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22 May 2024

Interview with Filippo La Rosa (Maeci)

Author:
Paolo Grossi

Filippo La Rosa is Deputy Director General of the Directorate General for Public and Cultural Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. He is also Central Director for the promotion of Italian culture and language. This Central Directorate acts in a coordinating role for the network of 84 Italian Cultural Institutes around the world.

We asked Filippo La Rosa to tell us about the main activities that Maeci is promoting this year to support the internationalisation of Italian publishing.

 

2024 is full of major international events for Italian publishing. What are the main events scheduled and what initiatives has Maeci prepared for each of them?

 

2024 is a year that I would define as crucial for the promotion of Italian publishing around the world. And it is not a simple accident of circumstances, but a conscious choice. Thanks to the demand that the international market has for our publishing industry, we have lined up three constellations: our country was the guest of honour at the Tunis International Book Fair last April; in a few days, at the end of May, we will be at the Warsaw Book Fair, and the same honour will be reserved for us from 16th October 2024, with the opening of the Frankfurt Buchmesse, which, as is well known, is the reference point, the polar star in the sphere of international fairs dedicated to books and publishing.

As I said, this exceptional alignment of planets is no mere coincidence. It stems from the desire to respond to requests coming from publishers, agents and translators from the various markets involved, the Tunisian and Arab markets for Tunis, the Polish market for Warsaw and the global market for Frankfurt, whose fair is – as is well known – a worldwide event. For this long journey, we have envisaged ad hoc participation, which obviously sees Frankfurt as the final destination.

In a few days, on 28th May, we will present the overall programme of the event in Frankfurt together with the Extraordinary Commissioner Mauro Mazza, the Centre for Books and Reading (Ministry of Culture) and, of course, the network of diplomatic-consular representations and cultural institutes in Germany.

This programme will have books at its centre, through the promotion of authors, publishers and translators, while at the same time having a broader scope and embracing the most diverse artistic and cultural languages, again with books as the starting point.

 

Every year, for over twenty years, Maeci has organised the Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo (SLIM; Week of the Italian Language around the World)  through the network of Embassies, Consulates and Cultural Institutes. This year, the 24th edition of SLIM will be ‘Italian and the book: the world between the lines’. Why did you choose to put the book in the spotlight and what will be the main themes of the Week?

 

Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo (SLIM) traditionally takes place in the third week of October. This year the dates coincide with the Frankfurt Buchmesse and we have therefore decided to dedicate the next edition of SLIM, the 24th one, to books and publishing, and we have entitled it ‘The world between the lines’. Recently, ‘The world between the lines’ has become a hashtag (#Ilmondofralerighe) for a promotional action on our social channels, which we have been implementing in Rome (the centre of the system), but also around the world through embassies, consulates and cultural institutes. We are asking our interlocutors in Rome (diplomats, foreign journalists, personalities from the world of art and show business who live in our country and abroad, but also sports champions and influencers) to tell us in a short video about the Italian book that made the biggest impression on them. The aim of this initiative is, of course, to get people talking on social networks about this beautiful object, bearer of ideas and dreams, that is, the book, and the Italian book in particular.

 

 

This year, for the second year running, Maeci is taking part in the Turin Book Fair with its own stand and its own programme of activities. What has guided the decision to be present at the largest national trade fair in the publishing sector?

 

It is true, this year we are at the Turin Book Fair for the second time and we are there with great satisfaction. We have set up a larger stand, we have planned the participation of the various articulations of the Ministry, from the best-known ones, such as the Crisis Unit, to the many initiatives of the Directorate for Italians Abroad, but above all we have tried to emphasise the political dimension of our cultural diplomacy action. From the archaeological missions and what they entail in certain regions of the world, starting with those of the wider Mediterranean area, to the work that the Ministry is carrying out on Italian territories with the ‘Laboratorio Farnesina’ project to involve regions and local authorities and offer their cultural and artistic initiatives an international stage, the stage of the Italian cultural institutes. We have also paid special attention to the publishing activities we carry out around the world in favour of children (Geronimo Stilton, La Pimpa, etc.), which respond to a very clear strategy of our Ministry aimed at bringing the younger generations closer to Italian culture and language wherever they are, regardless of the presence of schools or on-site Italian language courses.

Lastly, we presented a preview of the new ‘Short Guide to grants and awards for translation of Italian books into foreign languages’, produced by the newitalianbooks website (Treccani) with the collaboration of Maeci and Cepell: an important tool that collects and summarises in the clearest and simplest language possible all the various support mechanisms for the publication of Italian books in foreign languages that are scattered in various locations, and sometimes not always easy to find. The ‘Guide’ is available in print in English and in Italian and can be downloaded online from the newitalianbooks website in four language versions: in addition to Italian and English, there are also French and German translations.

We are very satisfied with the outcome of our presence at the Turin Book Fair and consider this year’s edition to be the continuation of a strategy of projecting our cultural diplomacy action beyond national borders.

 

 

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