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‘Years at Loyola College were the best of my life,’ says founder of Guernica Editions

Award-winning publisher Antonio D’Alfonso on Concordia as an artistic incubator
May 31, 2022
By Ursula Leonowicz, BA 97

Antonio D’Alfonso, BA 75, is the founder of Montreal-based publisher Guernica Editions | Photo: Elisa D’Alfonso

An accomplished poet, novelist, essayist, translator and filmmaker, Antonio D’Alfonso, BA 75, is a jack of all trades.

The founder of Guernica Editions — the bilingual Montreal-based publishing house established in 1978  — has published hundreds of books in several different languages and made five feature films. Yet D’Alfonso still finds the time to watch several movies a day, play guitar and host dinner parties; all in the lulls from his other passion; elevating aspiring writers.

“I never promise them fame or money, but I can help them get their name out there,” he says about his role, which includes teaching writers about the writing formula he developed called the W paradigm.

“It includes nine scenes and four major quarrels that connect those scenes.”

An outlet for expression

Although inspired by words and music from a young age — counting The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Léo Ferré among his earliest influences — D’Alfonso decided to pursue science at Loyola College, one of Concordia’s founding institutions. It was a decision he soon regretted.

“The moment I cut into a worm, I fainted,” D’Alfonso recalls with a laugh, “and that was it. No way was I going to make it.”

Antonio D’Alfonso as a student at Loyola College in 1973.

He then pivoted from sociology to psychology, before landing in the Department of Communication Studies; it would become his artistic incubator.

It was there that he was first introduced to theatre and then film, the latter of which he considered the perfect medium to express himself.

He also met a band of like-minded creators, including the late Father Marc Gervais and professor Denis Diniacopoulos, as well as Vittorio Rossi, BFA 85, who remains a friend.

“With cinema, I could ask people to talk whatever language they wanted, which is what my films are like now; there are always five or six languages being spoken,” he explains. “So, I was free. For me, those years at Loyola College were the best of my life.”

As a master scénariste, D’Alfonso wields words and images to tell stories about identity, love, family and connection across boundaries of language, culture and separation.

That borderless sensibility also defined the branding and catalogue of Guernica Editions and which became one of the most influential literary imprints in Canada. There, over the course of 33 busy years, D’Alfonso released the bulk of his own work while championing other novelists and poets whose output centered mostly around culture and identity.

D'Alfonso's The Two-Headed Man, published by Guernica Editions in 2020. | Photo: Linda Rutenberg

He passed Guernica Editions on to new owners in 2010, but continues to be as prolific as ever.

For his own writings, D’Alfonso was awarded the Trillium Book Award for Un vendredi du mois d'août in 2005, and the Bressani Award for Fabrizio's Passion in 2000, among several other literary prizes.

His 2005 film Bruco won Best Foreign Film and Best International Director at the New York International Film Festival while his feature-length film Tata was released in July 2020.

In addition to his degree from Concordia, D’Alfonso has a MSc in communication sciences from Université de Montréal and a PhD in Italian studies (film), from the University of Toronto.

In 2016, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Athabasca University.

Never one to rest on his laurels — or rest at all, it seems — D’Alfonso recently launched a YouTube series featuring conversations with artists and producers, including Lazar Rockwood, Monica Lavin, Paul Bélanger and Gino Chiellino, among others.

He currently splits his time between Montreal and Toronto where he continues to work as a poet, most recently releasing The Two-Headed Man: Collected Poems (1970-2020).

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