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4 May 2023

Interview with Gemma Trevisani editorial manager for Italian fiction at Rizzoli

Laura Pugno

The newitalianbooks series of interviews with publishing managers, editors and publishers of Italian publishing houses continues, in this episode, with Rizzoli.

Gemma Trevisani, head of Italian fiction at Rizzoli, answers this question for us:

“How would you describe Rizzoli’s Italian fiction to readers abroad? What are its characteristics and strengths? ” 

 Gemma Trevisani: I’ll start from this consideration: the beauty and privilege of the publishing professions lie also in the fact that, no matter how crystal-clear one’s ideas may be about a direction to take, there is always a book that comes in and upsets everything, a story that shatters expectations. 

Rizzoli was always intended as a generalist publishing company, with the ambition to speak to different types of readers, and this is reflected in the type of research we do with the fiction team every day. We have a more literary line, embodied by the historic ‘La Scala’ series, and then there are series that lean more towards genre fiction, such as the successful ‘Nero Rizzoli’ crime series. 

In general, I would say that we are publishers who are always listening, trying to catch vibrations before they turn into noise, to capture stories and characters that embody a specific time, to find that voice that grabs your interest, and stays with you. Our aim is to have high-quality across all the various genres, including literary fiction masters such as Walter Siti – who is still too little read abroad – and Dacia Maraini, Silvia Avallone, who are translated all over the world, and crime fiction writers such as Maurizio de Giovanni, Massimo Carlotto and Piergiorgio Pulixi

I would like to add that I had the good fortune to spend a few years abroad working as a book scout, and I consider the area of books in translation to be culturally fundamental. On the one hand, we get to know other worlds, distant from our own. But at the same time, we regain the purest sense of literature: the fact that we always identify with a character, in the stirrings of her or his soul, despite their distance from us. Translation support grants are particularly important, and the fact that publishers are increasingly intrigued by international books – no longer only Anglo-American – is great news.


Benedetta Bolis and Arianna Curci, senior editors of Italian fiction at Rizzoli, answer the question: “Which literary and other books have worked best in foreign countries, and in your opinion, why?”

In addition to some of the time-honour authors of the Rizzoli brand – including Silvia Avallone, Dacia Maraini and Antonia Arslan, who are read and appreciated all over the world with successful titles here in Italy as well (A Friendship, The Silent Duchess, and The Lark Farm, to name a few) – several books over the years have worked very well abroad. 

Then we have the case of Luca Di Fulvio, who is much loved in France and Germany with his historical novels (the most recent published by Rizzoli are La ballata della Città Eterna and La figlia della libertà, published in France by Éditions Slatkine and in Germany by Bastei Lübbe), which succeed in the difficult feat of providing great entertainment without sacrificing quality writing. On a more literary front, the success of L’americano by Massimiliano Virgilio, whose Naples has conquered the Chinese market. Perhaps in both cases the reason for their success abroad lies in the less marked distinction between literary and popular novels drawn in other countries, compared to a generally more polarised Italian public. 

An interesting case is that of Michela Marzano, an Italian philosopher and author who has lived in Paris for many years now and whose writing blends fiction, non-fiction and mémoir with an international outlook. Her latest book, Stirpe e vergogna, which takes its cue from her grandfather’s fascist past to paint a cross-section view of Italian history, was conceived and written first in Italian and then in French. 

A genre that continues to be sought-after by foreign publishers is noir, with which we at Rizzoli have done a lot of work in recent years with the ‘Nero’ series. A good example is Piergiorgio Pulixi‘s L’isola delle anime, whose victory at the Scerbanenco Prize in 2019 kick-started translations in various countries and led him to win the Prix Découverte Polars Pourpres in France, and to be a finalist in the Grand Prix de Litérature Policière (the French edition is by Gallmeister).

Finally, we have a project we really believe in coming out soon, a debut that surprised us from the first pages, for the clarity and maturity of the author’s voice, Roberta Recchia. The novel will be released next year, but it is already receiving a lot of attention abroad: translation rights have already been sold in nine countries, editors and scouts are all in love with it. It is an extraordinary event, which fills us with joy (that special joy you feel when a book you love receives praise and recognition) and will undoubtedly give us a more solid base for the launch.