We spoke with Alessandro Raveggi, editor of The Florentine Literary Review, a new bilingual literary magazine (in Italian with English translations) published in Florence, Italy.
Congratulations on having published the second issue of The FLR! What was the impetus for creating The FLR? How does it distinguish itself from other journals and who do you hope its audience will be?
Our idea was to offer a magazine aimed at English and international readers that served as a window into quality contemporary Italian literature. The hope is also to help these stories and poems reach a greater audience abroad, where translations from Italian are far too scarce. Since the magazine was launched in Florence, it seemed natural that the magazine should be bilingual to reflect the city’s struggle between anchoring itself in its past without neglecting to keep an eye toward the future and innovation.
Image: Alessandro Raveggi, editor of The FLR. Photo by Francesco Berti.
Are there aspects of the magazine—or the writers you publish—that you feel reflect the city of Florence, either its character or community?
The Florentine community, aside from some issues with tourism, is a community of residents that converse far more often in English than in Italian—or at the very least frequently interact with Anglo-Saxon as well as other Italian or Latin cultures. It’s important for us that the magazine was founded in Florence: behind The FLR is the idea of a reimagining of the city as not only a destination (for a short vacation) but as a place that produces and promotes literature, pushing it toward new shores. A launch pad rather than just an arrival airport, which should be an Italian attitude, as opposed to just Florentine.
How do you find your writers, and is there a particular type of writer or aesthetic that you are seeking?
First off, I put together a diverse editorial board made up of writers, editors, translators, critics, and librarians of all backgrounds to ensure both a quality and varied direction. Every issue follows the same approach: we choose a theme-word, mandatory but broad, which serves as a starting point for six fiction writers and two poets, who we select and invite to contribute. We don’t look for one particular aesthetic, but rather for vitality and variety within the aesthetics present in this very favorable and resurgent moment for Italian literature.
Each of the issues includes writing along a theme. Can you speak a bit about the theme of the first issue—Invasion/Invasione?
The theme of the first issue was, let’s say, provocative, arising from a moment in time when the discussion surrounding the migratory “invasion” in Italy, both in the major newspapers and down at the bar, was often discriminatory. But one need only look up to realize that today we live among constant invasion—of cultures, of information, of violated private spaces—and that the migrant crisis is merely one (complex) aspect to grasp in order to understand Italy today. I have to say it truly inspired our writers, whose stories and poems ranged in theme from the most intimate and affectionate to the most catastrophic and primordial.
Italy has a long literary history that includes both Italians and foreigners attempting to capture the country in words. Do you see The FLR as being in any way in conversation with that canon?
Certainly foreign authors have long tried to capture the Italian spirit ever since the days of the Grand Tour, but have often found themselves, unwillingly or not, hung up on trite characterizations and stereotypes, like the Italian ragamuffin or boaster, or the culture of dolce far niente (carefree idleness), as opposed to a society, especially in the South, that is profoundly divided and impoverished. Even Italian writers have turned to these mirrors and tricks as a way of defending ourselves—there’s a wonderful story set in Rome by Malamud, “The Maid’s Shoes,” that explains this perfectly. With The FLR we hope to counter these stereotypes that often find their way onto Italian shelves abroad and to show a truly contemporary Italy, from Milan to Palermo. Or even beyond its own borders.
What can readers look forward to in upcoming issues of The FLR?
First of all issue number two, Desire/Desiderio (pictured above), comes out at the end of May. Another delicate theme, let’s say. The stories and poems are truly surprising and anything but clichéd. Readers will find an erotic summer issue marked also by ambiguity—a veiling and an unveiling, a liaison between bodies that undress in the sun or quickly get dressed again in fear of something greater than themselves (a child, a connection . . .).
For more writing about migration to Italy, read WWB’s September 2016 issue: There Is No Map: The New Italian(s)