Algiers, Haifa, Seoul, Stuttgart and Strasbourg enter the international jury.
Strega Prize: five new Italian Cultural Institutes in the Jury
Edited by Laura Pugno
For the 2022 edition of the Strega Prize, as part of the successful collaboration between the Bellonci Foundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which has been mentioned several times in this column, the participation of the Italian Cultural Institutes in the jury is being renewed with five new locations, Algiers, Haifa, Seoul, Stuttgart and Strasbourg.
The Directors of these Italian Cultural Institutes will then have the task of forming a jury at their own Institute, as the Director of the Bellonci Foundation, Stefano Petrocchi, reminds us: ‘Every year more and more Italian Cultural Institutes around the world contribute to the jury of the Strega Prize, selecting over two hundred and thirty devotees of the Italian language and Italian culture, who further expand and strengthen the already vast audience of readers in charge of selecting the five finalists and the winning book. The Prize is thus consolidating its function of promoting the most interesting and innovative voices in contemporary Italian fiction abroad. This year, thanks to the hoped-for easing of the pandemic, the usual tradition of presenting the Prize in one of the venues involved will resume in June, accepting the generous invitation of the Copenhagen Institute. The stage is part of a tour of European that in past editions has seen the five finalists of the prizes taking part in meetings in Berlin, Lyon, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, St. Petersburg, Strasbourg and Vienna.’
The entry of the Italian Cultural Institute of Algiers into the Prize’s jury is taking place this year, in which our country will be Guest of Honour of the 25th edition of the International Book Fair of Algiers (SILA), in attendance from 24 to 31 March 2022. Antonia Grande, director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Algiers, stated: ‘We are delighted to be part of the group of Cultural Institutes voting for the next Strega Prize. This year Italy is the guest of honour at the Algiers International Book Fair. Our participation in the Strega Prize is an important step in promoting Italian literature in Algeria and one that will be greatly appreciated by local Italian speakers and Italianists.’
From Seoul, Michela Linda Magrì, director of the IIC, said: ‘I am very excited about this opportunity for the Seoul office to join the international jury and vote on the books nominated for the 2022 Strega Prize! In Korea, Korean publishers and scholars of our language have made a considerable effort to get to know and deepen their knowledge of Italian culture, including by reading Italian books. There are a variety of translated books and many Korean scholars committed to translating Italian books, both historical works and in those in the fields of literature and non-fiction. In 2019, a Korean Dante scholar won a section of the Flaiano prize. Recently, a well-known Korean Library presented an exhibition of Italian books with the involvement of the Italian Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute of Seoul. In addition to this, thanks to ministerial contributions obtained from the Farnesina for the promotion of Italian books, the winning books from the last 20 editions of the Strega Prize were donated to the newly established Interdisciplinary Centre for Italian Studies in Korea, which has been set up at the Department of Italian Studies of the HUFS University in Seoul, in order to expand the University library and make the wealth of contemporary Italian writers available to Korean students. The experiment we are about to have in Seoul makes us even more motivated and aware of the role of the IICs who, thanks to their collaboration with the prestigious literary prize, help to promote the translation and dissemination of Italian books abroad.’
In view of the upcoming events of the Salon du Livre in Paris 2023 and the Buchmesse in Frankfurt, which will see Italy as the guest of honour, the presence of French and German institutes in the jury of the Strega Prize has been reinforced.
For the Italian Cultural Institute of Strasbourg, as Giovanni Grussu, the new Director, pointed out, this is a return to the jury after a two-year break: ‘For Strasbourg and for the Italian Cultural Institute, this comeback is very important and is taking place at a propitious time: the city of Strasbourg, a border city and a crossroads at the centre of the European Union, is by its very nature open and welcoming towards different cultures, and has always looked to Italy with great appreciation and curiosity. The return of the Strega Prize coincides with Strasbourg’s candidacy as Unesco World Book Capital 2023 and allowing it to participate in one of the most important events in our cultural life will certainly strengthen and lend prestige to the presence of Italian fiction, helping to increase its diffusion in a city where books and reading are a major concern.’
Giuseppe Restuccia, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Stuttgart commented that, ‘It is a great privilege for our venue to join the jury for the 2022 edition of the Strega Prize. As representatives of Italian culture in Germany, where we can perceive the love and attention reserved by these people for our very rich cultural heritage on a daily basis, we are even more honoured to become actors involved in the process of selecting the winning book. We are certain that from this new collaboration between the Stuttgart Institute and the Fondazione Bellonci, new ideas for our cultural promotion activities will be able to emerge, drawing on the fertile reservoir of literary talent our country has. In light of these considerations, we believe that our Institute will benefit from this new experience, which we are preparing to get involved in with real enthusiasm.’
From Israel, the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Haifa, Davide Denina, concluded: ‘We are delighted that the Italian Cultural Institute of Haifa is going to be part of the jury of the Strega Prize this year, for the first time in its sixty-year history. In northern Israel, Italian literature is well-known and appreciated for its vitality, taste and variety of registers. We have the institutional task of promoting it through the advocacy of reading and books, thus initiating processes of mutual understanding and dialogue between Italy and Israel.’