The most notable differences of Campiello compared to other more or less famous Italian literary prizes are, as Gianluigi Simonetti observed in a recent volume born in fact between the pages of this journal (Hunting the witch. Anatomy of a literary prize, Nottetempo), the reconciliation between literary quality and good legibility (therefore: attention to literary values rather than to commercial approval); and again, independence from the big publishing houses, which orient the destinies of other competitions with criteria that are understandably linked to the promotion of the most marketable titles, which however are not always the most valuable.
This traditional and constitutive structure - the prize was wanted in the middle of the last century by an enlightened circle of Venetian industrialists and their listened to academic interlocutors - has evolved in recent decades, according to Simonetti himself, towards a progressive convergence of the Venetian prize on titles sometimes even too friendly, reassuring and predictable. But the safeguarding of a certain rigor and a certain independence of judgment continues to be favored by the double level of selection envisaged by the rules of the game.
The five finalists are chosen by a jury of around ten experts (literati) called among intellectuals and professional readers, who remain in office for years with a slow and progressive rotation, ensuring continuity and quality of the choices made; they are not accountable to anyone for their choices, and by professional extraction they are generally quite jealous of their autonomy. The winning novel is then voted within the five by a jury of three hundred anonymous readers until the day of the award, which change every year and are recruited throughout Italy from representatives of the most various social and professional categories, and are therefore difficult to reach. from the traditional forms of pressure exerted on the jurors of the prizes. In short, it is a cross-section of the potential audience of contemporary fiction.
The Literature Jury
One of the criteria that guide the jury of Literature, in short, is - or should be - that of proposing to the three hundred readers a list of titles that does not only take into account authors and publishers already abundantly promoted by the media chatter (or as they say today, social), but also indicate demanding books, the result of a particular research, for example stylistic, of a happy subversion of overused literary clichés, or of an exploration of border territories of narrative production.
This year's edition culminated with the drawing of the five in the Aula Magna del Bo, the historic seat of the University of Padua. The books by Marta Cai were voted by the jury of writers A hundred millions (Einaudi), by Tommaso Pincio Diary of a Martian summer (Perrone), by Benedetta Tobagi The resistance of women (Einaudi), by Silvia Ballestra The sibyl. Life of Joyce Lussu (Laterza), by Filippo Tuena Looking for Pan (Nocturnal). The prize for the first work went to Emiliano Morreale, The last innocence (Sellerius). A moving special mention was paid to Like air by Ada D'Adamo, author who suddenly disappeared at the beginning of last April. Guiding the choices of the Literature jury, as many have explicitly stated, was research in the border area between literary and historical-documentary writing (a real biography is that of Ballestra, while Pincio presents a very personal Roman portrait by Ennio Flaiano), or in the area where prose writing and poetic writing meet (like Tuena), or literature and cinema, as happens in the paintings of Morreale. Marta Cai, a near-debutant, new to the novel, was struck by the skill and vivacious maturity of her writing. The overall convergence in the choices of the jurors was manifested in the relative speed with which the result was reached, in just a few rounds of scrutiny. A sign, perhaps, that works of some value are not so abundant in the torrential flow of current production, and that the little that she convinces does not struggle to win the favor of somewhat cautious readers.