At Torino’s Book Fair in Italy: The Aficionado Award

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Three shortlistees are named by the Torino Book Fair’s Aficionado Award, honoring ‘original and inspiring publishing initiatives.’

Entering the Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino in 2018. Image: SILT

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

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Italy’s Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino (May 18 to 22) is a public-facing fair with a professional program that encompasses a rights center component, May 17 to 19. The overall show expects as many as 168,000 attendees and is considered to be Italy’s largest book fair. Created in 1988, the show’s festival elements bring more than 2,000 international guests into Torino and as many as 1,200 public events.

On Wednesday (May 17), another element will be highlighted, and in that case, it’s the arrival of a new industry-based awards program. Set to be presented in the Sala Berlino at Torino’s Centro Congressi, the Aficionado Award has been developed by a quartet of industry players who want to recognize and honor “original and inspiring publishing initiatives and collaborations.”

The award has been developed in association with Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), where the inaugural winner will be announced in October.

On Wednesday in Torino, however, the three shortlistees for the first Aficionado Award will formally be recognized:

  • Aké Arts and Book Festival
  • The Passenger (Iperborea and Europa Editions)
  • Meridian Czernowitz

Aficionado board members Ravi Merchandani and Daniel Medin are to be on hand. Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos and Frankfurt’s director of business development Lars Birken-Bertsch, Publishing Perspectives understands, are expected to participate, as well.  The 5:30 p.m. program is to be hosted by Mattia Carratello, and will feature the four co-founders of the new Aficionado Award program:

  • Aleksi Siltala of Helsinki’s Siltala Publishing
  • Tom Kraushaar, publisher at Stuttgart’s Klett-Cotta
  • Michael Gaeb of Berlin’s Literarische Agentur Michael Gaeb
  • Rebecca Servadio of London Literary Scouting

And many prize and award program organizers may look with no small amount of envy at the kind of leeway these co-founders have allowed their new program to have in its mission “to connect, support, and encourage passionate and dedicated publishing professionals.”

The Aficionado Award

Described as “a unique collaboration between its four founding members,” the award’s intent is “to recognize and pay tribute to the people, companies, and initiatives which innovate and impress in original collaboration,” improving “the quality of international publishing; to make visible what is great and wonderful in publishing to all who are eager to be inspired and to collaborate for the greater good of the industry—to learn, teach and share; to encourage and establish a sustainable exchange of ideas about the important questions central to publishing.

“The shortlistees,” organizers add, “are nominated by a flexible, dynamic, and non-hierarchical group of publishing professionals.”

Publishing Perspectives has checked in with the four founders to get a sense from each of them of just what the Aficionado Award is about, and it’s interesting to get several angles on the idea. here’s what they told us.

Michael Gaeb

Michael Gaeb
Literarische Agentur Michael Gaeb, Berlin

“The Aficionado Award started as just a conversation between four people longing for our paradise: the book fair–the exchange with our international friends with whom we share ideas, books, and dreams. The places for these exchanges are the book fairs.

“The pandemic changed our business in many ways, and we need the inspiration from people around the world to get along with these changes. We’re all sitting in the same boat. That’s why we think we all have to talk to each other, no matter whether we’re small or big, corporate or indie publishers, editors, scouts, agents, festival directors, editors of literary magazines … The main thing is that we all care about books.”

Rebecca Servadio

Rebecca Servadio
London Literary Scouting

“The Aficionado Award sets out to recognize original collaborations at the heart of international publishing.

“Ours is a trade-focused initiative that wants to celebrate and encourage bold, interesting, and singular cooperation between the different parts of the book world and book business.

“An encouragement, an enticement, and maybe also a reminder to everyone that ‘publishing’ needs people across the industry to roll up their sleeves and get involved, to talk to one another, help one another, support one another, travel and build book-shaped bridges.”

Tom Kraushaar

Tom Kraushaar
Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart

“Why is publishing so great?

“Why do we face the challenges better than other industries?

“We think it’s because of the wonderful people in publishing. The Aficionado Award is one way to create and celebrate the community of book people. A community which is built on a common enthusiasm for publishing and the willingness to inspire and get inspired.”

Aleksi Siltala

Aleksi Siltala
Siltala Publishing, Helsinki

“I think the award is an opportunity to create and strengthen the sense of community in international publishing.

“We’re here to learn from each other, to get support from each other. To have fun together. This is not a club, but an organic community.

“With the award, I’m hoping we‘ll discover and share the amazing creativity we have in publishing.”

