Cards on the Table: Three Contemporary Italian Women Writers Open the Doors of Their Workshops

February 8, 2022
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Handwritten notes over typeset text that reads Economica Laterza

The creative writing of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having sanctioned the passage of text from paper to digital support. But is it really true that the author’s cards have disappeared? And how do contemporary authors write today?

To answer these questions, together with the students of the Master’s Program in Publishing at the University of Bologna, directed by Anna Maria Lorusso, we have produced A carte scoperte (Cards on the table), a collection of interviews with twenty-two Italian writers who have opened the doors of their workshops and revealed the secrets of their writing, accompanying their answers with images of “scrapbooks” coming directly from their desks: an inspiring overview on the methods and time frame of their work, the spaces in which they write, the tools and objects on their desks, their relationship with the books in their libraries, but also the intense work of revising and editing their texts. A surprising panorama has emerged as a result: curious and unexpected facts, working methods and models, a small vade mecum of contemporary writing that represents a gift to scholars, readers, and all those who are fascinated by writing workshops. This wide-ranging investigation into contemporary writing in Italy is presented here through the answers of three of Italy’s best-loved and most successful writers: Helena Janeczek, Dacia Maraini, and Valeria Parrella.

In this adventurous journey, the Cards on the Table project had a companion in absence: Patrick Zaki, the University of Bologna student and human rights activist arrested on February 7, 2020, in Cairo and released on December 8, 2021, still awaiting trial. Proceeds from the book—which can be purchased here in both its print and digital versions—go to Amnesty International’s campaign to support his cause. We would like to think that Patrick will soon be able to lay his own cards on our table: an open-air writing workshop, providing readers with a look, without secrets, at creative thinking, in a collective project that bears witness to our passion for the truth.

Paola Italia, Editor
Cards on the Table

Interview with Helena Janeczek

Q: Your methods: How do you usually approach writing?

A: My approach is simple. Once I have found the nucleus of a story that I want to work on—regardless of whether it is a true story or an invention—I begin by doing research. I may end up doing extensive research, as was the case with my historical novels. Or if I am writing a short story, my research could be limited to consulting a few “lighter” sources (such as articles).

More important to me, however, is to envision the world of the story so that I can immerse myself in it and decide how exactly to narrate it: its narrator, point of view, structure, and so forth. Once I have clarity on this, I begin the first draft, and I continue my research until the last round of revisions.

Q: Your timeline: How long do you take to write a book?

A: Very long. A book takes several years.

Q: Your space: Where do you typically write? Do you think that the places where you work influence your writing?

A: I have a room of my own, as Virginia Woolf suggested, but it’s in the middle of my apartment. I would prefer to write in complete silence, but I live with my son and two cats. If I try to close myself in my room, the cats scratch furiously at the door, which doesn’t shut out sound well anyway. Since my internal clock is more like that of an early-rising peasant than of a night-loving writer, during the final stages of writing I get up very early to take advantage of the morning calm. Earplugs are a must too.

Q: Your writing desk: what do you have on it at the moment?

A: My computer, printer, cell phone, books, stacks of papers, holders for pencils and USB drives, an ashtray, Kleenex, ear plugs . . . I could go on. I am messy.

Q: Your tools: For how long did you use pen and paper, and what changed when you switched to writing on the computer?

A: The last pages that I wrote by hand that became part of a novel were the opening pages of Lezioni di Tenebra (Lessons in darkness), which was published in 1996. I had scribbled them in one of the notebooks where I wrote my poems. The computer, which allows me to correct with ease and to have a uniform-looking text in front of me (my handwriting is illegible), was a huge improvement.


Helena Janeczek’s research notes on The Girl with the Leica (as originally featured in the book A carte scoperte)

Q: Revisions: How many times and how do you rewrite a text before you consider it finished?

A: If I recall correctly, I did three complete drafts of The Girl with the Leica (translated into English by Ann Goldstein). Plus, all the revisions of individual sections and the fact that, as I am writing, I always review what I have written the day before. I have never written a complete draft from beginning to end. The text is finished when I have the second round of proofs and I’ve done my very best to get there.

Q: Your books: What is the relationship between your writing and the books on your shelves? How do you annotate the books you own?

A: For the kind of writing I do, my essential sources include many books. They are on my desk or at least within easy reach. I don’t like annotating my books, not even with a pencil. I prefer Post-it notes to mark the pages or paragraphs I want to revisit.

