The Premio Letterario Internazionale Mondello was launched in 1975 thanks to a group of intellectuals and local cultural figures. Its founders’ aim was to give life, for the first time in Italy, to a literary competition held in Palermo, with international validity at the same time. The spirit behind the Mondello was Francesco Lentini, judge and refined man of culture, who helmed the Prize until his death in 2000. Today, the Mondello is organised and promoted by the Fondazione Sicilia, chaired by Giovanni Puglisi, in collaboration with the Fondazione Andrea Biondo and, since 2012, in partnership with the International Book Fair of Turin.
For a few years now it has been the norm to open the Prize in Turin, during the International Book Fair,with a debate which, by bringing together writers, critics and journalists, offers the public ideas for cultural reflection.
Over the years, the Premio Mondello has enjoyed increasing attention, with numerous winning writers later receiving the Nobel prize for literature: from Günter Grass (Premio Mondello '77) to Josif Brodskij ('79), from Doris Lessing ('87) to V.S. Naipaul ('88), Seamus Heaney ('93) Kenzaburo Oe (both Premio Mondello winners in '93) and J. M. Coetzee ('94). The first writers to receive the Premio Mondello include Bartolo Cattafi, Stefano D'Arrigo and, as foreign author - in 1978 - Milan Kundera.
The list of Mondello prize-winning authors can boast Thomas Bernhard, Christa Wolf, Bernard Malamud, Kurt Vonnegut, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, George Steiner, Martin Amis, Les Murray, Magda Szabò and Bernardo Atxaga. Italian authors include Achille Campanile, Alberto Moravia, Italo Calvino, Mario Luzi, Leonardo Sciascia, Paolo Volponi, Andrea Camilleri and many others.
Thanks also to the valuable partnership with the International Book Fair, as of the 2012 the Prize has been given a new lease of life. The challenge now is to go beyond traditional literary prizes and become an all-round cultural initiative marked by a number of events throughout the year and in which the public can play a leading role. By taking on this active role, the reader is directly involved in voting process. Indicated by booksellers from a network of 24 bookshops selected by the editorial staff of the cultural supplement in the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, 240 keen readers assign (by voting online) the SuperMondello prize to one of the three winning authors of the Premio Opera Italiana. The relationship with the new generations is also strengthened and, more specifically, with 100 students from the secondary schools in Palermo who, selected thanks to the partnership with the School Theatre Association, are called upon to pick the winner of one of the Award categories (Premio Mondello Giovani), submitting the reason for their choice in writing. The students are thus givers and receivers of awards: the authors of the three best reasons are in fact presented with a special prize.
Since 2008, the Mondello has been flanked by the MondelloGiovani, young literature festival, an event geared towards the world of young people, taking place in autumn with round table discussions, readings and meetings between authors and young readers.