Questions for Daniela at Europa Editions
1. Tell us about the genesis of Europa Editions. How did the publishing house come into being?
Europa Editions was founded in New York in 2005 by Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, who are also the owners and founders of the Italian independent publishing house E/O. Intrigued by the scarcity of fiction in translation published in the English-speaking world – they were unable to find a publisher for Elena Ferrante – they decided to do it themselves, drawing on Edizioni E/O’s decades-long experience in publishing international literature. The Days of Abandonment was the first book published by Europa Editions, followed over the years by a wealth of good writing from Europe and beyond. The London office was opened in January 2012. Our books were already distributed in the UK and Ireland but the publishers felt it was the right time to take a more active role in promoting our list.
2. And how would you describe a classic Europa Editions book? What are the qualities that make your literary works so distinctive?
The essential ingredients are good stories that can sweep you away, distinctive writing, and a strong sense of place. Other than that we’re quite open…. Most of our books are translations of course, but we also publish original English fiction. We publish a variety of genres too – and genre-bending novels are welcome! – and have a dedicated upmarket crime list, World Noir. All wrapped up in the distinctive and unique Europa style: our books really do look irresistible especially when displayed together…..
3. For all of us who have the pleasure of working in association with Europa, you are the heart and soul of the house, Daniela, and we love your passion and enthusiasm. Tell us a bit about your pathway through publishing. How did you end up here?
That could be quite a long story, I’ll give you the short version! I moved to the UK 30 years ago to read for a degree in English and then an MA in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies. I’d always wanted to work with books, and after a few years in bookselling I moved over into agenting, first at AP Watt then Andrew Nurnberg Associates. Selling Italian rights was one of my responsibilities and that’s how I met the Ferris. When they approached me about opening an office in London I was immediately enamoured with the prospect of working with such an interesting list and it didn’t take me long to make up my mind.
4. What’s an average day in your working week like?
Quite varied! I usually start dealing with emails. I may go on to write a pitch to the press and prepare a mailing, contact a festival organiser or two to suggest some of our authors, write copy or do some planning on how to best promote future titles. I’ll do some reading over lunch, if I’m not meeting with a journalist or literary critic or out on a bookshop visit. Then back to my desk to finish that mailing in time to catch the post. At least a couple of evenings a week are dedicated to book launches and events. Which is no chore whatsoever, a literary reading or talk is pretty close to my idea of a good night out!
5. Elena Ferrante is a phenomenon and her novels must have made a significant impact on Europa. What was your first experience of reading her – did you think she might become the huge bestseller she now is?
I first read Elena Ferrante not long after the Italian publication of L’amore molesto (Troubling Love). I was struck and smitten from the start. When I read I giorni dell’abbandono I was bowled over by how raw and original it was. But that was 20 years ago and I had no idea then I would be working with her books one day…. When Europa was launched with the publication of The Days of Abandonment, I did get what at the time was filed away as an idle thought: “That could be my future”. I had no doubt Ferrante’s works were masterpieces with the potential of becoming international bestsellers. 6. We’re big fans of works in translation at Shiny. What do you think makes a fabulous translation?
A fabulous translation has to stand on its own as a work of art. It is the same book as the original, but it’s another at the same time. The best translations are those that evoke the same feelings, reactions and emotions in the reader as the source text, and that’s more important than strict faithfulness to the words on the page, I think
7. What impact do you think Brexit will have on the publication of novels from Europe? And will it have any specific consequences for Europa Editions?
Oh Brexit. It broke my heart, and I’m sure it will have consequences though it’s difficult to tell what at this early and very uncertain stage. What I do know is that now more than ever we need to work on cultural exchange. If there’s a silver lining is that the uninformed decision taken by the UK sparked a new wave of interest in literature in translation, and translation in itself. At Europa we are going to keep doing our bit, in Brexit’s UK as well as in Trump’s USA.
8. What are some of your favourite Europa publications and why?
That’s a tough choice to make, many of our books have a special place on my bookshelves and in my heart. One recent favourite is Guapa by Saleem Haddad. The first book we’ve published in the UK only, it’s the account of 24 hours in the life of a young gay Arab in an unnamed Middle Eastern metropolis. It’s a moving and wryly humorous novel that bridges cultures in all sorts of ways. The books of Jean-Claude Izzo’s Marseille trilogy are all-time crime favourites, they are one of the best examples out there of fiction that transcends genre and takes the reader right into the heart of an unfamiliar world. Others are Jennifer Tseng’s Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness, a lyrical, limpid story of dangerous relationships and life-saving books. The understated Sergio Y., by Brazilian author Alexandre Vidal-Porto, about the quest for happiness through reinvention, is short but packs a punch. Another of my favourite Europa authors is Santiago Gamboa – we published Night Prayers – a story about the strength of the bond between siblings, a foretold mystery, and an account of a troubled time in the recent history of Colombia all rolled into one – earlier this year, and I’m very much looking forward to his new novel in 2017.
9. How do you envisage the future for Europa Editions over the next five years?
We’ll continue to look for and publish good books from all over the world, and work to ensure they reach an ever growing readership.
10. And what books are currently on your nightstand?
A couple of short story collections, Jessie Greengrass’ An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, and Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women which I’m dipping in and out of. Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers, a beautiful Cahiers edition of The Story Smuggler by Bulgarian novelist Georgi Gospodinov, and Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place, just finished. Oh and a kindle loaded with submissions…..
Thank you Daniela.