Last year I wrote a blog post about five of my favourite bookshops in Torino, which you can find here. But one of the great things about this city is that its beautiful bookshops are almost unlimited, and so this year I thought I should add a few updates. Featured this week, Libreria Il Banco, one of Turin's most particular and unusual bookshops:
Originally, Il Banco was set up just as a summer bookstall along one of the city's busiest shopping streets, Via Garibaldi. But apparently the other local shops noticed a drop in sales when the bookshop was taken down in the winter, and so they asked for it to be reinstated permanently. Thirty-seven years later, it's still here. It's Turin's (and probably Europe's) longest bookshop, with one single corridor of books stretching about sixty metres along the street. The bookseller, Lina, is very helpful and passionate about books, and it's even air-conditioned in summer! I'd definitely recommend it.
This week I thought I'd show you some of the international cover designs for The House at the Edge of Night. Here are the ones that have arrived with me so far!
Recently I've been sorting through them and marvelling at the many different and beautiful ways the cover designers have imagined the island of Castellamare. But there are a few to spare, and this got me thinking that I would like to share some of them with readers. As some of you already know, I'm currently on Day 332 of 365 in my 'Year in the Life of a Writer' project on Instagram. That project is all about sharing my daily view with readers, and recently its picked up quite an international community of followers. So I got thinking that since I'm going to be at my desk this month, working on my next book, I'd love to see pictures from wherever my readers are in the world.
To enter, follow me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/catherinebanner, and post a photo of your favourite view from where you live (it can be any view, no matter how 'picturesque' or untraditional, so long as it means something to you!). So I can see your entries, tag me or @ me in the Instagram comments, using the hashtag #thehouseattheedgeofnight. If you want to tell me a little bit about your view, in English or your own language, I would love that, but you don't have to. At the end of July, I'll pick a few of my favourites and mail the winners a book as a gift (you can pick the language!). I thought this would also be a nice way for me to get to meet some of the readers who are following my Instagram. I look forward to seeing your posts...
On the 20th of June, The House at the Edge of Night came out in the USA and Canada! And a few copies also reached me in Italy, thanks to my publishers Random House and Doubleday:
Here's the cover. I think the designer did a really beautiful job. At the moment it's available in most bookstores in the US, so if you've been waiting to get your hands on a paperback copy, now is your chance!
In other news, this Saturday was the patron saint's festival here in Turin, La Festa di San Giovanni. In The House at the Edge of Night I wrote about how small towns celebrate patron saints' festivals, and in a city of a million people like Turin it's no less of an important day. On Friday night, in the main square, there was a procession of actors in historic costumes followed by a bonfire. On the top of the bonfire there is always a bull, the symbol of Turin. When the bull catches fire it falls either to one side or the other: one way means good luck and the other bad luck for the rest of the year to come. Luckily, this year it fell in the right direction! Then on Saturday night we had the annual San Giovanni firework display. These fireworks are really spectacular, with music, fire and light displays, and this year's display was excellent. About 50,000 people were in Turin's biggest square to watch them, so it's a big event, but in the end it has the same significance as local saints' festivals in smaller places - a chance for the city to come together in the local square and celebrate. I post quite a bit about life in Italy and Turin in particular on my Instagram here, so take a look if you're interested!
This week I was in the Netherlands for the publication of The House at the Edge of Night, or De Lange Dagen van Castellamare! Here are just a few photos of what happened while I was there.
On the first day when I arrived, I did an interview with De Telegraaf, a Dutch national newspaper, and also with hebban.nl, which is similar to GoodReads. Here are Renate and Helma from Hebban, who were both lovely and very passionate about books and reading (they gave me some recommendations for Dutch books too):
That evening, I also met Constance, Anja and Meriam, three brilliant booksellers from around the Netherlands, and the Dutch translator, Lara. It was the first time I had ever met one of the translators who had worked on my book, and it was fascinating and a bit humbling to ask her about her work. Bookselling is different in every country, and compared to the UK there seems to be quite a happy mix of independent and chain shops, more like what we have here in Italy, which was interesting to hear.
On the second day my editor, Hedda, had the idea of taking me on a bike tour around the city. We stopped off at Scheltema, a beautiful bookshop in the centre of the city:
And then went on across the canal to the publishers' offices...
Where I found the Dutch book waiting for me, in its deckchair.
Here are my editor, Hedda, and Jill, the publicist, who were both fantastic people to spend time with and did so much to welcome me to the Netherlands. In fact, I would say that the feeling I left with was one of being warmly welcomed by everybody I met - the Netherlands, although small, has a great community of readers and writers.
Then as soon as I got home to Turin, the UK paperback book came out. To coincide with publication, I wrote an article for the online magazine Bookanista about the Ospedale degli Innocenti, one of Italy's hidden places and a foundling hospital with a noble history of six centuries of care for abandoned children. You can check it out here.
