To follow on from my previous Premio Bancarella blog, today I’m going to explain how the competition actually works.
What makes the Premio Bancarella unique amongst Italian book prizes is the fact that it’s not awarded by a jury of critics, but is completely organised by booksellers from all over the country, including the Canton Ticino, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. For this reason the prize is held in high consideration by publishers and writers because the booksellers are seen as sensitive interpreters of readers’ preferences. “Il più scoperto, il meno ipocrita che ci sia in Italia — ha scritto Vittorio Sgarbi, vincitore nel ‘90 con Davanti all’immagine – si vince con orgoglio” (“The most open, the least hypocritical that there is in Italy – wrote Vittorio Sgarbi, who won the prize in 1990 with Davanti all’immagine – it’s won with pride”).
How it works is quite convoluted and typically ‘Italian style’: between September and February every year the bookseller members of the Premio Bancarella flag up the most popular books to the Comitato (committee) of the Premio (prize). From these books the Comitato draws up an initial shortlist for Il Premio Bancarella. The books can be either libri di narrativa (fictional books) or di saggististica (non fictional), and the authors do not need to be Italian as long as their book has been translated into the Italian language. It’s important that the book must have been newly published in Italy between March of the previous year and the February of the year in which the prize is awarded. Furthermore, the writer must be alive at the time of the publishing, and he or she must not have won the prize in the previous five years.
The publishers of the initially shortlisted books must donate 100 copies (only one book per publisher can be selected) and make a contribution towards the expenses for the organization of the prize. Shortlisted writers must promise to be present at the award, and that they will take part in the promotional campaign. Once all these criteria are met, the final 6 books are shortlisted in April, and a promotional campaign begins in bookshops all over the country. For the final vote, the Comitato selects a maximum of 200 booksellers who are each given a voting form with the 6 shortlisted titles. These 200 booksellers have the responsibility of making the final decision about who should be awarded the prize!
On the penultimate weekend of July, the 200 selected booksellers, the 6 writers, their publishers, plus a plethora of local and national artists, politicians and intellectuals meet up in Pontremoli in Piazza della Repubblica, where at nine o’clock in the evening a notaio (solicitor) opens the 200 envelops containing their anonymous votes, thereby revealing the winner of that year’s Premio Bancarella. On Sunday the 22nd of July 2012 Pontremoli hosted the 60th Premio Bancarella, and the prize was awarded to Marcello Simoni for his first novel “Il Mercante di Libri Maledetti”, with 97 votes out of a total of 194. Second, with 80 votes, came Marco Buticchi with “La voce del destino”, followed by the Swedish writer Björn Larsson and his “I poeti non scrivono gialli”. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Simoni’s book, but it sounds very interesting and I want to get hold of it soon. I’ll let you know what it’s like!
You can find a list of all the winners on the official website: http://www.premiobancarella.info/