Italy’s Mauro Mazza on Frankfurt’s 2024 Guest of Honor ‘Enrichments’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2024 Guest of Honor Italy special commissioner Mauro Mazza talks about the goals and plans for next year at the ‘Italian’ Frankfurt.

Mauro Mazza, Rome’s special commissioner for Frankfurt’s 2024 Guest of Honor Italy program

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

See also: 2024 Guest of Honor Italy Presents Its Plans

Mauro Mazza: ‘An Embrace and a Journey Together’
Frankfurter Buchmesse has an impressive lineup of guest of honor markets coming into view, starting, of course, with this year’s Guest of Honor Slovenia.

The upcoming sequence announced by president and CEO Juergen Boos is:

Among the latest developments in terms of these programs is the announcement of a press conference at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 19, in the Frankfurt Pavilion, given by organizers of the 2024 Guest of Honor Italy program and featuring Rome’s special commissioner Mauro Mazza.

In our Publishing Perspectives interview with Mazza, it becomes quickly clear that the Italian guest of honor presence next year is going to reach for both the significant changes and promise the book industry is witnessing. And we’re pleased to provide the commissioner’s commentary in both English and Italian.

We start our exchange by asking the special commissioner about the timing of this once-and-future guest of honor.

Publishing Perspectives: Can you describe for our readers the importance of this recognition for the Italian culture and book market?

Mauro Mazza: After 36 years Italy returns as the protagonist of the most important book fair.

Back then, in 1988, it was our turn to play the role of guest of honor: an innovation at that time, that has been confirmed ever since, thanks to the great success of that edition. Precisely in the comparison with that edition–in a kind of ‘our past, 1988‘ context—one can measure the extraordinary change that we’ve experienced in recent decades, in Germany and worldwide, also in the field of culture.

I’d like the presence of Italy as guest of honor at the 2024 edition of the fair to leave a recognizable mark. I imagine dozens of debates and dialogues, and as many mutual enrichments. I’m convinced that ‘official approval’ and flattening to the canons of conformism are lethal for the creativity of literature and prevent free culture from offering valuable contributions to reading the present and building a better future.

Not only Italy, but also Europe—our Europe—needs nourishment, a supplement of ideas and soul.

Publishing Perspectives: Italian authors and publishers have been making good headway in gaining translation into other languages and recognition in international markets. And of course being a guest of honor at Frankfurt traditionally translates into new rights agreements for more such publication in many more territories and countries. Is it an important point of pride for Italians to know that their literature is finding new publishers and readers in the world at large?

Mauro Mazza: Occasions, like those of being guest of honor at the Buchmesse, are rare and precious opportunities to make our literary production known and to display Italy’s culture.

Italy enjoys great credit, we are viewed with benevolence and followed with attention and interest. Our task is not to disappoint expectations, but to persuade insiders, observers, and potential readers that our culture has much to say and give, and to contribute to such a complex and uncertain season.

Publishing Perspectives: Although it’s early in the planning process, can you offer any ideas that your team will want to highlight in the 2024 guest of honor program?

Mauro Mazza: We are finalizing the ‘palimpsest’ of the Italian presence in Frankfurt in 2024. I can already announce that the Italian Pavilion, that will be realized by the studio of architect Stefano Boeri, will be the beating heart of Italy’s presence.

It will be animated by encounters with nearly 100 Italian writers, musical moments, and prestigious art exhibitions presented in the more-than 2,000 square meters of the pavilion. But there will also be memorable evenings outside the Buchmesse—beautiful shows in Frankfurt’s most important theaters. For example, we’re planning to celebrate Giacomo Puccini’s centenary in the best possible way, knowing how much the German public appreciates Italian melodrama.

Publishing Perspectives: Is it possible to have from you a “sneak preview” of something specific we might anticipate in next year’s Guest of Honor Italy programming?

Mauro Mazza: To serve you a tasty aperitif of the 2024 edition of the fair, I can say that this year we plan to have a significant representation of Italian authors in Frankfurt. To name but a few, from Missiroli to Lagioia, from Veronica Alfieri to Teresa Ciabatti. The curation of the authors’ presence at Frankfurt 2023 is the result of the valuable work of the Italian Cultural Institutes in Germany. In 2024, I will have the pleasure to work with the Italian Publishers’ Association (AIE) to create a major, bespoke program for this unique rendez-vous that is the guest of honor presence.

Publishing Perspectives: And lastly, is it possible to highlight some of the moments expected to be part of the Guest of Honor Handover Ceremony—from Slovenia to Italy—on 22 October?

Mauro Mazza: “The closing ceremony of the Slovenian year will have great significance for all of us.

“The symbolic passing of the baton will actually resemble the path of the Olympic torch. In the months to come and at next year’s ‘Italian’ Buchmesse, special preparations will be made for the year 2025 when Gorizia and Nova Gorica will be European Capitals of Culture. There’s no need to explain the significance of such an accolade for a city that for years was divided, torn by its own ‘wall.’ It’s wonderful that it’s now culture that cements this encounter, an encounter that has the meaning of an embrace and a journey together.

On October 22, Italian literature will be present with the Friulian author Ilaria Tuti, while the violinist Francesca Dego will enchant those present with her Stradivarius. From that evening, the Frankfurt 2024 adventure will officially begin.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Italy and its book publishing industry is here, and more on the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) is here. More on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on its guest of honor program is here, and more on Guest of Honor Slovenia 2023 is here.

Now available here for your free download, our 2023 Publishing Perspectives Frankfurt Book Fair magazine

This is an article from our 75th Frankfurt Book Fair Magazine, which has been available throughout the trade show in print, and now is available for your free download.

The magazine has more interviews with fellows and grant-program recipients from international publishing markets, as well as previews of programming from our Publishing Perspectives Forum at Frankfurt including our Executive Talks with Penguin Random House worldwide CEO Nihar Malaviya and Nanmeebooks’ Kim Chongsatitwana; highlights of key events at the 75th Frankfurter Buchmesse; and coverage of Frankfurt’s upcoming guest of honor programs (Italy, the Philippines, the Czech Republic) and this year’s Guest of Honor Slovenia.

There’s also news of literary agents and agencies; award-winning books from guest of honor markets; focus articles on artificial intelligence, sustainability; and a forthcoming effort to get more Korean literature into world markets; as well as 75th-anniversary “Frankfurt Moments.”

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.