Authors campaign to save Venice's bookshops

Authors campaign to save Venice's bookshops

British novelist Michelle Lovric and Strega Prize-winner Tiziano Scarpa are among a large group of authors backing a campaign to save Venice's bookshops.

There have been several recent losses due to rising rates and rents.

Around 100 authors have signed a manifesto with ideas to save bookshops in the city and at a public meeting last week (4th April) a campaign name—Venice, City of Readers—was decided upon. More than 50 writers will meet tomorrow (12th April) to plan further action.

Lovric, who lives part-time in Venice, has written on her blog: “On Friday April 12th . . . the writers of Venice will assemble in the Salone della Libreria Sansoviniana to address a new emergency in the literary life of the city: the haemorrhaging of her once-plentiful and beloved bookshops.

"In the last four weeks alone have come the announcements or threats of closures of four more bookshops: addio to the venerable Goldoni, the Capitello, the Laboratorio Blu, the Marco Polo. This is a hard blow for a city that already lost her biggest bookshop, the Mondadori, a couple of years ago and which has also seen the recent closure of other establishments.” 

The author told The Bookseller: “It is just not affordable in Venice, tourism seems to have taken over the city. What we are saying is that bookshops are as fundamental to Venice as shops that sell water and bread—although those shops are disappearing too.”

Lovric said the announcement of Goldoni closing was “the last straw, or in Italian parlance, the drop that made the vase overflow” for Venice’s large community of writers and illustrators. “How can a small bookshop pay a rent of €9,000 a month?” Lovric asked. “Or perhaps it was the Marco Polo bookshop receiving fines of €1000 for displaying a literary event poster without the official Comune stamp that made them think enough was enough? Whatever the final cause, the sense of outrage has now reached critical mass,” she said.

Lovric has proposed bookshops should benefit from “controlled rents” because they should be considered as cultural rather than commercial operations. “Writers . . . will seek ways to raise public awareness about the precious literary sustenance they are in danger of losing,” Lovric said. “Flash mobs, blacked-out bookshop windows, public readings and other events have been suggested.”

A Twitter hashtag #VeniceCityofReaders has been set up by UK Orion children’s author Lucy Coats to support the social media side of the campaign.