September 2003
 
INTERVIEW


An Interview with Antonio D'Alfonso


by Domenic Cusmano
 

Accenti INTERVIEW : An Interview with Antonio D’Alfonso by Domenic Cusmano
Publisher of Guernica Editions, Antonio D'Alfonso
ACCENTI: Writing is your passion; publishing is your livelihood. In hindsight, do you wish you had focussed all your efforts on just one of these activities rather than both? How would you do things differently, if you could?

 

Antonio D'Alfonso: I ask myself those questions every day. In the end I must admit that it is my work as a publisher that has given me the passion to be a writer. I fear that without Guernica Editions I would have turned out to be a career writer, a bureaucrat of literature. Of course, the price is that I have written less than I should have... I started writing in 1968. At the rate of one book per year there is a fair chance that by now I would have written more than 30 books. Still, I think I am prolific. I have written, despite my work as a publisher, about 18 books. …As a publisher I can fulfill the need to write about certain issues or in a certain form by publishing the works of other writers. Being the publisher of many fine writers exorcized me. Guernica has published more than 150 titles by Italian Canadians in twenty-five years.

 

ACCENTI: You are a novelist, an essayist, and a poet among other things. Which form gives you the most satisfaction?

 

Antonio D'Alfonso: Writing is a tool that helps the human being look at life in a different way. I have never written a single word for the sake of writing. Writing has enabled me to become a better person, precisely because it reveals the various facets of my person. I would certainly not be who I am had I not written a single word. Being able to comment on what I see has given me the chance to expiate the worst parts of my being.

 

ACCENTI: What do you think of the new generation of writers following in your footsteps? What is their role and what will be their legacy? What advice do you have for them?

 

Antonio D'Alfonso: It's very difficult for me to answer these questions without presenting myself as a dull pessimist. The next generation of writers in our community must stay in touch with its nomadic past, without which it will gradually slip into sameness. If young writers rush to mainstream publishers to offer their goods, they will only churn out what is expected of them: stereotypes and crafty exercises of acceptable writing. Good literature is not about sameness. It is not even about good writing, pretty syntax and correct grammar. Good literature is about vision, and vision can only stem from the outsider's position. For this to be possible, the new generation has to accept the tautological fact that they can only be Italian Canadian writers if they remain Italian Canadian, that is a minority. The moment they choose to become Quebecois or British Canadians, they have put an end to Italian Canadian literature.

 

ACCENTI: You belong to the generation of Italian Canadian writers which did some groundbreaking things. What does the future hold for writers of your generation and for Italian Canadian writing?

 

Antonio D'Alfonso: Nothing much. I am not optimistic. Without real social rights, no ethnic group in America will survive on an artistic level. Without a conscious effort on the part of the community, there is not going to be much of a tomorrow for our community. Culture stays alive only if we want it to stay alive. I am afraid that Italians don't really want Italian culture to stay alive. In English America, Italians want to become English. In Spanish America, we want to become Spanish. In Portuguese America, we want to become Portuguese. In French America, we want to become French. The only real solution to our survival is to become Italian. Not Italian from Italy, but Italic. The older generation must have the right to teach the younger generation ways of staying Italian in America. But there is a rebirth of the myth of the melting pot across the world. It's new name is globalization. To speak of minority rights is to go against the grain of what it means to be modern (whatever that means). There is a lot of work still to be done; there are a lot of serious meetings still to be had before anything truly durable will come about. I am not sure if it is already too late to repair the irreparable, but one thing is certain: time is running out quite rapidly.

 

 

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