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5 July 2023

Italian books in Turkey. Interview with Salvatore Schirmo, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Istanbul

Author:
Paolo Grossi

The Italian Cultural Institute of Istanbul launched its own publishing division in 2020. We asked its director, Salvatore Schirmo, to explain to newitalianbooks readers what this initiative aims to achieve, and to give us a brief overview of how Italian books fare in Turkey.

 

What are the first titles to be published? What is their target, and how are they distributed?

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, when events at our Institute had come to a complete halt, in addition to our intense activity developed over social media, and especially through the many original digital content we produced and published on our YouTube channel, we began to think on how to widen the reach of our language and culture through books – as the book had become an instrument we all engaged with a lot during that period of forced reclusion. We realised that there was a lack of bilingual publishing in Turkey, aimed at both an Italian and a Turkish audience. The idea of transforming our institute into a publishing house dedicated to this purpose prompted us to take action and obtain accreditation from the local Ministry of Culture and Tourism, so that we could publish books with their own ISBN code, for both print and digital editions.

This is how the “Edizioni Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Istanbul” came into being, and how it produced its first editions. The first volume we published is entitled Lo spazio pubblico, lo spazio privato (The public space, the private space) and is a collection of documents on record from the XI conference on the Italian contribution to excavations, research, and studies in archaeological missions in Turkey. This publication offers a significant scientific perspective and allows to draw a comparison between the excavations and research carried out by Italian and by Turkish archaeologists. The second book, In Cammino con Dante – Dante e l’Oriente (Walking with Datnte -Dante and the Middle East) contains papers presented in two series of conferences focusing on the relationship between Dante Alighieri and the Middle East, in connection with the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. The two publications are targeted to a diverse readership, ranging from specialists and academics to history, archaeology, and literature enthusiasts. These books are off-the-shelf publications distributed directly by the Italian Cultural Institute of Istanbul, are available for free online in their digital version through the website of the Italian Cultural Institute of Istanbul, and can be consulted directly at. the Institute’s library.

 

Could you tell us about some of your forthcoming projects?

“Edizioni Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Istanbul” is currently working on two major publications. The first is entitled Storie d’architetti italiani (Stories of Italian Architects) and will be presented to the public at the Italian Design Days in Turkey this coming autumn. This volume brings together contributions from guest speakers at a series of conferences and meetings with some of Italy’s most renowned architects and academics. It looks into the stories that marked the international architectural debate in the twentieth century, with forays into the twenty-first century through the thought, practice, and research of Italian architects, universities, publishing houses, and museum institutions.

In addition, we have a new volume about to come out, by the title Dante Alighieri e Yunus Emre. Due universi paralleli a confronto (Dante Alighieri and Yunus Emre. A Comparison of Two Parallel Universes). This book explores the poetic, spiritual, and linguistic worlds of the two great Italian and Turkish poets, Dante Alighieri and Yunus Emre. It highlights the points of contact and the differences between the two contemporary authors, and offers a comparison of their worlds. The volume is already in the printing process, and will be available over the course of 2023. Lastly, we are working on more significant publishing projects scheduled for early 2024. The first is dedicated to the exhibition Parlami Terra! Medea in Cappadocia con Pasolini e Maria Callas (Talk to Me, Earth! Medea in Cappadocia with Pasolini and Maria Callas), which was organised by the Institute for the centenary of Pasolini’s birth in 2022 in Cappadocia, where Pasolini’s film was shot. The second book is entitled Pietro Canonica e Atatürk. La presenza italiana nei primi anni della Repubblica di Turchia (Pietro Canonica and Atatürk . Italian Presence in the First Years of the Republic of Turkey) and it focuses Pietro Canonica’s work and Atatürk’s monuments across  Turkey, created by Pietro Canonica just one hundred years ago, at the dawn of the new Turkish Republic founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal.

For more information on forthcoming events, I would invite you to visit our website https://iicistanbul.esteri.it and the Italian Cultural Institute of Istanbul’s social media channels.

 

We’d like to take this opportunity to ask you about Italian books in Turkey: are there many publishing houses that publish Italian books translated into Turkish? Approximately how many titles are published each year? Among the latest releases, which do you think are particularly interesting?

Over the last five years, from 2018 to 2023, according to sources at the Turkish Ministry of Culture, more than one thousand three hundred books were translated by more than one hundred publishers who, for a range of reasons and coming from different backgrounds, translated Italian books into Turkish. Turkish publishing is a very diverse field, ranging from large and prestigious publishing houses, which are often part of public and private foundations and dependent on large commercial and banking groups, down to university publishing houses and small independent publishing houses.

In 2022, there were 201 books translated, which is roughly the average number of translations per year, while in the first few months of 2023,  the number of translated books has already reached 97. Over the years, some of these have benefited from financial contributions for translations offered by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation every year through our Institute.

Recent translations include books by Veronesi, Recalcati, Magris, Agamben and Camilleri, as well as the timeless Umberto Eco. The works of Dante Alighieri and everything to do with him are also widely translated, especially for the commemoration of the seventh centenary of his death, and more recently the book Dante by Alessandro Barbero, our guest at the Institute at the beginning of May.

Children’s literature by Gianni Rodari and Geronimo Stilton, and Bonelli’s comic strips, led by Tex Willer, are also very popular.

 

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