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Dispatches from the Festival degli Scrittori, Florence, Italy

By Jessie Chaffee


Image: Dany Laferrière (center) and Alba Donati (right) at the 2016 Festival degli Scrittori at Palazzo Strozzi.

On June 6-8, writers, translators, and publishers from around the world gathered in Florence for the tenth annual Festival degli Scrittori and Gregor von Rezzori Prize, awarded to a work of foreign fiction translated into Italian. Founded in 2007 in honor of novelist and memoirist Gregor von Rezzori, the prize and the festival surrounding it are organized by the Santa Maddalena Foundation, chaired by Beatrice Monti della Corte.


Image: The prize jury and Florence mayor Dario Nardella (right) in the Hall of 500.

Romanian writer Mircea Cărtărescu was awarded first prize for his novel Blinding from a shortlist that included Dany Laferrière (The World is Moving Around Me), Yiyun Li (Kinder than Solitude), Dinaw Mengestu (All our Names), and Lorrie Moore (Bark). The prize for best translation was awarded to Fulvio Ferrari for his translation of Swedish writer Frederik Söjberg’s The Fly Trap.


Image: Etgar Keret delivers the keynote lecture in the Pazzi Chapel.

Over the course of three days in the city’s historic spaces—the Palazzo Strozzi, former home to Florentine nobility; the Pazzi Chapel in Santa Croce; and the Palazzo Vecchio’s Hall of 500—participants explored vital contemporary issues, and the present and future of literature around the globe.


Image: Maaza Mengiste, Livia Manera Sambuy, and Dinaw Mengestu.

Dany Laferrière spoke about his memoir The World is Moving Around Me, which recounts his experiences—and, in particular, what foreign journalists missed or misunderstood—during and after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (read WWB’s interview with Dany). Dinaw Mengestu and Maaza Mengiste discussed the complexities of writing in exile—the reality of being “fully one thing and fully another,” the limitations imposed by cultural expectations, and finding a home in language.


Image: Etgar Keret, Dina Mengestu, Yiyun Li, Mircea Cărtărescu, Alberto Manguel, and Beatrice Monti della Corte.  

Mircea Cărtărescu described the fourteen-year project that became Blinding (read WWB’s interview with Mircea). Yiyun Li and Andrew Sean Greer examined narrative structure in their work and the classic novels that inspire each of them.


Image: Lorrie Moore (right).

And Lorrie Moore discussed the need for fearless honesty when writing humor with Etgar Keret, who also gave a keynote lecture on the power and privilege of storytelling. The festival was truly multilingual, with interpreters translating from and into the languages of the featured writers—Italian, Romanian, French, and English.


Image: Premio Gregor von Rezzori-winning translator Fulvio Ferrari.

Each of the finalists was highlighted at the culminating awards ceremony in the Hall of 500, introduced by Florence’s mayor Dario Nardella, and their work described by the members of the jury. The festival also incorporated local high school students, who met with and interviewed the featured writers, and some of whom also received literary prizes.


Image: Jurors for the translation prize: Martina Testa, Leonardo Marcello Pignataro, and Ilide Carmignani.

Check out (and check back for) Words Without Borders’s interviews with several of the writers and translators honored at this year’s festival:

  • An Interview with Mircea Cărtărescu, winner of the 2016 Gregor von Rezzori Prize for Best Foreign Fiction
     
  • An Interview with Dany Laferrière, finalist for the 2016 Gregor von Rezzori Prize for Best Foreign Fiction
     
  • An Interview with Fulvio Ferrari, winner of the Gregor von Rezzori Award for Best Translation, and jurors (forthcoming)
     
  • An Interview with Etgar Keret, keynote speaker (forthcoming)

Published Jun 23, 2016   Copyright 2016 Jessie Chaffee

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