Literature as an engine for change: we talk about it at the Premio Cento

4 May 2024

There are situations and projects that naturally intertwine, because they somehow go in the same direction. This is what happened between the Cento Literature Prize, which saw its 45th edition this year, and IBBY Italia. It is only natural that the members of the technical jury include experts who are also members of IBBY, that IBBY has for years granted its patronage to the Prize and that, this year, the Cento Prize granted its patronage to the International Congress.

As part of this collaboration, the Cento Prize Festival hosted on Friday 3 May, in the CREDEM Representation Hall, one of the meetings leading up to the Trieste appointment, with a reflection, for teachers, librarians, educators, parents and adults who go into books together with boys and girls, led by Nicoletta Gramantieri, a member of the IBBY Italia Board of Directors, Severino Colombo, journalist for the Corriere della Sera, both members of the prize’s technical jury together with Guido Sgardoli, an author who is a finalist for the PLR.

The meeting, like those that preceded it and which saw the participation of authors who substantiate our literature for children and young people, focused on one of the significant themes of the congress: reflection on the meaning, function and role of literature in the processes of individual, social and political change.

The meeting was rich in reflections and suggestions and touched on various points of view, that of the writer, that of the reader, and that of those who promote literature.

Some key concepts emerged from the dialogue. First of all, the need to be daring, to go into unexpected fields that exceed the expectations of readers, provoking a shift in outlook, a deviation in thinking: a going that challenges both writers and their audience.

Guido Sgardoli investigated and proposed the need to bring into stories, and with stories, doubts and questions, a need that arose in him from his fascination with the scientific method which, constitutionally, precisely thanks to scepticism and the need to continually question, contributes to forming civic conscience, critical thinking and therefore conscious citizenship.

The writer also emphasised how it is the specificity of literature, the formal aspects of narratives, a literary language, and not a mimetic language that wants to adhere to everyday language, the elsewhere that is brought into play and the construction of plots that engage readers that make this process possible, which ultimately contributes to the formation of everyone’s identity.

The meeting was a step towards the Congress, but also an important opportunity to go a little deeper in questioning the role that literature can play in the possibility that each of us has of knowing and investigating the world.