A publishing mystery

ImprimaturReading the Translated Fiction website, I again came across a book that I keep seeing occasionally in the press.

Among the forthcoming titles the Book Trust site mentions Imprimatur by Rita Monaldi and Francesco Soldi (Polygon), translator Peter Burdett.  It’s a subject that particularly interests me since I was a researcher in the Vatican Archives for three years while writing my Ph.D.  

On the publisher’s website, the book is described as “Meticulously researched and brilliantly conceived, Imprimatur contains startling revelations that have been concealed for centuries, drawing on original papers discovered in the Vatican archives. A thriller in the vein of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, this novel sheds new light on the power struggles of 17th-century Europe, the repercussions of which are still felt today. First published to great controversy in Italy in 2002, Imprimatur was boycotted by the Italian press and publishing world. Despite this, the novel has gained European bestseller status; it has been translated into 20 languages with editions published in 45 countries. Over 1 million copies have been sold to date.”

But the mystery of the book does not end there: the book has all but disappeared off the shelves of Italian booksellers!  In fact, I tried to find it on Bol with no results.  Political machinations and the ability to lean excessively hard on those reluctant to toe the line did not come to an end in 17th century Italy.  On trying to find a more detailed account of this sinister tale of publishing skulduggery, I came across what seems to be a balanced article by Peter Popham in The Independent Europe.

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti will be presenting the book (and may explain some of the hype surrounding it) at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 19 August.  They are billed to appear with Kate Mosse.  I’ll try to be there.

About Lucy Byatt

I'm a translator, from Italian into English. I also teach Italian Renaissance history and write.
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