Interview with Nicola Lagioia, director of the Turin International Book Fair.
Nicola Lagioia (born 1973) has been running the Turin International Book Fair since 2018. A novelist, editor and radio show host, he has published several novels, including Riportando tutto a casa (Einaudi, 2009), winner of the Vittorini, Volponi and Viareggio prizes, and La ferocia (Einaudi, 2014), winner of the Strega Prize in 2015. He has a new novel, which will be published by Einaudi this autumn.
Following the pandemic, numerous book events (festivals, fairs etc.) have been cancelled. This also happened to the Turin International Book Fair, which, nevertheless, managed to organise a special edition, live-streaming events between 14-18 May. How successful was this initiative?
During the lockdown, when it looked likely that we wouldn’t be able to do anything, we quickly transferred online part of the programme that we had worked very hard to develop for the traditional book fair format. This resulted in SalTo EXTRA, that is seventy or so encounters with some of the most internationally renowned novelists, essay writers, scientists, economists, artists and people from the world of entertainment, who managed to attract more than two million “visitors”. We were somewhat surprised by what we managed to achieve. Firstly, SalTo EXTRA was able to attract to these events a type of audience that (for reasons of work, age, health and geographical location) would not have been able to attend the book fair in its traditional format; and, secondly, we were able to involve authors (from Donna Haraway to Jared Diamond) who – even without the pandemic – would have found it very difficult to be physically present in Turin in May.
During this health emergency, while we await a return to “normality”, it is necessary to invent new forms, new formats. What new projects does the Book Fair have for the autumn?
We have been working hard and will continue to work hard throughout August to try and come up with something that also includes a live dimension for the autumn. We are constantly monitoring the situation, which, unfortunately, is still far from clear in terms of the regulations regarding exactly what you can and can’t do, in the hope that we will be able to announce a project including a series of important events that are up to the usual standard compared to everything the Book Fair has managed to achieve over the last few years – events that are able to link the final part of 2020 with 2021. Everything is dedicated to promoting literature in a spirit of sharing, inclusion and community, which is, in any case, a distinctive feature of the Book Fair, but, at a time like this, becomes even more essential, and not just in terms of the publishing world.
The Turin International Book Fair has also hosted the International Book Forum (IBF), a space for business-to-business meetings between Italian and foreign publishers. What alternatives can be put forward to overcome the difficulty in arranging meetings between publishers where they are physically present?
The Book Fair is, as usual, also working to help promote the sale of publishing rights and when the time is right, we will announce the initiatives that are being taken to help achieve this. Undoubtedly, newitalianbooks will be an important voice with regard to the promotion of Italian books abroad, so we will definitely be speaking to them.