And on the 16th, I presented the Italian book, La Casa sull'Isola, at the first Wine & Reading event at Spazio 19 Coworking, my home from home in Turin and where I wrote most of Book Two. It was a really happy evening with friends and readers, and here are just a couple of photos of the night:
I hope I can find a few more Turinese writers and we can make it a regular event. If you want to check out a few more photos, you can find them here. For now, I hope you have a happy and peaceful week wherever in Europe or the world you are, and thanks to everyone who makes this worldwide community of readers such a good place to work. Until next week (when it will all be boring photos of my desk again, don't worry!).
I am spending the next couple of days with my Dutch publishers in Amsterdam (full report to follow next week!). But meanwhile, I am checking in here to invite you to a very special event which will be taking place on Friday, at my home from home in Turin, Spazio 19 Coworking. More details below...
Lettori e amici Torinesi, questo venerdi' il 16 presentiamo il libro La Casa sull'Isola a Spazio 19 Coworking, alle 18:30. Ci sara' un assaggio di vino da La Bottega Store, e poi qualche letture del libro da Stefano Visconti e discussione col giornalista Marco Panzarella. Gratis! Tutti i dettagli (e inscrizione per l'assaggio di vino e stuzzichini, da non mancare!) qua. Mi farebbe tanto piacere vedervi.
This week, I am very happy to present the paperback covers for the US/Canadian and UK editions of The House at the Edge of Night. Here they are...
The one on the left is the US/Canadian version, and the one on the right the UK. The UK edition will be out on the 15th of June, but is currently available exclusively at WHSmith travel shops if you want to get hold of it before the official publication date. And the US/Canadian editions arrive shortly after, both on the 20th of June. Two very different interpretations, but I think both the cover designers have done an excellent job of turning the story into an image that somehow captures the spirit of the book. Let me know what you think!
This week was a busy one for me and for the city of Turin. Here's a round-up of what's been happening, mostly in photos.
1. On Wednesday, I presented my book at the Circolo dei Lettori. The Readers' Circle, which I've mentioned before, is a place where you can listen to free talks by writers almost every night. I've been many times as a reader, but never yet as a writer. And it was also the first time I had presented the book in Italian to readers. Everything went well, thanks in large part to the Circolo, to the fantastic blogger Noemi Cuffia, who was co-presenting with me, and the friends and readers who showed up. One of the most amazing moments, incidentally, was when two readers arrived to speak to me afterwards who turned out to be fans of my first young adult book (published in Italy nearly ten years ago). Elisa and Gaia, if you ever come across this page, thanks so much for your enthusiasm for a book that I thought Italian readers had forgotten all about! Here are a few photos from the event...
2. The second (slightly bigger) happening this week was Turin's Salone del Libro, which I attended on Friday. It's held every year in the buildings which once housed the famous Fiat factory, and it's one of the city's most important yearly events. This year's festival, themed 'Oltre il Confine' ('Across the Border'), took place from Thursday 18th May until today, Monday 22nd. I attended the event purely as a reader (though I did get a chance to catch up with Raffaella, one of the brilliant agent team who helped sell my book in Italy, who was there from London). I started the day by attending a panel discussion on Elena Ferrante and feminism, chaired by the journalist Loredana Lipperini. Also speaking were the American writers Dayna Tortorici and Emily Witt, and the critic Tiziana de Rogatis from Siena, who spoke beautifully, I thought, about the meaning and significance of Elena Ferrante, both personally and in terms of her place as Italy's most successful writer who is currently living. I then tried and failed to attend a Daniel Pennac event with some friends (he is VERY popular in Italy, it turns out), before instead wandering into a talk by the two mathematicians Paolo Canova and Diego Rizzuto, whose book, Fate il Nostro Gioco (play our game) is about the mathematics of gambling and turned out to be fascinating. I also listened to a talk about how book-selling compares across Europe, in the professional area of the festival building, which was technical but fascinating for anyone who works in the book trade. The day ended with readings and discussion of the partisan movement, to mark seventy years since the publication of one of the most important texts of the Italian resistance, The Path to the Spiders' Nests (Il Sentiero dei Nidi di Ragno) by Italo Calvino. The discussion was accompanied by music by Cisco, a folk musician, and it was very moving to be here in the city which was at the centre of the resistance (and has been at the centre of my research over the last two years), hearing the songs of those resistance fighters come alive again.
So that was my round-up of the day. I also feel this photo is a pretty accurate representation of what it was like to walk around the conference centre, but that's all to the good. They were worried about reduced numbers this year... Probably not any more.
