‘Are you from Vigata?’ a lovely Scottish lady asked me the moment she heard about my Sicilian origins. Edinburgh was bathed in sunlight, and I had just received two special gifts: a wonderful sunny day and one of the most delightful questions I have been asked since I moved here. I was more than 2,100 miles away from the Leopardian hedge I had planted to enclose my plot of land (and as Quasimodo puts it, ‘My hedge is Sicily’) but nevertheless I did feel at home.
Indeed, I felt happy to be in Edinburgh and was increasingly enjoying my job here. What can be more inspiring than promoting Italian literature (and culture) in the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature? I may have an answer: finding Italy in the pages of this city. For Edinburgh is to be read, like a book, page by page, and to wander through its streets is to discover its story.
Just a few steps from the Italian Institute of Culture, you can hear the voices of students discussing Italian literary texts as they come out of the lecture rooms of the University of Edinburgh. Or, if you are nearby during the summer, you might have the chance to meet contemporary Italian authors who appear every year at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
As you ‘leaf through’ the city, you may find yourself in a library holding Italian manuscripts or in a bookshop displaying recent and classic Italian books on its shelves … To pick up a book from these shelves is to cross a border. These shelves are like bridges that rivet the UK audience to the Italian cultural scene. They are like doors left ajar by translators. For it is they who do the important job of saying (‘almost’, Umberto Eco would add) the same thing in two different languages and cultures, allowing us to fling these doors open wide.
So let me suggest some good resolutions for the rest of the year: reserve a place on your bookshelves for The Italian Riveter and become a regular visitor to the Italian Institute of Culture in Edinburgh (find out more at iicedimburgo.esteri.it). It is my hope that you will stick to these resolutions this year and for many years to come!
My warmest thanks to all those who are part of The Italian Riveter project.
By Chiara Avanzato
Director, Italian Cultural Institute Edinburgh
Buy books from The Italian Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Italian Riveter.