The Aficionado Award’s Shortlistees

At the 2019 Aké Arts and Book Festival in Lagos. In this session called ‘Themes Built on Racial and Feminist Discussion, are, from left, Amal Hassan, CEO of Outsource Global; the festival’s Lola Shoneyin, and Mo Abudu, founder of Ebony Life TV and Ebony Life Films. Image: AABF

Aké Arts and Book Festival

Familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers, Aké Arts and Book Festival was founded in 2013 by Lola Shoneyin—who led a popular workshop last week at the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference in the United Arab Emirates. The goal of the program in Lagos is to promote, develop, and celebrate creativity in many parts of the African continent through public events.

In choosing the program for the Aficionado Award’s first shortlist, the program says, “Over the last decade, Aké has excelled at establishing a sense of community between participating authors while creating important connections with the local audience in Abeokuta, Lagos State. (One of the festival’s explicit aims is to promote literacy, especially among a younger audience.)

Curatorially, Aké does essential work by highlighting Nigerian and other writers particularly relevant for African readers. This prioritization of what is locally resonant over commercial European or American expectations of what African writing ‘should’ resemble is refreshing, enriching and vital. To date, Aké has brought together writers, artists, poets and filmmakers from 29 African countries. The festival has also produced a print review, published in English, Yoruba, and French, featuring many authors who have in the meantime reached a larger audience, in and beyond Nigeria—Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nurradin Farah, Ama Ata Aidoo among them.

‘The Passenger’

The Passenger is a book-magazine, the Aficionado Award’s preliminary jury writes, “collecting the best new writing, photography, and reportage from around the world. The aim of the series is to break down barriers and introduce readers to the essence of a given place. With essays, investigative journalism, original photography and illustrations, charts, and unusual facts and observations, each title in the series offers unique insights into the contemporary life of a place and its inhabitants.

“The Passenger is not a travel guide as such,” we read in the jury’s assessment. “Instead, it’s the essential literary companion for the thoughtful reader, intended equally for those who are en route to a country and for curious readers who wish to learn from afar. Its focus on the contemporary world, its original layout, the quality of the writing collected in each title, and the timeliness and relevance of the themes covered, make The Passenger a unique publication in the international publishing landscape.

“It’s an international co-publishing project between the Italian independent publisher Iperborea and Europa Editions—in the United States and United Kingdom. The idea was conceived by Iperborea’s Pietro and Tomaso Biancardi and Cristina Gerosa, who put together and published the first six volumes in Italy.  While the content is commissioned and edited by Iperborea, with Europa responsible for translation as well as publicity and global distribution, the collaboration has gradually expanded to include editorial planning.”

Meridian Czernowitz

The “international literature cooperation” called Meridian Czernowitz has been engaged in various cultural projects with a focus on European-Ukrainian relations for 13 years. Meridian Czernowitz comprises the International Poetry Festival Meridian Czernowitz (founded in 2010); the Paul Celan Literary Center in Chernivtsi (founded in 2013); the Meridian Czernowitz Publishing House (founded in 2010); a series of international projects in Europe; and the project called “Network,” a cultural network of 34 Ukrainian cities forming a platform for cultural life in Ukraine. (Currently only 14 Ukrainian cities are involved because of the Russian assault on Ukraine.)

“The International Poetry Festival Meridian Czernowitz,” writes the Aficionado jury, “is a means of developing the Ukrainian cultural ecosystem, its integration into European culture, attracting a wide audience and encouraging further partnerships and outreach. The Meridian Czernowitz publishing house is one of the leading Ukrainian publishers. Project ‘Network’ is evolving in real time. Up until 2022 it was focused on establishing an internal public dialogue in Ukraine on the backdrop of an armed conflict in the east. Since February 2022, and because the Russian incursion, many cities have been forced to pause their cultural work. Consequently the network project is now concentrated on saving Ukraine’s cultural institutions.

Between September and December 2022, Meridian Czernowitz organized more than 50 literary events in 14 Ukrainian cities, often in bomb shelters or in event halls without light or heating. With the authors of its publishing house, Meridian Czernowitz regularly participates in major European cultural events worldwide such as the Frankfurter Buchmesse, the Leipzig Book Fair, the Vienna Book Fair and others. Creators of the organization are writers Yuri Andrukhovych, Serhiy Zhadan, Ihor Pomerantsev and cultural managers Sviatoslav Pomerantsev and Evgenia Lopata.

More from us on the Torino International Book Fair is here, more on international book fairs and trade shows overall is here, more on international publishing and book related awards programs is here, and more on Frankfurter Buchmesse 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 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.