IN CONVERSATION WITH THE EDITOR OF EUROPA EDITIONS
May 10, 2016 By Francesca Pellas
This interview first appeared in Italian in America 24.
What is “the groundskeeper of the biggest maze in the southern hemisphere” doing in New York working at an Italian-owned publishing house? Very simply, as he has done in the past, he guards secrets.
Michael Reynolds is the editor in chief of Europa Editions, the American younger sister of the Italian press Edizioni E/O. Here, in brief, is the story: in 2005 the husband and wife and the founders of E/O, Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, decided to invest in an American publishing house specializing in European literature.
After years spent doing the most fascinating and diverse jobs on three continents (and becoming in the process a human box of stories) Reynolds was an Australian in love, living in Rome. There was an immediate affinity between the Ferris and Reynolds, and he started working for the fledgling Europa Editions, whose main offices at the time were still in the Roman headquarters of E/O. The idea of publishing European authors in a country like the United States, where readers read only (or mostly) books originally written in English, was an ambitious one. “You’re crazy; it’s not going to work,” they were told by many.
Eleven years, two children, several books, and a literary phenomenon later, I pay a visit to Reynolds in Europa Editions’ headquarters in New York. He welcomes me in his office: a room full of light and books, nothing like a maze. He prepares tea while I prepare to collect his stories, stories that run the gamut from his relationship with Italy to the number of copies sold by Elena Ferrante in the United States so far (one million!), from the challenges posed by the profession, to finding and selecting books from abroad that can fare well on this side of the pond.
Francesca Pellas: You’ve had many different jobs in your life: you were a gold miner, a maze groundskeeper, a barman, a windsurfing instructor, a “guinea pig” for sleep deprivation experiments, a poetry teacher, an English teacher, a gardener, a builder, and a translator. You have directed a writer’s festival, a literary magazine, and written three books. Where did you have the most fun?
Michael Reynolds: This is the greatest job that I’ve ever had!