Corriere Canadese has published two interviews with Guernica’s current and past publishers.
Read the original articles in Italian at Corriere Canadese (http://www.corriere.com/viewstory.php?storyid=97340 / http://www.corriere.com/viewstory.php?storyid=97341) or read the English translation below.
Antonio D’Alfonso passes on Guernica’s torch!
Between film projects and writing, the editor will still continue to oversee the publication of new books
By Concita Minutola (Corriere Canadese)
Toronto – Guernica Editions enters a new phase in its history. Its founder, Antonio D’Alfonso, has sold the press to Connie Guzzo McParland and Michael Mirolla, secretary and treasurer of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers, respectively. For the Italian-Canadian publisher and writer, this was not a simple decision taken on the spur of the moment, but the result of reflections that matured over several years. “I took this decision because I think first of all about the future of the publishing house. I started this work seriously, and I want to continue in the same way,” says Antonio D’Alfonso. “We decided to sign in January. I passed the torch to Connie Guzzo McParland and Michael Mirolla because they want to do something important. Connie McParland and Michael are of Calabrese and Molisana origin, and so the publishing house remains under the direction of Italians. This is a very beautiful thing.”
Guernica was founded in 1978, and after 32 years of life, this change of ownership need not mean a break with the past. Antonio D’Alfonso continues to work alongside the two new owners and administrators, overlooking with them new publishing initiatives. Evidence of this continuity is the recent publication of The Young Maria Callas by Bruno Tosi. “We have already begun to work for the publication of this book, of which I am very happy, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and New York,” D’Alfonso concludes. “They cannot start alone right away, so I’m working extra hard to help them work well.”
In over thirty years and with numerous awards, there is no one book in particular that ranks on top for D’Alfonso. “Honestly, every book I published, each book was for me the biggest prize on earth – books published with great love, with great passion and friendship. It’s like asking a dad or mom who his favorite child is. I cannot say, I love them all. All, remember, are part of the Guernica ‘family’ – 480 books and nearly 900 authors.”
Of the decision of the Ontario Arts Council, last summer, to cut funds for Guernica, D’Alfonso says, “It weighed a lot on me.“ The bitterness of those difficult moments is still alive. “I felt unappreciated, “ D’Alfonso adds. “I understood that it would be better for me to leave, and have someone else take over. We’ll see what decision the Ontario Arts Council will take this year, We hope for a change of mind on their part. Now, Guernica is better, I feel relieved.” At 57 years old, Antonio D’Alfonso is back in the game putting into practice the early dreams of his youth.
“I’m finishing my PhD at the University of Toronto with an analysis of films made by Italians abroad, with professor Rocco Capuozzi. It is a dream that I’ve had since I was 25 years old. I’m returning to cinema. I have published books for 32 years. Now I’m experimenting with another way to look at my life.”
Already last year, D’Alfonso produced the film Bruco, with Nick Mancuso, recently presented in Los Angeles and in Montréal, and last October at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. Presently, D’Alfonso is producing a new film, Antigone, based on the Greek tragedy of Sophocles, already in the editing stage.
“In addition to Lazar, in the role of Crean, Antigone is played by the Italian-Canadian Justine Vella,” D’Alfonso says. “It is a large project that also includes my daughter, Elisa, who is 13 years old, in the role of Tiresias’ assistant. The Seer will be interpreted by a woman.” The cast also includes Lyne Tremblay, Jeanette Roxborough, Fabio Fabbri, Srdjan Nicol, Patricia Marceau and Damian Pietropaolo. The film is in German, French, English, some Serbian and even Calabrese. “The list of characters is from the same family,” D’Alfonso concludes. “But they speak different languages – it’s the image of multiculturalism in our country.” As are, on the wings of the project born more than 30 years ago, the books of Guernica Editions.
The future of Guernica for McParland and Mirolla
On March 31st, four authors will participate in the NOW Open Poetry Stage in Harbourfront
By Concita Minutola
TORONTO – To give more visibility to Guernica Editions with new initiatives, while maintaining its founding principles. With these objectives, new publishers Michael Mirolla and Connie Guzzo McParland are ready to face the future of the publishing house. “I know Antonio D’Alfonso because for years I’ve been a member and Secretary of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers,” says McParland. “Over the last two-three years Antonio has often spoken to me of his intention of getting help in running Guernica so that he can pursue other projects. And so I decided to take on this commitment, along with Michael. It’s a very challenging task, and Antonio will continue to have an important role as editor and translator.” McParland left work and teaching ten years ago to devote herself to literature, undertaking a Master’s Program in Creative Writing at Concordia University and writing a novel in the process. She still serves as Secretary of the Association of Italian-Canadian Writers.
“This new project,” McParland says,” permits me to put into practice my experiences in business administration and literature. Guernica’s mission to give space to multi-ethnic writers remains strong, with the added goal to expand its publication of literary essays, poems and short story collection with more fiction, and opening itself more to the Canadian cultural scene. Guernica’s authors, Brian Day, Len Gasparini, Julie Roorda and David Sobelman were selected to read their works at Harbourfront’s NOW Open Poetry Stage on March 31. Of twenty authors chosen for this contest, only one will be invited to attend the 31st International Festival of Authors.
This involvement with Harbourfront is part of the intention to “show our presence in important cultural events,” explains McParland. Among other ideas, the aim is also to explore opportunities offered by the Internet. “The future of publishing is moving in the direction of e-Books, so we’re thinking of moving in that same direction.” Guernica has renewed its request for funding from the Ontario Arts Council. “We’re waiting for a response in the months to come,” says the neo-owner, “but we’re very optimistic.”
Michael Mirolla, writer and treasurer of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers and today new co-owner of Guernica, explains that “beyond the changes in administration, which will be more structured, we want to maintain D’Alfonso’s vision, because we think that it is very important to Canada. Guernica’s multicultural approach is something different from what other publishing houses are doing. And writers who don’t normally have the opportunity to make themselves known continue to have space with Guernica.”
For Mirolla, what is important is to ensure excellence in writing. “A writer,” he says, “must confront his past before cementing himself in the world. One must know the art before starting writing, and then build his own style. I personally have referred to James Joyce and Italo Calvino. But above all, when I read a book, I appreciate good writing.”
“Taking the reins of Guernica Editions is an important choice,” continues Mirolla, “especially in a particularly difficult period as this.” But he’s optimistic about the future of independent publishers in Canada: “A niche publishing house, in the midst of major publishing houses, has a limited number of readers. For this we want to expand and let ourselves be better known. But small publishers, if they maintain their vision, will not lose their market. Indeed, as shown by a recent poll, Canadian cities in the future will be increasingly multicultural, and so I think there will always be more room for small publishers. Perhaps we will not become millionaires, but it is a labour of love that gives great satisfaction and hopefully makes a telling contribution to the Canadian cultural landscape.”