An Italian publisher in love with Greek literature

With his Greek origins on his mother’s side and his Italian temperament, Nicola Croccetti is a multifaceted journalist, translator and publisher. What sets him apart from fellow Italian colleagues is a personal aim: to translate and promote as many books of modern Greek literature as possible. That explains why, during the recent Frankfurt International Book Fair, he was spotted spending more time at the Greek pavilions than the Italian ones. My great passion is poetry and I started translating works by Greek poets at a very young age. There was a strong interest during the dictatorship, though this faded later on, says Croccetti. I used to go round to all the Italian publishers in order to get them to publish the Greek poets’ translations and then at one point, in 1980, I got fed up and thought, ‘I’ll establish my own publishing house.’ Early on, the aspiring publisher ran into financial trouble. It is not shameful to get into debt in order to publish books, he says. Croccetti did not stop at the publishing house, however. A few years later, in 1988, he decided to publish Poesia, a magazine on poetry. There were 380 literary publications in Italy at the time. So, Croccetti, are you going to publish the 381st?’ people asked him. No, he replied, I’m going to publish the first. With Poesia eventually reaching a circulation of 25,000, the house’s literary publications were also given a boost. Croccetti is particularly proud of one edition of Cavafy poetry, complete with sketches by Yiannis Tsarouchis. Croccetti had met the artist in 1983, when he came to Greece for the sole purpose of persuading him to illustrate the edition. Do you have any idea how many Greek publishers have asked me the very same thing? said Tsarouchis. Well, I guess I should go then, replied Croccetti. No, I’m saying yes to you, because I like your books and because you are not Greek, said Tsarouchis. A few years ago Croccetti ventured into prose, and so far his publishing house has undertaken the translation of 30 books, including works by Zatelli, Matesis, Karystiani, Panselinos, Douka, Galanaki, Koumandareas, Sourounis, Fakinou, Fakinos, Lyberaki, Karapanou and Efthymiadi. The current crop of works at a translation or publishing stage are numerous, including works by Zei, Haviaras, Gouroyannis, Michalopoulou, Kazantzakis and Cavafy, among others. In a market offering an annual figure of 51,000 titles, Croccetti admits that circulating books in Italy is no easy task – and is particularly difficult for small publishers seeking space on bookstores’ shelves. Books are like people, says Croccetti. Some are lucky, some are not. He is far from giving up, however, and is eager to stress that he receives backing from the Greek Ministry of Culture (in the form of funding for the translations) as well as from the European Union. I have chosen not to have a good time, says Croccetti, who is already getting ready for 2004, when he hopes Greece will be the honored country at Turin’s book fair. The contacts are already under way and considerable progress has been made, he says. – On Capers, Cargill has fixed M/V Star Zulu, 107,698 dwt, built 1986, delivery end Oct. Rotterdam, trip via S. Africa, redelivery UKC/Med., at USD 7,250 daily.

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