That Summer in Puglia in Ostuni

Francesco Dimitri and Valeria Vescina - LR 1
With fellow-writer Francesco Dimitri, my interviewer

Yesterday’s event in Ostuni was very special: after a journey begun in Oxford, my protagonist Tommaso “came home” to the beautiful city through which he and Anna “walk”.

I have lots of people to thank for the success of this bilingual presentation to an audience consisting, in fairly equal parts, of Italian and native-English speakers:

  • The authorities who took the initiative of offering a literary event for both an Italian public and the sizeable Anglophone community resident in and around Ostuni. My thanks to Mayor Gianfranco Coppola, City Councillor Antonella Palmisano and Director of Museums Michele Conte, who gave the welcome addresses, and to their wonderful team, especially City Library Director Francesca Garziano and Press Officer Paola Loparco
  • Francesco, Paola and Ilaria Casanova of the Bottega del Libro bookshop, whose support at the event and in the weeks leading up to it was precious
  • Last but certainly not least, my wonderful interviewer Francesco Dimitri, another Apulian author living and working in London. Francesco writes in both Italian and English. His most recent titles include To Read Aloud and The Book of Hidden Things (which is set in Puglia) and he collaborates with The School of Life. I can’t wait for his That Sense of Wonder, which is due out in November 2018.

Francesco and I translated – from English into Italian and vice versa – everything we discussed. We had wondered how well this would work and were delighted to hear that people loved it and that many of them actively enjoyed the challenge of trying to understand what was being said in the other language before hearing the translation into their own tongue.

Bookshop window

Francesco’s questions were insightful and stimulating, and those from the audience showed warm engagement with the novel. As always, it was so lovely, afterwards, to meet those present, to hear their thoughts on the book and to learn of their backgrounds.

Image credits:

Photos © author.

Images of City of Ostuni’s poster and of Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno by the respective sources.

 

 

Italian, English, or both?

Publicity material for the talk - from the City of Ostuni

The City of Ostuni, where That Summer in Puglia is set, will host a presentation of the novel on the 31st of August in the magical surroundings of The Bishops’ Garden (Il Giardino dei Vescovi) of the Diocese’s Museum (Museo Diocesano).

Several things make this talk special for me: it feels as if my fictional protagonist, Tommaso, has ‘come home’; the venue opens onto the square through which he and his great love, Anna, ‘walk’ and where they ‘sit’ on the steps of the historic Cathedral; I’ve known and loved Ostuni all my life; and… the talk will be in English and Italian, something made possible by my wonderful interviewer, fellow-author Francesco Dimitri (To Read Aloud and The Book of Hidden Things, which is also set in Puglia), another Apulian living in the UK.

What could be more appropriate for this book than a bilingual presentation in Ostuni? A work of fiction written in English (my literary mother-tongue) and set in London and Puglia by a dual-nationality author will be discussed with an Italian- and an English-speaking public. I was so pleased that the Mayor, his team and the President of the Museo Diocesano were keen to organise an event of potential interest to the sizeable Anglophone local community.

Past and future presentations of the book include some with a notably bicultural angle: That Summer in Puglia had its debut at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival on Italian Day, which showcases Italian literature and culture; the Italian Cultural Institute in London hosted a discussion focused on the cross-cultural aspects of the novel and of the writing process; and one of my upcoming talks – for the Book to the Future Festival at the University of Birmingham – will be specifically on multilingualism and multiculturalism with reference to That Summer in Puglia.

During the Q&A at the talks, I’m often asked whether I feel Italian or British. The question is valid and the answer is that for me it’s not an “either/or” but an “and”: I am both Italian and British, and more broadly European.

Acknowledgments:

Image of publicity material: courtesy of the Comune di Ostuni.

Special thanks to the Comune di Ostuni’s Press Officer, Paola Loparco, and to the Director of the Library, Francesca Garziano.