Q: Your role models: Who are the writers who have inspired your writing?

A: I have a strong affinity with certain modernist writers (Proust, Woolf, Conrad, Henry James), and I also look up to the superb genre of literature as testimony and specifically to Primo Levi. I don’t think of role models in a literal sense but rather of profound, established presences that exercise a karstic influence. Sometimes they help me measure the space that my own book could occupy. For Lessons in Darkness, it was fundamental to ask myself whether it made sense to write about Auschwitz after Primo Levi’s masterworks.

I don’t think of role models in a literal sense but rather of profound, established presences that exercise a karstic influence. – Helena Janeczek

Q: Your publishers: To what extent has your relationship with your publishers and editors affected your writing?

A: It has always been serene. I have had great trust in the publishers and editors who have worked with me. I realize that I have been especially lucky.

Q: Your archive: Have you thought about leaving your archive to an institution? If so, which one and why?

A: I find it difficult to think that I have an archive that could be left to an institution. And if one of these institutions were to approach me about it, I would be in a tough spot—I would be convinced that I had lost much archival material. But I would be honored, of course.

 

Interview with Dacia Maraini

Q: Your methods: How do you usually approach writing?

A: In a literal sense: I use a computer—a Mac because it has fewer problems with viruses. In terms of daily habits: I get up at 6:30am and begin work as soon as I finish washing up, getting dressed, and eating breakfast, and I write until 11:30. Then I go for a walk and, if needed, do some grocery shopping. At 12:30 I have lunch, and from 2 to 3pm I rest and read the papers. At 3:30 I begin writing again and keep going until 8pm unless I have to attend an event online. I always try to keep the morning free, although when I have school visits, sometimes I have to give up one or two hours in the morning.

Q: Your space: Where do you typically write? Do you think that the places where you work influence your writing?

A: In some ways, yes. In order to write, I need solitude and silence—something that’s easier to have in the mountains than in the city. As soon as I can, I retire to my house in Pescasseroli, at an altitude of 1,200 meters, where the air I breathe is better and where I am surrounded by forests for my daily walks. I must say, though, that I can write in almost any conditions: on the train, on the airplane, or in hotel rooms if it’s necessary. When I travel I usually write on my iPad.

In order to write, I need solitude and silence—something that’s easier to have in the mountains than in the city. – Dacia Maraini

Q: Your writing desk: what do you have on it at the moment?

A: My writing table is big, but it’s laden with many things: computer, printer, a basket full of papers, a notebook where I keep track of my appointments, a desk lamp with an adjustable neck, a cup chock-full of pens, and often a cup of tea as well.

Q: Your tools: For how long did you use pen and paper, and what changed when you switched to writing on the computer?

A: I don’t remember exactly the date, but it happened about ten years ago. I was in the United States, giving lectures at Yale, and I remember asking for a typewriter so I could write an article to send to Italy. They said that they couldn’t find a single typewriter in the entire university. What to do? They offered to give me a computer and a student to teach me how to use it. So I learned. And since then I have continued using it. Besides, in Italy it was difficult to find typewriter ribbon too, and the publishers were asking for electronic copies of manuscripts.

Q: Revisions: How many times and how do you rewrite a text before you consider it finished?

A: So many times. I keep numbered versions on my computer—from one to twenty, thirty. I do it mostly when writing novels, but I write and rewrite my articles as well. I don’t trust the semblance of perfection that computers offer.

Q: Your books: What is the relationship between your writing and the books on your shelves? How do you annotate the books you own?

A: I usually annotate books with a pencil. When I have to present a book, as I often do, on the last pages I write the thoughts that the book provoked.

Q: Your role models: Who are the writers who have inspired your writing?

A: What kind of models? For me, my model is immersing myself into the sea of literature. Since the age of six, I have learned by osmosis, by reading a lot, and passionately. My house lacked everything because we were poor, but never books—books had accumulated generation after generation.

Q: Your publishers: To what extent has your relationship with your publishers and editors affected your writing?

A: At first a lot. Now much less. But beginners, who are always in a weak position because they are just getting started, are always terrified of a publisher who could kick them around, pressure them, or force them into a corner. Once the writer has won both readers and the market, he or she can negotiate better. For me, it’s never a matter of money, I am hopeless in that respect. I negotiate instead the number of drafts, which I never stop revising, the book cover, and the title.

