Italy in France: ‘Passions Italiennes’ at Paris’ Festival

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Fifty authors are among the Italian delegation being readied for Italy’s guest-of-honor turn at April’s Salon du Livre de Paris.

Image: Artwork for Passions Italiennes, the Italian 2023 guest of honor program at the upcoming Festival du Livre de Paris, April 17 to 23

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Before Frankfurt 2024, Italy is Guest of Honor in Paris
Yes, that’s a red Vespa speeding past the Eiffel Tower. And midway through April in Paris, this and more Passions Italiennes will be on display at the Festival du Livre de Paris welcomes Italy as its pays invité, its guest of honor market.

“Seven days of meetings, lectures, dialogues, exhibitions, and performances,” says the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) are being planned as a mix of “words, ideas, and emotions” with the festival welcomes Italy to France’s capital.

There are, in fact, two events here.

The guest of honor program is at the festival from April 21 through 23 at the Grand Palais Éphémère. But prior to that, an eighth edition of Italissimo, a festival of Italian literature and culture, will have opened the week, running from April 18 through 23 at multiple venues in Paris.

A corps of more than 50 “special ambassadors” of Italian culture are being dispatched, the writers among them presenting their most recent books and translations arriving on the French-language market. The programming, in fact, is described as forming “a moving photograph” of Italian publishing, including fiction and nonfiction, travel and children’s literature, poetry, philosophy, history, music, and more.

The Italissimo program is curated by Fabio Gambaro, director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris. That festival, since 2016, has established an annual, familiar presence in Paris, with events staged at the Maison de la Poésie, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Consulate General of Italy, the Théâtre de l’Odéon, the Théâtre Les Déchargeurs, Sciences Po , Sorbonne Université, Sorbonne Nouvelle, the L’Entrepôt and Panthéon cinemas, the Maison d’Italie, the Bibliothèque Publique d’Information of the Centre Pompidou and the high schools of the Paris region.

From the classics, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Dante will be the subjects of tributes, including the actor and director Toni Servillo’s inaugural presentation, Dante’s Voices at the Théâtre de l’Odéon on April 17.

Part of the Italian program is a conversation hosted by Antonella Ferrara between Stefania Auci and Pietrangelo Buttafuoco on ‘Stories From Sicily,’ at the Italian Pavilion, the Grand Palace Ephemeral, April 23. Image: Festival du Livre de Paris

And while that program will focus, once again, on a broad spectrum of contemporary and classic Italian art and culture, Italian books and publishing will take stage at the Festival du Livre, including a presentation of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair‘s exhibition on the work of Italo Calvino at the show’s spazio, the Italian pavilion.

The pavilion reportedly will comprise 500 square meters (5,380 square feet) in the Eiffel Room, on the northern end of the Grand Palais Éphémère, and its development has been led by Italy’s trade promotion agency, called ICE, with a design by Agence Isabelle Allegret.

For a look at the overall festival’s exhibitors, there’s a display here. You’ll find there’s a special festival of religious publishing included, with more on that here. “Science for All” is the emphasis in another specialized book event.

In the Italian Pavilion: Calabrian Olive Trees

At the center of the “Italian Passions” pavilion, the spazio incontri will serve as a venue for appointments with authors and publishers, working in a professional program dedicated to the rights-trading interests of both countries.

Books displayed, in fact, are expected to be divided into two-thirds in French and one-third in Italian, while a pavilion bookshop will be open for sales at this largely public-facing festival.

There’s history of a good kind here, when it comes to rights-marketing between Italy and its French hosts.

In 2020, France was the second biggest European-market buyer of international rights to publish Italian books, a total 917 rights deals–and that represented an 8-percent increase over 2019. In the same year in Italy, 2,280 titles were translated from French.

Among events planned for Italy’s guest of honor program at the Salon du Livre de Paris is a conversation between Giancarlo De Cataldo and Gianrico Carofiglio on ‘The Art of Observing Shadows.‘ Image: Salon du Livre de Paris

And this friendly but not entirely balanced level of international exchange may be one factor behind the Italian publishing community’s goal for its Frankfurter Buchmesse guest of honor year (2024) to equalize the number of Italian books it exports for translation with the number of non-Italian works to which its publishers buy the rights for Italian publication.

The Pavilion at the Salon du Livre de Paris will of course be liveried in the hues of the world-famous Tricolore and will symbolically reproduce the square of an ideal village, with paper arcades, natural-wood furnishings, Tuscan cypresses, Amalfi lemons, and Calabrian olive trees.

And even two leading literary prizes, the masterful Strega and the Marco Polo Veniese, will be given special attention during the course of the events in Paris.

On April 23 at 6 p.m. in the Agora of the Grand Palace Ephemeral, author Alessandro Barrico will be interviewed by Ricardo Franco Levi, president of the Italian publishers’ association and of the Federation of European Publishers, with Fabio Gambaro. The session is titled, ‘Carte blanche to Alessandro Baricco.’ Image: Salon du Livre de Paris

While film, theater, and cinema will be represented in Italy’s doings in France, so will be photography, particularly in an exhibition of the work of Letizia Battaglia, the Sicilian photojournalist, a year after her April 13, 2022, death at Palermo.

And while the programming planned for the Italian program runs to 19 pages in a printout, you can see a categorized set of listings, very useful, here, with sorting available by types of event, venues, themes, and authors. Perhaps most convenient is this downloadable listing (PDF, those 19 pages) of events from the publishers’ association.

As the Salon du Livre’s artistic director, Marie-Madeleine Rigopoulos writes “If this program was built with a desire for the free circulation of ideas, it was also built with the desire to create a moment of communion and sharing between the public and the authors.”


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Italian market is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here. More from us on guest of honor programs is here, on publishing and book awards in the international industry is here, more on the Festival du Livre de Paris is here, and more on the French publishing market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.