Saturday 27 December 2008

“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” (William Shakespeare)

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is: “What brought you over to England?” I generally say, to keep my answer short and simple, that Elisabetta and I wanted to set up a publishing house, and decided to do so in the UK, where we could see a gap in the market for short classics in translation. But this is not strictly true, and if I wanted to be more accurate I should answer that it was a combination of things.

Our love of the English language and its rich literature certainly had a great part in it. I originally came to the UK because I was offered a PhD in comparative literatures at Leeds University, which I then turned down to work in London as a translator and bookseller. The title of my proposed thesis was going to be ‘Erasmus’s influence on Shakespeare’s plays’ – a grand project on which I would be probably still working if my underlying diffidence of academia had not prompted me to decline the post.

Another factor in our choice to live in Great Britain is our rejection of many Italian attitudes such as clientelism and nepotism. It would have been difficult for us, with our mentality and approach, to fit in a society that doesn’t promote talent and is not based on fairness and merit. And probably, in ten years, we wouldn’t have achieved a fraction of what we have achieved in UK.

But I believe that the real reason of our move to Great Britain is much more difficult to pin down. A few weeks ago, I chanced on an old letter which I wrote to a German friend when I was around eighteen. In it, my idea of moving to England was expressed for the first time. This document suggests I must have been thinking about moving abroad from very early on. Elisabetta, on her part, spent most of her summers in UK from the age of fifteen onwards, and has always adored English language and culture above any other, so moving to UK was for her only a natural consequence.

So the real answer to the question “What brought you here?” – if we are totally honest with ourselves – has nothing to do with publishing. Publishing just happens to be the job we are in at the moment, and one of the ways we express our ideas and the values we believe in. The real, simple answer is probably that, as many other things in our life, it was just written in the stars.


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