Q: Your archive: Have you thought about leaving your archive to an institution? If so, which one and why?

A: I have thought about it, but I haven’t decided yet. Stanford University created a collection of my writing, but now that the collection curator has retired, I haven’t heard from them in a while.

And here’s something interesting: in Vienna there is a Dacia Maraini Fan Club, founded by a man who is now deceased, unfortunately, but the women who are members of the club continue to write to me and to invite me. It’s the strangest and most original thing that has happened to me.

 

Interview with Valeria Parrella

Q: Your methods. How do you usually approach writing?

A: I first write the beginning and then the end. Or I start at the end, and then do the beginning, before finally connecting both by writing the middle. I end up doing this because I don’t outline, and I barely make any notes. Sometimes, in order to avoid any errors, I will jot down a few dates related to the characters at the various stages of their lives, especially if I include more than one character, but nothing else.

These two factors—the reason why I keep very few notes and why I write first the beginning and then the ending—are connected, I think. First of all, because I love using a first-person narrator, and second, because I write short novels. It’s important for me that they be defined as such because I draw inspiration from the short-fiction tradition of South America. Initially, I was inspired by the big and idiosyncratic novels of the magical-realist tradition, like Allende and García Márquez, who are fantastic. But it’s enough to read Onetti’s Il pozzo (The well) to see what I mean. Writing short passages helps a lot when you’re writing without notes. You can’t write Melania Mazzucco’s L’architettrice (The architect) without keeping notes: I can envision the map that Melania created; what an awe-inspiring tree must stand behind a novel like that one. I don’t need a map because I have the entire book in my head. Obviously, some passages escape me, because they are constructed along the way, but when I embark on this journey, I know where the beginning is and I know my destination.

Q: Your timeline: How long do you take to write a book?

A: I write every day, because in addition to writing novels, short stories, and screenplays, I also write for the cultural pages of La Repubblica and for Grazia, where I have my own column. I collaborate with the Turin Book Fair (Salone del Libro di Torino), drafting projects for them and sometimes organizing conferences. When I’m writing a novel or a short story, however, everything else becomes an annoyance, even these activities that I enjoy a lot, because I sense there’s something more pressing that wants to claim all my time: it’s the book, the short story, the screenplay. At a certain point, the story becomes more demanding, and I enter inside the characters and feel part of them, and I want to let them breathe, I want them to speak. If I get involved in something else, I feel like I’m cheating, because I have to pursue the story, which requires its own time that dictates everything.

My next protagonist is called Lucio, and here I am, thinking of little Lucio, or young Lucio, depending on what point in the novel I am at, and I can’t wait to go back to him. This sense of pressure and this annoyance with everything else are unleashed by this incredible need to write about him and nothing else. Obviously, it’s not like I sit down and the new chapter about young Lucio is ready; perhaps I only feel the need to write about him, but it’s not a given that I have the right image to get me started.

Over the past twenty years, I don’t think I have spent a single day without writing, even on Sundays, at night, although I’m pretty meticulous with my schedule. In general, I write in the morning, after having a coffee; I write with calm between 11am and 5pm. Sometimes I write in the evening: I find a relaxing moment at 7pm, after the day has run its course, I drink a glass of wine, and I sit down for another couple of hours.

When it so happens that you write three beautiful lines, you are aware of it, you’re satisfied, and know you won’t touch them again; but those three lines have wiped you out, they deserve some time off. At that point I get up and that’s when I feel that I have to pull myself away. In fifteen minutes, you can write three lines like this, then, for two hours you write things that you will need to edit. So, I prefer to use that time to do something else. In the rebound between one good thing and another good thing, I do all the other normal stuff that needs to get done. Even these answers belong to that scrap of time that would otherwise be concentrated on Lucio: this answer is nothing but an interval between my moments with Lucio.

Q: Your space: Where do you typically write? Do you think that the places where you work influence your writing?

A: I have a studio in the historical center of Naples, a small studio flat with a mezzanine. It’s dark, the phone doesn’t get any signal because the walls are too thick, and it has no windows: it’s a uterus or a bunker, depending on the case. It’s a comfortable place, where there’s also a sofa-bed. For me, it’s important to have a place like this, where if you leave a pen in a particular position, the next day you will find it in that same place; however, this is not necessary. In truth, I can write everywhere; I boast about the fact that I have written everywhere, because sometimes the fact that I have written everywhere means being stronger than life, it means that writing must win.

