Sandro Veronesi pulls out of Frankfurt Book Fair

Prominent Italian Author Withdraws from Frankfurt Book Fair

Culture News

Top Italian novelist Sandro Veronesi announced Wednesday that he will not participate in the Italian delegation at October’s Frankfurt Book Fair, where Italy is the guest of honour. Veronesi’s decision follows the exclusion of Roberto Saviano, a left-leaning author and outspoken government critic, from the event.

Mauro Mazza, the conservative journalist and government spokesperson for the event, stated Tuesday that the exclusion of Saviano was not due to discrimination. Instead, Mazza claimed it was a move to “give space to authors who have not had it in the past.”

Veronesi, a two-time winner of the prestigious Strega Prize, responded by rejecting Mazza’s explanation. “The stupid, ridiculous reasons with which Commissioner Mazza justified Roberto Saviano’s exclusion do not allow me to accept the invitation I received,” Veronesi said.

He criticised the involvement of Premier Giorgia Meloni and her aides, describing it as “Putinian hypocrisy.” Veronesi added that he would attend the Frankfurt Book Fair as a private individual if necessary for work.

Saviano – author of Gomorrah and critic of Meloni government

Saviano, author of the acclaimed “Gomorrah,” has been under police protection since receiving death threats from the Camorra following his 2006 bestseller. His exclusion from the fair sparked controversy, especially given his critical stance against Premier Meloni’s government.

Saviano’s show on the mafia was previously pulled by state broadcaster Rai after Meloni’s government came into power in autumn 2022.

In response to his exclusion, Saviano posted on Instagram: “The most ignorant government in the history of Italy. Proud not to be on the Mazza list.”

The Italian Association of Publishers (AIE) clarified that it, not Mazza, had compiled the list of authors for the fair, asserting that it would “never accept outside interference of any kind.” The AIE noted that Saviano’s name had not been among those proposed.

Saviano has faced legal challenges for his outspoken criticism of Meloni and her ally, Matteo Salvini. In October, he was fined €1,000 for calling them “bastards” on Italian TV after a young girl died during a failed sea rescue in the Mediterranean.

Saviano also faces a separate trial for calling Salvini the “minister of the underworld.” Press freedom groups have criticised these trials and the criminalisation of defamation in Italy.

Despite the fine, the judge acknowledged extenuating circumstances, including Saviano’s “acting for reasons of particular moral value,” and suspended the penalty, leaving Saviano’s record clean. Saviano has appealed for a full acquittal, prompting Meloni to pursue further legal action.

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