TH: Many of the stories by Italians in the issue focus on the shortcomings or failures of the body: from Matteo B. Bianchi’s story in which the narrator awaits a man missing a leg, to Chiara Valerio’s story which last line is ‘The dogmas of the hand’, to Diego de Silva’s ‘Corpo a Corpo’ to Valeria Parella’s exploration of blindness and sight. Is this theme of bodily failure related to other big shifts that have been occurring in Italy at present?
PZ: I think that the metaphor of bodily failure is a very apt one to reflect the feeling of weakness and despondency palpable today within the Italian society (and maybe a few more). The body politic is experiencing a lack of tension and ambition that is very easy and tempting to portray through metaphors centered on the physical body.
The issue features a dark playscript by Emma Dante between an unnamed man and women in a hotel room. Do you think that Italian sexual politics has changed significantly in recent years or does inequality persist, as Berlusconi’s behaviour would have many believe?
Inequality does persist, unfortunately, both in the society and in its self-representation, and it has serious consequences, even economic ones. It goes back to the Eighties, even before Berlusconi the politician came around – but the TV mogul was active already. I must add that awareness of this situation is on the rise within the Italian society, and many men and women are starting to say ‘enough’. Perhaps the fact that a number of the best contemporary Italian authors are women will help.
The Italian edition of Sex contains an array of pieces that have appeared in several recent issues of Granta, with only two (by Mark Doty and Marie Darrieussecq) from the Sex issue. Edwidge Danticat’s ‘Hot Air Balloons’ and Jeannette Winterson’s ‘All I Know About Gertrude Stein’ both appeared in The F Word, ‘Here Is What I Do’ by Chris Dennis appeared in Aliens and Iris Murdoch’s letters and the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie story ‘Ceiling’ were in Going Back. As editor, is part of the pleasure in creating your own recipe from these previous issues?
It is indeed an immense and always new pleasure – all the more so because it is shared with a variety of editors and contributors.
In our edition of Sex we featured a photo essay of vacant porn sets by Jo Broughton which explored the sadness of these spaces and their attempts to manufacture intimacy. Your photo essay reverses this by placing dapper co-workers in erotic positions. Is this just true to life in the offices of Granta Italia or is there a more subtle comment going on here?
Like a lot of people we work in rather drab office spaces, and we certainly try to bring some joy to them – though not in the way portrayed by the wonderful Jo Broughton.
How have Italian readers responded to the purse cover?
You mean it is a purse?