Mau­r­izio De Rosa: Con­nect­ing peo­ple through Greek lit­er­a­ture

Kathimerini English - - Life - BY OLGA SELLA

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.

Trans­la­tor

Mau­r­izio De Rosa is based in Athens.

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