Enrico Piceni: translating crime novels in Fascist Italy

by Enrico Ganni

Despite the severe cultural restrictions imposed by the Fascist regime, in the 1920s and 30s the Mondadori publishing house made great efforts to internationalize its publishing list and to introduce literary genres little known to Italians before that time. Thus motivated, they created two new series: “La Medusa”, dedicated to great writers like Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse and Virginia Woolf; and “I libri gialli” (literally “Yellow Books”) that for the first time offered Italian readers the opportunity to read a wide range of works from the most famous authors of crime novels.
In both cases, it was Enrico Piceni (1901-1986) (a close collaborator with Arnoldo Mondadori at the time) who played a leading role in setting up the series, as well in the translations of the texts: he translated more than seventy novels, most in the years leading up to WWII. Many of these translations are still in the Mondadori catalogue today.

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