Florence’s 2021 Von Rezzori ‘Festival of Writers’

Last on the right: Maaza Mengiste, shortlisted author at the Von Rezzori award at the 2021 Festival of Writers

This year, the Festival of Writers, which features the 15th annual Von Rezzori prize for the best work of foreign fiction translated into Italian, will be held in Florence both in presence and online from June 3 – 5, 2021.   Three of the five finalists shortlisted for the Von Rezzori award are native English-speaking authors:  Robert Macfarlane (U.K.) with Underland; Colum McCann (U.S., of Irish origin), with Apeirogon and Maggie O’Farrell (northern Ireland) with Hamnet (released in Italy as Nel nome del figlio).  The other two are Luc Lang (France: La Tentation, in Italy La Tentazione) and Maaza Mengiste (an Ethopian-American writer represented by her book in English, The Shadow King, in Italy Il Re Ombra). For three days, the event will bring famed these exponents of contemporary literature closer to the public via presentations, readings and discussions in locations throughout the city such as the refectory of Santa Croce and the Todo Modo bookshop.

One of the major highlights is the June 5 readings from the Divine Comedy in tribute to the Dante anniversary year by the actors Ralph Fiennes (U.K., known for his roles in Harry Potter, Schindler’s List and  The English Patient) and Alba Rohrwacher (known for her role in Hungry Hearts and her narration of My Brilliant Friend).  The translation which will be used is the one by Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney.  The performance will take place at 4 pm and can be accessed through the YouTube channel of the city of Florence.

The kickoff of the Festival of Writers will be the June 3 keynote speech by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck (recipient of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize) in the Santa Croce refectory (in presence at 4 pm; reservations required by sending an email to vonrezzori.premio@gmail.com.

June 4 brings online chats by the shortlisted authors hosted by the Todo Modo bookshop, which can be viewed via the YouTube channel of the city of Florence or the Cinema La Compagnia website.

Luc Lang’s La Tentation is a family drama using hunting as a metaphor; Macfarlane’s Underland is an exploration of the underworlds, both mythological and geological, of planet Earth; Apeirogon follows the unexpected friendship between two fathers, Israeli and a Palestinian; The Shadow King unveils the role of female Ethiopian soldiers during Italy’s invasion of that country in 1935; and Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet focuses on William Shakespeare’s son Hament, who died at age 11, four years before the playwright wrote Hamlet, using a variant of his late son’s name.

June 4 program

4 pm

Conversation between Maylis de Kerangal and Luc Lang on La Tentation (La tentazione)

4:30 pm

Conversation between Ernesto Ferrero and Robert Macfarlane on Underland.

5 pm

Conversation between Andrea Bajani and Colum McCann on Apeirogon.

5:30 pm

Conversation between Alberto Manguel and Maaza Mengiste on The Shadow King (Il Re Ombra).

6 pm

Conversation between Edmund White and Maggie O’Farrell on Hamnet (Nel nome del figlio).

The Festival of Writers grand finale will be the announcement of the recipient of the Von Rezzori prize on June 5 at 6 pm broadcast by the YouTube channel of the city of Florence or the Cinema La Compagnia website.

The Festival of Writers was established thanks to the Santa Maddalena Foundation. Baroness Beatrice Monti della Corte von Rezzori, widow of the late central European novelist Gregor von Rezzori, who lived and worked among the hills of Valdarno for more than 30 years, directs it.  (rosanna cirigliano/additional reporting by celeste giampietro collins)