Above all, I would like to thank the organisers of Book World Prague, the international book fair, for inviting Italy as this year’s guest of honour. It is a very welcome invitation that comes at a time when the publishing field – Italy’s foremost cultural industry – experiences increased sales of Italian titles abroad, despite the crisis caused by the pandemic. This trend is also reflected in the Czech Republic with a growing number of translations from Italian – mostly fiction and children’s literature but also essays and popular science books.
The wide variety of meetings with Italian authors, the enthusiastic participation of many small, middle-sized and large Italian publishing houses, and the rich programme designed for, among other audiences, professionals in the field, all represent an opportunity to show the vitality, originality and all-encompassing nature of contemporary Italian literature. At the same time, we would like to present our international focus and the wish of our publishers to expand beyond our geographical and linguistic borders.
In the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Italian Cultural Institute in Prague, the oldest such institution, and thereby also one hundred years of cultural relations between Italy and the Czech Republic, Book World Prague’s spotlight on Italy will emphasise this strong bond between our two cultures – a bond that reaches much further into the past than the last one hundred years of official cultural exchange.
This year’s international book fair has chosen for its motto a quotation from Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose: “We live for books. A sweet mission in this world dominated by disorder and decay.” These words fit well the times we live in, suggesting at the same time that books and literature can serve as places of refuge at a time of uncertainty.
I would like to invite everyone to visit Book World Prague, the international book fair and literary festival, and the Italian exposition, where you can choose from the books on display or presented by the authors themselves some of your summer reading. And let me conclude this invitation with yet another quotation from Eco: “Those who do not read will only have lived one life at 70: their own. Those who do read will have lived for 5000 years, during which Cain had killed Abel, Renzo married Lucia, Leopardi was awed by infinity… Reading is immortality backwards.“ Beautiful reading to you all!
J.E. Mauro Marsili, Italy’s ambassador to the Czech Republic
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