Life is made of traps, and I have always realized that writing saves me from these traps; regaining my concentration in order to write even in the most complicated of moments makes me feel better. And where do we find ourselves in moments of mourning, of illness, of difficulty? We find ourselves outside, in hospitals, in line at government offices, in other people’s homes, because life is outside, compared to where we choose to be, and it is in this sense that we must find the opportunity to write everywhere. If I have to write, I write, I rarely experience writer’s block. I believe that if one must write, one will write: the time doesn’t matter, or the day, or the place, it’s important to know what one wants to write.

Life is made of traps, and I have always realized that writing saves me from these traps. – Valeria Parrella

Q: Your writing desk: What do you have on it at the moment?

A: A glass, a bottle of water, a pen, a pencil, a red book by Mao Zedong, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and two books on the Boboli Gardens, a cup, a remote control, my planner, two splashes of scotch, an antibug spray, two cups with staples and scissors, two paperweights, a small box for music, a kaleidoscope, a computer attached to a monitor, a modem, a reading lamp, the remote control for the AC, and three essays that I need for the book that I’m working on. Then there are some books that arrived for the column that I’ve been writing for fifteen years for Grazia.


Valeria Parrella’s notes for a new project

Q: Your tools: For how long did you use pen and paper, and what changed when you switched to writing on the computer?

A: The last time I wrote a short story by hand was at university, toward the end of my studies. I signed up in 1992 to study classics at the University of Naples Federico II. When I took a course in literature, there was an optional creative writing class organized by Prof. Mazzacurati’s graduate students. At that time I wrote a short story, and I asked one of the graduate students, with whom I was close, if he would let me type it up on his computer, because I still didn’t have one. So, I went to his home, and I remember that he read it and said: “Did you really write this?” I realized there was something good in it, since even he thought someone else had written it. Those were the last stories I wrote by hand. Since then, I have always written everything on the computer, even my first collection of stories, Mosca più balena (Fly and whale).

Q: Revisions: How many times and how do you rewrite a text before you consider it finished?

A: I believe that I write pretty cleanly given that my first draft is in my head. Which is why I don’t write immediately. When a story or a character springs to mind, I try not to write, I almost force myself not to, because I want to see if that idea that seems so beautiful, so appealing, will be the same after three weeks. I want to see if it works. Therefore, when I end up writing a book, I may have thought about it for six months. Six months during which I work very hard on that thought: when I finally sit down to write, I already know how the story begins, how it ends, who the characters are more or less, but I have written nothing about it yet—I do so only many months after first being fascinated by that idea.

I begin to write what for me is the second draft—or the first written draft—in this order: beginning, ending, and then the middle; or, ending, beginning, and then the middle, because sometimes I know where I want to go and thus everything must lead there. The title, too, is part of the compositional project, although it will change many times. However, during the first draft, having a title helps you understand why you are writing precisely that story and not others. So, you always come back to the title, to that image that is more powerful than the rest. This first written draft—what counts as a second draft for me—is linear: I go straight, I follow the story.

I write in small doses; in general, I write short chapters of four pages, which is my goal: I manage to maintain a rhythm that sustains me for four pages—precisely because I write nothing else before; afterward, I stop, and when I return to the text, I proceed like that. To the reader, I don’t reveal these short chapters because I remove the chapter divisions and numbers, and the reader finds the blank spaces in between and that’s it. This technique results in two consequences that are diametrically opposed: on one hand, the narrative blocks of four pages are very clean, some phrases are already how they should be, I will never touch them again; some images convince me, they remain firm on the page, they will arrive like that to the end. On the other hand, it so happens that later, when I read the whole thing together, I find moments of dissonance, because if I wrote the ending eight months before chapter 3, it’s very probable in that chapter I have developed a better rhythm, and perhaps this rhythm is better than the rhythm of the ending. This happens because I have gone deeper into the story, I know the character better; it has more nuances precisely because it was written after.

So the majority of the work in the third draft—or the second written draft—entails substantially a lot of fine-tuning, and I’m the one who does this, no one else has read anything. When I think I have done enough, that I have resolved all doubts that I need to verify before I turn it in, I prepare the last draft with the editor’s notes, and, finally, there is the correction of the galleys, which I think is the same for everyone.

