue publishing their other works, but this decision is often conditioned by several factors. Clearly it depends on how the title is received by Slovak readers, or sometimes the writer happens to changes their genre and moves into other territories, such as children’s literature or comics, which we don’t publish.


Which Italian titles or authors are most successful with the Slovak public, and, in your opinion, why?

These are just my personal observations, but for a long time I had the impression that the most popular writers with the Slovak public were Umberto Eco and Alessandro Baricco, because of the way they manage to play with language and cross the boundaries between literary genres. Then came Paolo Giordano and Paolo Cognetti. Currently, it is mainly women authors who are successful, with powerful stories that manage to investigate the female experience across generations, which talk about adolescence, education as a tool for emancipation, which offer a new interpretation of historical characters. 


Are there any titles or authors that you would like to bring to Slovakia but have not yet had the opportunity to introduce to the local scene?

There are many.


How did you first encounter Italian literature?

My parents always loved to read, although neither of them studied literature, being more inclined towards technical and scientific subjects. At home we had a rich library with classics and a Nobel Prize series, and thanks to that I got to know Luigi Pirandello, for example. But my first ever experience with Italian literature was Pinocchio. Later, also thanks to Italian cinema, I discovered Alberto Moravia, Cesare Pavese – whose diaries and reflections on writing I still consider among the best I have ever read -, not forgetting Elsa Morante, Dacia Maraini, Primo Levi, Curzio Malaparte. I also discovered Elena Ferrante and Andrea Camilleri through the cinema.