3. And finally, in unrelated news, Juventus won the Italian league yesterday and turned the rest of the weekend into a festa. I took a few photos, and I like this one best - for me, this sums up Turin: elegant palaces and football fans armed with fireworks coexisting (more or less) harmoniously.
A bilingual blog post this week, to announce a very exciting event which is happening this week in my adoptive hometown, Turin...
This is normally a page for sharing news about my books - which, incidentally, deal with the rise of Fascism in Italy during the 1920s and 30s. But today, in light of recent world events, I feel that I can't remain silent. As writers, we are often very good at making beautifully-worded statements and not so good at taking real-world action. This just isn't good enough. I know that readers look to us to see how we react when the situations we deal with in our books repeat themselves and come knocking at our door - situations, often, relating to human rights. As Edith Wharton affirmed, 'Art is on the side of the oppressed'. But if we are going to be writers worth our salt, we need to be on the side of the oppressed in deeds as well as words. So I wanted to tell you about some of the concrete things, over the past few days, that I have felt compelled to do as a writer and as a human being.
Although I am a European, most of my readers are American, and what I have learned over the past year is that yours is a wonderful country full of people who believe in the values of human rights, tolerance and peace, a beautiful community which comes from all backgrounds and cultures. So I feel I can't remain silent when I see so many of you raising your voices in defence of those values and each other, hoping that the world is listening. We are listening, and we hear you. Most of the writers I admire have also been doing the same things I have - not because we are generous, or heroic, but because basic human decency requires it. If you, like me, are watching unfolding events in the US with increasing concern, I hope this will help you with some ideas for concrete, peaceful action.
1. I donated to ACLU, the organisation which is successfully challenging detentions of Muslim Americans and visitors to America, with the help of brilliant pro bono lawyers. You can donate here: https://www.aclu.org/
2. I wrote to Theresa May, who is my prime minister and who I believe needs to do more. You can do the same here: https://email.number10.gov.uk/ (Or, if you are not British, you can ask your own government to do the same or, importantly, thank them if they have!).
3. I contacted my UK member of parliament to ask her to urge Theresa May to do more, along with other world leaders, to oppose Trump's recent immigration ban and uphold the values of peace and tolerance which are so important, historically, to the American people. If you are British too, you can do the same here: https://www.writetothem.com/
4. I signed this petition, which has just passed one million signatures: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928/
5. I signed this global letter: https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/deartrump/
6. An important one, this: I made sure that I was following those people, often Muslim writers and writers of colour / BAME writers, and many of them senior journalists, who are generously offering their time on social media to report on and analyse current events. Their voices are the ones we need to step back and signal boost right now, and they can get news out, often, faster than the official news sources they work for.
7. I renewed my membership to Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/join/
8. I also, recently, joined PEN International, and if you are a writer you absolutely need to be a member too: http://www.pen-international.org/join-us/
Meanwhile, as I've already mentioned, along with some colleagues I am busy setting up a group of writers from all countries and backgrounds who wish to peacefully unite to uphold and defend human rights in a more dedicated and long-term way, in partnership with organisations like PEN. Like many other writers, I believe that artists need to remain peaceful, strive for tolerance, uphold free speech, and be active participants in the world we seek to make sense of through our work. Please know, if you are feeling alone or suffering during current events, that many writers stand with you, and we are trying to be better allies of our readers and to do more. If your favourite writer isn't saying or doing anything about the issues that you care about - particularly if they are, like me, a white writer who is in the privileged position of not being directly threatened by current events - feel free to contact them and politely ask them why. You – diverse readers – buy our books and pay our salaries. And if you are a fellow writer or a reader and want to help with the group, please let me know. You would be incredibly welcome.
With very best wishes for peace and safety today to all my readers, wherever in the world you are,
Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year from Italy! This was the 27th of December in Sicily, and though I couldn't persuade any of my Italian family or friends into the sea with me there was a man in Speedos actually swimming so that proves it was warm enough...
Over the past few weeks I've been silent, partly because I ended 2016 with very mixed feelings and quite exhausted, like many others, but also partly because I've been working on various positive things which will be happening in 2017. Including: my next book, which is due in to Penguin Random House at the beginning of the summer; plans for Italian publication of The House at the Edge of Night; plans for paperback publication (in English) of The House at the Edge of Night; setting up a group with fellow writers to support free speech and equality; and a not-for-profit project called VOICE for which I'm the writing advisor (more about all this very soon). And, of course, I've been spending time with friends and family and away from the internet, which has been restorative. But I did have time for some research in Sicily just before the holiday break, and so here are just a few photos of that beautiful place which was the starting point for The House at the Edge of Night and which will probably find its way, in some form, onto the pages of Book Two as well.
Thank you to all my readers for your steadfast support for my work, and for writers, in 2016, and wishing you a peaceful and happy start to 2017.
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