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Riotta, Gianni 1954–

RIOTTA, Gianni 1954–

PERSONAL: Born 1954, in Palermo, Italy; married; children: two. Education: University of Palermo (philosophy), 1975; Columbia University, M.S. (journalism), 1984.

ADDRESSES: HomeNew York, NY, and Turin, Italy. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 19 Union Square W., New York, NY 10001.

CAREER: Novelist and journalist. RAI (Italian public radio), New York, NY, host of Un Certo Discorso, 1983, host of Milano-Italia (talk show) for RAI 3, 1993–94; La Stampa, special correspondent in Rome, Italy, 1986–88, coeditor in Turin, Italy, 1998–; Corriere della Sera (Italian daily), correspondent and columnist, including in New York, NY, 2002. Founded monthly magazine Global and online European magazine Golem.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright fellow; Florio prize, 2002, for Prince of the Clouds.

WRITINGS:

(With Michele Melillo) Le interviste del manifestoa, preface by Rossana Rossanda, Cooperativa "Manifesto 80" (Rome, Italy), 1983.

Ultima dea, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1994.

Ombra: un capriccio Veneziano, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1995.

Principe delle nuvole (novel), Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 1997, translation by Stephen Sartarelli published as Prince of the Clouds, illustrated by Matteo Pericolil, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 2000.

N.Y. undici Settembre: diario di duna guerra, Einaudi (Turin, Italy), 2001.

Alborada, Rizzoli (Milan, Italy), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals Washington Post, Le Monde, Foreign Policy, La Vanguardia, and others.

SIDELIGHTS: Italian journalist and author Gianni Riotta has had a distinguished career in the Italian press and is considered an expert on America due to his longtime position as a U.S. correspondent for several Italian newspapers and other publications. His family is based in New York, but he often travels between the United States and Italy, where he has been coeditor of La Stampa since 1998. Riotta is also an accomplished novelist who has also written short stories and a collection of essays on the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Although his novels are well known in Italy and other parts of Europe, Riotta remained largely unknown in the United States until the publication of Prince of the Clouds, his first novel to be published in English. According to Riotta, he first developed his idea for the novel about a soldier who believes the rules of war can be applied to life while covering a small coup in a small island in the Caribbean, where he and fellow reporters ended up in an ambush.

In Prince of the Clouds Riotta examines love, life, and war as he tells the story of Carlo Terzo, a colonel in the Italian army during World War II. Although he did not see battle during the war, Terzo sets out to write a "Manual for Strategic Living" based on his premise that the rules of war and principles of military history apply equally to day-to-day life. As Terzo works on his book following the war, he becomes more and more enmeshed in the nonmilitary life, marrying a countess from Russia who ends up dying from cancer and becoming entangled in the forbidden and doomed romance of two students he is tutoring. Terzo also becomes involved in a communist rally that turns violent and in which he finally takes a position of command and uses his knowledge of warfare to help resolve the situation. Although he has faced personal crisis and tragedy, Terzo remains committed to his work; and, as pointed out by World Literature Today contributor Rufus S. Crane, it has "rescued him and made him a survivor, thereby establishing its worth."

Writing in the Seattle Times, Alix Wilber noted that, "Though Prince of the Clouds is firmly rooted in reality, a shimmer of magic envelops it. There is something reminiscent of The Arabian Nights in the way Riotta weaves gripping details of great historical battles into the fabric of his modern-day story." Michael Pye, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted that the book has some "didactic pretensions and some deeply irritating devices at the end," but added that the book "also has life and substance." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "this lofty but poignant and seductive novel ambitiously distills tragic romance, political conflict and military history into one man's struggle to draw wisdom from the mistakes and triumphs of the past."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

New York Times Book Review, May 21, 2000, Michael Pye, review of Prince of the Clouds, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, May 1, 2000, review of Prince of the Clouds, p. 50.

World Literature Today, winter, 2001, Rufus S. Crane, review of Prince of the Clouds, p. 160.

ONLINE

Camden Conference 2004 Web site, http://camdenconference.org/ (July 14, 2004), "Gianni Riotta."

Encyclopedia Multimediale delle Scienze Filosofiche Online, http://www.emsf.rai.it/ (July 14, 2004), "Gianni Riotta."

Seattle Times Online, http://seatletimes.nwsource.com/ (June 6, 2000), Alix Wilber, review of Prince of the Clouds.

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