Chile and Italy. Two countries apparently so far but in reality, like every corner of the world, so close. Edicola is an editorial reality that has been able to explore and enhance the literary peculiarities of these two wonderful traditions, giving ample scope to cultural outlets of great innovation and creativity. With the capacity also to recognize the talent of authors and authors of exceptional narrative strength. Among these we can found the book “South of the Alameda. Diary of an Occupation “by Lola Larra and Vincente Reinamontes, new winner of this year’s Andersen Prize in the best book category over 15 years. Alice tells me how all this has managed to become a constantly evolving reality.
How and when was Edicola born?
The core of the publishing house was born in 2013 from an idea of my husband Paolo, who lived in Chile for some time. In 2015 the Italian headquarters was born, in Ortona, in the magazine and newspaper kiosk that his family has managed for a hundred years. I arrived just that year. For some time I had begun to collaborate on the project, to think of it together with Paolo to combine life and work.
To date you could be called a literary bridge between these two countries. You distribut nationally in both and you have about thirty titles in the catalog, divided between Italian and Spanish texts. You are a unique reality in this. How is your work done?
It is a work made up of a spirit of adaptation, openness and flexibility, of vigilant antennas to understand how to relate to and deal with a dimension that travels continuously on two tracks. It is above all a job that has made me grow a lot in the face of opportunities for discussion, exchange and diversity.
What common points do you think Chile and Italy have?
It is always the people who create the contexts in which we live and the extraordinary people with whom we have the opportunity to collaborate and confront each other in both countries every day, are the red thread of our life in constant motion. During the early days I perceived instead as difference, the freedom to experiment and risk, which in Chile I felt stronger than in Italy. Then I realized that this freedom has more to do with the relationship we have with ourselves than with the geography we inhabit.
How do you choose the authors?
In the Edicola catalog, we have constructed reading paths and series, within which it seems to us that certain authors and certain titles can find an ideal “home”. In Italy, the Al Tiro series hosts, for example, the most representative authors of contemporary Chilean literature, including Nona Fernández, María José Ferrada and Alejandra Costamagna. In Chile, the Canción Callejera series brings together all-female poetry of young contemporary authors. We choose based on our tastes, the emotion that a certain type of writing generates for us, the conversation that can open a particular story.
Tell me about this series dedicated to contemporary Chilean female poetry. Why did you choose young women?
Together with Raul Hernández, the editorial director of the series, we do not want to build a “ghetto”, but a space of expression and comparison. Each new title strengthens the presence and visibility of others and every time we organize a reading it is really very interesting to hear how the voices of these poetesses intertwine and complement each other.
Also organized projects aimed at schools, such as the “Refugee in the world” workshops led by the Chilean illustrator Francisca Yañez, thanks to which the young students are accompanied on a temporal journey that, through Anna Frank, the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and the most recent conflicts, puts them in front of a very delicate reflection: if you had to leave your home in a hurry, what would you put in your suitcase?
They were the first workshops we brought to schools and I remember them with great emotion. That of Francisca is a story of exile. She had to leave Chile after the ’73 coup and lived in Germany and Costa Rica before he could return to his country. Her work as an artist is extremely influenced by this idea of travel and the union of cultures. During the workshops we asked the children to identify themselves with those who, at their same age, are forced to flee and leave their homes.
And to the question of what would they put in their suitcase what did they answer?
Very funny things. For example, a whole refrigerator or more classic ones like the sweatshirt of the heart, books, comics, toys, the pet. Many declared that they would take away the grandparents’ photographs. The technology has not been very present, or less than we would have expected. In the second part of the workshop, each child has filled out their “passport”, answering questions such as “what is your favorite word” or “what is your biggest fear”. The goal is to raise awareness of the idea that a document like a passport should not be able to remove or give rights depending on where it is printed. People have the rights, not the cards. Which is the same idea behind another book we have just published, “Paradiso Italia” by Mirko Orlando, a reportage on photography and comics in the world of illegal immigration in Italy.
“South of the Alameda. Diary of an Occupation “by Lola Larra and Vincente Reinamontes won the Andersen Prize 2019. What prompted you to choose it?
Surely the universality of the story it tells, the literary and graphic quality, and the ability of the authors to tell great ideals through an engaging and child-friendly story and language. Andersen’s recognition has emotionally overwhelmed us and we are certain that it will be an important step to make this wonderful book even more known.
What role do you think children’s literature has in this historical moment?
Statistics tell us that younger children read a lot and then, as they grow older, move away from books. It is our task, and also a great moral responsibility, to publish books that are capable of keeping them in the magical space of reading which, before being a pleasure, is also an effort. Publishers, authors and illustrators, together we must find the right ways not only to convey good content, but also to get kids used to the book object, to the kind of use that the written word requires, so that reading becomes a conscious choice and a healthy one habit.
How do you imagine the growth of Edicola?
In small steps, calibrated, consistent with each other. We commit ourselves every day to make books that can last over time.