Popular Italian Novels for English Readers

In 2017, Kazabo Publishing was established, translating best-selling books from other countries into English. Although its mission “is to find best-selling books from around the world,” currently, most of the books it has published are from Italian authors. It may be because the director of the New Authors Division is Chiara Giacobbe, a native of Italy. I asked her about Kazabo and she graciously provided a behind-the-scenes look into how books are selected and translated.

Janice Mancuso (JM): What was the inspiration for Kazabo Publishing?

Chiara Giacobbe (CG): Every day, all around the world, people are reading best-sellers that very often remain confined within the borders of the country where they were written. We love to look for gems that were never translated into English; it’s like a literary treasure hunt! Italian literature, which is my specialty, has a rich and beautiful literary tradition in every genre. For example, one of the most popular classics in Italy is a book of short stories, “Delitto ideale” by Luigi Capuana. I studied this book in college and was amazed and thrilled to discover this masterpiece had never been translated into English! Now Kazabo has published “Mind Games,” so English speakers can enjoy it, just as generations of Italian, French and German speakers have done. 

JM: How are the books selected? Why Italian authors?

CG: Italian authors are, of course, my favorite, but we are looking for authors of best-selling books from around the world. Kazabo Publishing’s motto is “Every book a best-seller. Guaranteed!” I personally have a special fondness for Italian authors because I grew up and studied in Italy and have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature. So, as you might imagine, helping bring these great books to English readers is enormous fun for me. 

JM: What is the process for obtaining a book to translate?

CG: Once we decide a book would be suitable for us, we must figure out the copyright issues. Some of the books are in the public domain. This means that we do not have to worry about obtaining the copyright and we can pass directly to the translation process and publication. More recent books may still be under copyright and we need to find the copyright holder. That is relatively easy with living authors but with deceased authors, tracking down the right person can be a treasure hunt all on its own! 

JM: Translations are sometimes difficult, especially with dialogue. Is there a process for converting the manuscripts?

CG: That is something of particular interest to me. I spent several years as a translator, so I had definite ideas on how to organize this when I joined Kazabo. In fact, we have developed our own proprietary “teamwork” system. We use special translation teams consisting of native speakers of the book’s original language and native English editors who collaborate closely and in real-time. If you know anything about how translation is usually done, it is typically a very solitary pursuit. That made a lot of sense once, but with the technology currently available, we do not think it makes sense anymore. We are always improving our system but, so far, we are very pleased with it.

JM: How close to the original are the translations?

CG: We try to remain as close as possible to the original work, but sometimes it is necessary to adapt the text for English readers. There is very often a tension between how the words the author wrote translate directly into English and the reaction the author was trying to evoke in the reader. For example, a character in a book might use an idiomatic expression that just does not exist in English. Italian is particularly rich and subtle, and it can be a real challenge to pack that into an English translation. Just to give you one example, in the Capuana book I mentioned, one of the stories turns on a double entendre. It was absolutely critical to get this right in order for the story to make sense. We think we came up with a great solution, but we really had to work for it.

JM: What other Italian authors are being considered?

CG: We recently published two novels, “Death in a Bookstore” by the father of the Italian mystery genre, Augusto De Angelis, and “The German Client” by contemporary best-selling mystery author, Bruno Morchio. We are also working with other contemporary Italian mystery authors and we hope to have some announcements soon. For our more literary line of publications, we recently signed one of the finest living Italian authors, Stefano Benni. We are extremely excited about this project, because Mr. Benni’s work is a satire against the pharmaceutical industry. Given the plague of opioid addiction in America, this book is relevant and has a lot to say.

For more about the books available in Epub or Kindle, visit www.kazabo.com.