Q: Your books: What is the relationship between your writing and the books on your shelves? How do you annotate the books you own?

A: A funny example of how I annotate my books can be found in my copy of The Abyss, by Marguerite Yourcenar (translated by Grace Frick), where I noted all the words that I didn’t know, or which I expected to have one meaning and instead they had another. When I find a lot of words that I don’t know, I find it beautiful, because it makes me think not only of the author’s skill but also of the translator’s accomplishment.

I like to annotate books with a pen. I don’t underline, but I insert vertical marks on the margins, one, two, or three depending on how much I like that phrase, sometimes I even put a double arrow.

Instead, the relationship I have with the books that I need for my writing is more fraught; these books become workbooks. When you invent a story, you feel like you must insert an element whose truth you want to investigate. When you find this truth in another book, you must be faithful to what you found. You underline it, then perhaps that book includes a footnote that takes you to a bibliography, and so you have to go look at another book. The beauty of a writer’s work is also this: once you’ve jotted down a story, you add those elements from the real world that you have conjured, but whose names perhaps you don’t know.

I once wrote a story that took place in Liverpool, and the first-person narrator was an old sailor. I, on the other hand, knew nothing about seamanship. So, I went aboard a ship to interview the captain of the crew of a tuna fishing boat at Cetara. You see, the library of a writer is made up also of many oral experiences that one discovers or searches for. What is important is to understand at what point another person’s knowledge is useful to you.

Q: Your role models: Who are the writers who have inspired your writing?

A: Our entire experience as readers merges into our practice as writers. Often, we read without relating what we read to what we will write; in truth, this connection exists, but I wouldn’t know what more to say about it. I read five books a week of both Italian fiction and fiction in translation, not all from beginning to end, but given that I read a lot for work, it’s clear that at some point this reading will end up in something that I write.

Our entire experience as readers merges into our practice as writers. – Valeria Parrella

Then, there are moments when you need the right words, you need a song, a rhythm, some additional information, you need someone who will give you courage: Anna Maria Ortese is that person for me, she is my guiding light. I go back to the Neapolitan Chronicles (translated by Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee), The Lament of the Linnet (translated by Patrick Creagh), in short, something that I have read and reread a thousand times and that will give me a moment of rest. But not even in this case does what we read influence directly what we write; however, if I read Ortese, I read her precisely because I am looking for that momentum that I’m missing, because on that particular day I can’t write—even though that happens to me only rarely.

Finally, there are the books we read when we are writing our own books. For example, Tempo di imparare (Time to learn) is my favorite book of the ones I’ve written, and it had an evident precursor in Pontiggia’s Born Twice (translated by Oonagh Stransky). So, how could I not reread Born Twice when I had decided to write Tempo di imparare? It was impossible. So, if I’m writing something on Antigone, I have to reread all Antigones, of which there are a hundred, or at least the most famous works, of which there are about twenty. And so on.

Q: Your publishers: To what an extent has your relationship with your publishers and editors affected your writing?

A: The book never belongs exclusively to the author. During the first phase, yes, but after a certain point, it belongs to at least two people: to the author and to the publisher represented by the editor. Then, perhaps unfortunately, it comes to belong to even more people, when it so happens that the marketing team wants to give their opinion on the title or the cover. So, the book, in reality, when it arrives in the hands of the reader, has known many people. I write “unfortunately” because, at least for me, I am a bit protective of my work.

I collaborate a lot with the editor, but I demand that someone else reads what I have written only once I feel that it’s at a good point. I am not the type of writer who sends one chapter at a time, so my editors receive, in truth, drafts that are already good, that only have a few small things that need to be changed. In general, they ask me to expand, to inflate, whereas I tend to remove a lot when writing. A published book of 120 pages was probably only 90 pages in draft form. Those extra 30 pages are the result of two things: the suggestions of the editor and a decanting period during which I don’t look at the manuscript. For a month I do anything else, I feel awful about it, but at the end of this period during which I almost forget about the book, when I go back to work on it, it’s as if the editor’s advice has done its job on me and, at that point, I am ready to add the filler—this is what I call it—as if I had this very wrinkled manuscript, and at a certain point, I have to add some filler to smooth out its swollen face. In general, this is what happens to me, they pull the words out of me, because I wouldn’t do it on my own.

