By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘We Dedicate This Ebook to Them’One week ago, on March 27, The New York Times published its tribute to Bergamo, “the bleak heart of the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak.” If you haven’t seen Jason Horowitz’s “We Take The Dead From Morning Till Night” with the images of photographer Fabio Bucciarelli, you’ll find it here in English and just under the byline there’s a link to the text in Italian.
As you scroll down the full-screen interactive piece, what surfaces from the darkness is the Bergamo newspaper’s death notices, a fast field of them, fences down, walls gone, so many casualties, and in a range of so few dates in the month of Marzo 2020. These are not even obituaries. Who could write so many? Just notices, each maybe a column-inch or two in the paper. A few with photos of the deceased. Most just text.
Of course, just a week later, Italy’s figures are much worse than they were event then. Today’s (April 3) numbers from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center for Italy: 115,242 cases, 13,915 deaths. To understand the scale of this, it helps to check the Times’ data, which tells us that those figures mean that 23 people have died for every 100,000 in Italy. By comparison, as fast as the United States’ numbers now are soaring, they represent only 1.7 deaths per 100,000.
And as the alarm rose in Spain, France, the UK, the US and elsewhere, Horowitz knew that the world’s exhausted, stark astonishment was moving on. “While the world’s attention now shifts to its own centers of contagion, the sirens keep sounding. Like the air raid sirens of the Second World War, they are the ambulance sirens that many survivors of this war will remember. They blare louder as they get closer, coming to collect the parents and grandparents, the keepers of Italy’s memory.”
But even as, in the words of CNN’s Ben Wedeman from Rome, Italy is watching its oldest generation disappear, those keepers of Italy’s memory, however, have friends.
Just announced today by the Milan-based house of Gruppo Mauri Spagnol (referred to as GeMS), Andrà tutto bene: Gli scrittori al tempo della quarantena is going on pre-order at the imprint Garzanti for a release on Thursday (April 9). The title means Everything Will Be Alright: Writers in Time of Quarantine.
So new is the project that its own page at Garzanti isn’t working yet. It is, however, loaded at GeMS’ digital sales outlet Il Librario.it and you can find it here. It’s also available for pre-order on Amazon’s sites, both the flagship Amazon.com and its international satellites in France, Germany, the UK, and, of course, Italy.
The proceeds from this book are going entirely to l’Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII di Bergamo, the Pope John XXIII Hospital, an hour away from Milan by the E64 highway, where many medical workers as well as patients have fought the pathogen. In case you’re not familiar with it, the hospital is huge and modern, one of the foremost in the world and ranked by Newsweek among Italy’s Top 10.
In the local Prima Bergamo newspaper, a beaming March 8 article announces to the locked down inhabitants of Bergamo, “At a time so complex and difficult for everyone, where fears of an unknown enemy are growing by the hour, a request comes from the United States that can only fill us with pride: “Explain your model against coronavirus.”
‘This Work of Solidarity and Creativity’
Mauri Spagnol president Stefano Mauri—Publishing Perspectives readers know him from his warning from Milan to world publishing on March 2—wants it clear that “not only the author’s proceeds but also those of the publisher and many of the distributors and online stores” carrying the book, all will go to Bergamo’s stricken hospital and its workers.
In a letter sent to us this morning, Mauri writes, “We cannot ‘invoice’ this book, perhaps, but this is a project which is keeping us alive these days and making us feel useful to the needs of the moment. First and foremost, to help the sick, together with you, and give meaning to those who are confined to their homes.
“Building this work of solidarity and creativity together makes us feel more united while we are physically ‘apart.'”
Mauri says that when he put out the call to authors across the company’s imprints, 25 stepped forward without hesitation. “Writers from all over the country have contributed,” he says, “from Apulia to Friuli, from Piedmont to Sardinia, from Lombardy to Sicily. And writer friends from Princeton, Paris, and Madrid also wanted to join in this great embrace.”
He quotes from some of the essays in the book, some favorite phrases, such as one that says the coronavirus COVID-19 “has lifted the veil of hypocrisy with which we thought we were protecting ourselves: we are ants, not giants.” And another captures the desperate drive for a vaccine, in which we must “finally find a way to give breath to the Earth without forcing it to develop an antibody against mankind.”
We’ll list below the 25 authors who are participating, and then we’ll follow with new news from the Association of Italian Publishers, an update on the industry toll.
Authors in Garzanti’s ‘Andrà tutto bene’ Tribute
“I believe this book is important,” says Stefano Mauri. “Taking a picture of humanity is important at a time when it is forced to rethink social relationships, daily life, the true values that count, and its place on this planet.
“I’m proud of the inhabitants of these publishing houses, of the people I have the honor and the pleasure to work with, the authors in the first place: Everyone knows that it is hard, that this situation will impose economic sacrifices on us, that it will be a year in which we will all have to tighten our belts, but creativity does not stop by decree.”
The authors participating in the Andrà tutto bene project are:
- Ritanna Armeni
- Stefania Auci
- Barbara Bellomo
- Gianni Biondillo
- Caterina Bonvicini
- Federica Bosco
- Marco Buticchi
- Cristina Caboni
- Donato Carrisi
- Anna Dalton
- Giuseppe Festa
- Antonella Frontani
- Enrico Galiano
- Alessia Gazzola
- Elisabetta Gnone
- Massimo Gramellini
- Jhumpa Lahiri
- Florence Noiville
- Clara Sánchez
- Giada Sundas
- Silvia Truzzi
- Ilaria Tuti
- Hans Tuzzi
- Marco Vichi
- Andrea Vitali
An Update From Rome on the Italian Market
The news is not good from the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE).
In a new message from the association, titles canceled by Italian publishers for this year now number 23,200, up from the earlier estimate of 18,600. In terms of units printed, this means that the year is expected to see 49 million fewer copies going onto the market.
Briefly, as provided to us on Thursday (April 2) and for data up to March 30:
- 64 percent of Italian publishers are implementing or planning layoffs (up from 61 percent on the previous survey)
- 31 percent of the market’s publishing houses have changed their editorial plans
- 98 percent of publishers being tracked by the association now say they see the damage as “significant” or “dramatic” to the complete supply chain (up from 91 percent previously)
In value terms, the industry estimates a 75-percent drop in sales for recent weeks.
“These figures speak for themselves,” says the president of the AIE, Ricardo Franco Levi in the association’s media messaging. His core comment and that of many industry associates is that Rome appears to be overlooking much of the nation’s cultural fallout as the Giuseppe Conte administration struggles to stabilize the nation’s public health crisis.
“There is a widespread rise in appeals for the support of our culture. The alarm is clear,” says Levi. “This is why we urge the government and parliament to take action. Turn on a beacon to the world of the book. You’re missing.”
In our Spring 2020 Magazine, Publishing Perspectives has interviewed publishers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and authors to present a look at the book business for the coming year.
Inside this issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine, you’ll find articles and resources including coverage from China, Belgium, Russia, the Latin American markets, Norway, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, the international copyright community and world market data sources.
Download ‘Publishing in Times of Crisis’ free of charge here.