Maurizio De Rosa: Connecting people through Greek literature
After spending 15 years commuting between Italy and Greece, Maurizio De Rosa has been a permanent resident of Greece for the last seven. The Italian translator’s first encounter with the Greek language – the ancient version – took place in class at high school in his native Milan. De Rosa went on to study Greek literature at the University of Milan, which is where he became acquainted with Modern Greek, taught by NeoHellenist Amalia Kolonia.
“Modern Greek has added value compared to the ancient language, because it includes an entire nation, a lively reality which is attached to it,” De Rosa told Kathimerini.
Following his studies, De Rosa collaborated with philhellene Nicola Crocetti’s publishing house. Since 1996 he has translated about 40 Greek novels, including works by Zyranna Zateli, Maro Douka, Pavlos Matesis, Eugene Trivizas and Vassilis Alexakis as well as Ioanna Karystiani’s entire works. He is now ready to take the next big step by establishing a publishing house which will showcase older works of modern Greek literature.
How did you decide to become a permanent resident of Greece?
My love for the country is channeled through the Greek language. I therefore enjoy living in the land where the language is spoken. Having said that, it is also true that I fell in love with the land and its people right from the start.
Tell us about your upcoming publishing venture.
Along with three friends who live in Milan, I decided to establish a small, flexible publishing house that will focus on the literature of Eastern European countries, including Greece and Russia. The name of the venture is M&T, which comes from my name, Maurizio, and that of Tatiana Bertolini. Tatiana will work on the Russian projects.
What kind of reading needs are you looking to cover?
As far as Greece is concerned, important steps have already been taken for the promotion of local literature in the last 15 years. There are a few authors, writers including Petros Markaris, Ioanna Karystiani and Pavlos Matesis, who have succeeded in developing a steady audience and direction. Established publishers, on the other hand, are on the lookout for contemporary literary works, because even quality publishing houses get into the best-seller game at some point or another. In this light, all my suggestions regarding the translation of works by Alexandros Papadiamantis, Demosthenis Voutyras and Elias Papadimitrakopoulos, among others, were turned down.
Who would you say is your target audience?
We are not competing with established publishers. We would like to promote our books to students of Greek literature in Italy and to clubs dedicated to learning Greek. There are a number of these associations around the country, often made up of people who traveled to Greece and fell in love with the country. There is something that we, people living here, fail to grasp: Greece still has a strong myth attached to it, something which has to do with the singularity of its language and history. There are many people who, getting back from holidays, wish to find out more about the country’s contemporary culture.
How is the publishing house going to operate?
Besides being in charge of printing, we are thinking of collaborating with small- scale quality bookstores in Milan, Rome and other major cities. Our first edition, a twovolume anthology of contemporary Greek short stories, is already in the works and I hope it hits stores by the end of June.
How would you describe the current reading landscape in Italy? What does it take for a book to become a bestseller?
Best-sellers tends to be the same around the world. In the last decade, however, the non-book category seems to have gained ground. This is when a television star, for instance, comes up with a book of jokes or a football player talks about those special moments in his life. These books usually do very well around Christmas time, a period which is largely considered as the non-readers’ feast. How do you think your venture will perform, given the existing climate?
We’re not looking at selling a million copies; that is what the Roman arena looks like. Outside the arena, however, there are people working on something different. It’s not easy for independent quality bookstores to survive out there, but they do exist.
Maurizio De Rosa is based in Athens.