The relationship with the editor is important to the extent that the editor is able to say, “Vale, this part is not good, you’ve written something dumb.” I have never come across meek editors, but there are some that are braver and others that are a bit more considerate. I like the ones that are less considerate, because I prefer they put me in a tough spot; and then from that tough spot, I decide whether I will do something about it or not, but I prefer having this doubt, because otherwise we writers are too immersed in our manuscript, we think about it for years.

Q: Your archive: Have you thought about leaving your archive to an institution? If so, which one and why?

A: I don’t think I will leave behind any archives. Of course, I have all the first drafts of my books. I also have some short stories that I never published, books that I gave up on at page 90. . . . There’s a lot, all in digital format, I know where it is, but I hope it’s never found. This is always the vexata quaestio that all writers have. If I put myself in the reader’s shoes, as a former student of literature, I love peeking into other people’s papers. But first, it’s not certain that my work will survive me, and second, I wouldn’t want others to know what was never published. My archives will never exist because I think that all that deserves to survive is what is on the pages that we decide to publish.

Translation from the Italian


Students who took part in the project, all members of the Master's Program in Publishing at the University of Bologna.

 

Paola Italia was born in Milan and lives in Florence. She has taught at the Universities of Siena and Rome “La Sapienza” and given courses at the Universities of Lausanne, Sorbonne Nouvelle, and Wellesley. She has worked on various authors and issues of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a particular focus on philological and linguistic problems related to paper and digital text editions: Editing Novecento (2013); Editing Duemila (2020); and the study and editing of authors’ variants: Che cos’è la filologia d’autore, written with Giulia Raboni (2021), What Is Authorial Philology? (2021), available in OA), including Manzoni and Leopardi: Manzoni (2020) and Il metodo di Leopardi (2016).

Born in Munich to a Polish Jewish family, Helena Janeczek has been living in Italy for over thirty years. With The Girl with the Leica, she won the 2018 Strega Prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, and was a finalist for the Campiello Prize. She is the author of Lezioni di Tenebra (Lessons in darkness) and Le rondini di Montecassino (The Montecassino swallows) as well as of many other literary and nonfiction works. She is a co-founder of the Italian literary blog Nazione Indiana, and she organizes the literary festival SI Scrittrici Insieme. She lives in Milan.

 

Dacia Maraini is one of Italy’s most important contemporary writers, playwrights, feminist activists, and public intellectuals. She is the author of numerous novels, plays, investigative studies, and collections of poetry and essays. Her first novel, La vacanza (Eng. The Holiday, 1966), was published in 1962 and recently republished in a new edition (2021). Her second novel, L’età del malessere (The age of discontent), won the International Formentor Prize in 1963. In 1990 she won the prestigious Premio Campiello for La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa (The long life of Marianna Ucrìa) and the Premio Strega in 1999 for Buio (Eng. Darkness). She cofounded the Teatro del Porcospino in the 1960s and established the feminist experimental theater La Maddalena in Rome in 1973. She writes regularly for the Italian press.

Valeria Parrella was born in Torre del Greco in 1974 and lives in Naples. After a PhD in linguistics and a short stint as a sign-language interpreter, Parrella published her debut story collection, Mosca più balena (Fly and whale), in 2003, for which she was awarded the Premio Campiello for best debut. Her first novel, Lo spazio bianco (White space), was turned into a film by Francesca Comencini in 2009. She has published six novels and three short-story collections. Her latest novel, Almarina, was a finalist for the prestigious Premio Strega in 2019 and was translated into English by Alex Valente in 2021. In addition to her novels and short stories, Parrella is also a playwright and has been involved in artistic direction at the Teatro Mercadante in Naples.

Stiliana Milkova is a Bulgarian-born literary critic, translator, and professor of comparative literature at Oberlin College. She has translated from Italian works by Adriana Cavarero, Italo Calvino, Antonio Tabucchi, Alessandro Baricco, and others. She is the author of Elena Ferrante as World Literature (2021) and of many scholarly articles on Italian, Russian, and Bulgarian literatures. She edits the online journal Reading in Translation.

Barbara Halla is criticism editor at Asymptote and a contributor for Reading in Translation. She works as an editor and researcher, focusing in particular on the writings of contemporary and classic Albanian women authors. Halla has also written about the cultural roots of sexual violence in Albania, and her essay on Annie Ernaux and the politics of female desire is forthcoming in the anthology Le Désir au Féminin (2022).

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