That Summer in Puglia had its debut at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival on 23 March. This was Italian Day, when the Festival – in co-operation with the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute – annually showcases Italian culture. My interviewer at St. Cross College was University of Oxford academic and Il Sole 24 Ore Arts & Culture contributor Teresa Franco – sensitive, knowledgeable and insightful. We were introduced by poet Todd Swift, Director of Eyewear Publishing. The audience was large, warm and engaging.
The day closed with a memorable Italian Gala Dinner at Lincoln College, hosted by the Director of the Festival, the College Rector and the Italian Embassy. The latter was represented by Minister Counselor Vincenzo Celeste and Head of Culture Federico Bianchi, both of whom had attended the launch of That Summer in Puglia, an honour for which I’m grateful. The Gala Dinner menu was devised by acclaimed chef and cookery writer Eleonora Galasso.
I wrote That Summer in Puglia in English, my literary mother tongue, but the story is set mostly in Puglia (southern Italy), where I was born and grew up. I was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and today live and work in London, but I’ve spent the holidays with family in my native region every year.
Puglia offered an ideal setting: its visible layers of history are integral to the story, a man’s excavation of his past. The region’s distinctive culture provided a framework for testing the characters and exploring the main themes: the role of all forms of love in human life; and the relationship between love and virtue.
I also hope the novel will help readers discover the cultural richness and variety within Southern Italy, by immersing them in an authentically Apulian atmosphere. In Puglia, traces of the past surface in unexpected ways: from the art of its early, Hellenised Illyrian settlers, to Byzantine paintings, Norman churches, and the palaces and fortifications built under the Anjou, the Aragonese, the Venetians and the Spanish. The region’s cuisine and inhabitants bear living testimony to the passage of all these cultures.
The moment of That Summer in Puglia’s debut is also one of gratitude for and to all those who have sustained me throughout the process of writing the novel: family, friends, colleagues, teachers… and the authors and publisher who have encouraged and championed my work. To you all, my deepest thanks. A book about the importance of all forms of love would not have been possible without you.
Foreign rights enquiries: please contact Eyewear Publishing.
Julia Warszewski, all rights reserved.