The Authors and their Works
“In our study of historical documents, we are often stumbling onto dark, unexplained points that seemed to us to be deviations from the course of history. We then focused on significant years: 1683 for IMPRIMATUR, 1700 for SECRETUM and 1711 for VERITAS. And in fact, when we concentrated on specific documents from these years, our intuitions didn’t fail us. We’ve made some consequential discoveries”. From their great enthusiasm for the Baroque, a truly baroque-style project manifested, one involving both their work and their lives. For five years, Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti did research in archives and libraries. They worked on their first novel, IMPRIMATUR, for the next five years, and on SECRETUM and VERITAS for six years after that. Four more volumes are to follow. All the book titles of the series will create the sentence Imprimatur secretum, veritas mysterium. Unicum …
The authors translate this as follows: “Even when a secret is printed, the truth is always a mystery. It remains only…”
This sentence itself expresses the Baroque enthusiasm for illusions. How the sentence ends, nobody knows, for the authors are keeping secret the titles of the final two volumes. Every book concerns such historical intrigues as conspiracies and forgeries, the exposures of which will radically alter our view of history.
Monaldi & Sorti discovered also a secret manuscript by Atto Melani, the main character of their novels, and published it in 2005 with the title THE SECRETS OF THE CONCLAVES.
Rita Monaldi was born in 1966. She majored in classical philology and specialized in the history of religions. She worked as a journalist for many years.
Francesco Sorti, born in 1964, majored in musicology and specialized in 17th century. He worked also as a journalist for many years.
The authors are married and live with their children in Vienna and Rome.
Monaldi & Sorti have created a furor worldwide with their books. Critics, booksellers, readers – all are enthralled. In many countries the authors have supplanted Dan Brown for first place on the bestseller list. No wonder: the suspense is of the highest level, the authentic characters are uncommonly alive, and the story, set during the colorful, multifaceted period of the Baroque, is fascinating. The rights of the first three volumes, IMPRIMATUR (2002), SECRETUM (2004) and VERITAS (fall 2006), have, as of winter 2007, been sold into 20 languages and 45 countries. The high ranking of the books in countries where they’ve appeared speaks for itself: Imprimatur – Italy (4th place), France (3rd place), the Netherlands (4th place), Belgium (1st place), Spain (3rd place), Portugal (3rd place), Greece (6th place), Canada (2th place) etc. Secretum – the Netherlands (3rd place), Belgium (1st place); Germany (5th place), France (5th place), etc. Veritas – the Netherlands (1st place), Belgium (1st place) (sole countries where it was published so far).
Press Responses to Imprimatur
L’Exprèss (the most prestigious French weekly magazine) wrote: “The legacy of Umberto Eco (Headline). A gigantic, perfectly functioning instrument that combines the qualities of an erudite mystery and a historical novel. A plethora of fantastic, unexpected twists and turns set against the background of international intrigue. A highly successful work with sensational revelations.”
“What should be more admired: the keenness, great narrative talent, and knowledge of philologist Rita Monaldi and musicologist Francesco Sorti, or the masterful style and superior quality of language of a captivating literary creation? Le Monde, France. “Wonderfully Machiavellian. Fascinating historical developments against the backdrop of state secrets. A subtle, complex style. We follow Monaldi & Sorti step by step in their breathless search for a truth that tears away all the veils of deception.” Le Figaro, France. “The applause that Eco once enjoyed will now be heard by Monaldi & Sorti.” Handelsblad, the Netherlands. “Imprimatur is a satisfying and suspense-filled literary game loaded with riddles and with allusions to the likes of Dante, Agatha Christie, Dumas, and Conan Doyle.” El País, Spain. “Not only has Imprimatur ascended the steps of the bestseller list and been enthusiastically received by the critics; it is also an assault on the well-guarded secrets of history.” El Mundo, Spain. “Two Italians have revolutionized the historical novel.” La Gaceta de los Negocios, Spain. “A baroque reading pleasure.” Brigitte, Germany. “A historical page-turner, imparting knowledge as it is read.” Hamburger Morgenpost, Germany. “A fantastic story of espionage from the Baroque.” La Stampa, Italy. Last updating: Fall 2005
Press Responses to Secretum and Veritas
NRC Handelsblad (the biggest and most prestigious Dutch daily newspaper) wrote in the headlines: “The writers’ duo Monaldi and Sorti once again succeeded in digging up curious facts from centuries-old archives. With their new historical thriller Secretum they surpass by far the inventor of the genre, Umberto Eco.” Halfway the article: “The biggest quality, the reason why Monaldi and Sorti are really big authors – they surpass by far the inventor of the genre Umberto Eco – is their ornate language and wonderful style.” Imprimatur is described as “their first masterpiece”. And then it ends with: “Then you understand why M&S are incredibly brilliant and funny.”
“Monaldi & Sorti are exceptional authors. Like Alexandre Dumas, they have mastered the art of giving the proper reverence to Madame History.” Le Figaro, France. “I was completely carried away by Secretum. You will cling to the pages! An opulent, powerful historical masterpiece” Bild am Sonntag (Alex Dengler, one of the most important critics in Germany). “Here comes a novel that stands head and shoulders above the dark-romantic “sacral thrillers” of this fall; Secretum. The authors don’t narrate feverish, they take their time. Atmosphere instead of tension. Monaldi & Sorti spend most of their time in libraries. The cover of the book should actually bear a sticker: Not for Dan-Brown-Fans!” Stern – Germany. De Morgen (the biggest and most prestigious Belgian newspaper) wrote in the headlines: “Nothing is as it seems in the Rome of Monaldi & Sorti. Based on years of research, their mysteries are ingeniously conceived and voluptuously written, keeping readers breathless in the suspense. What’s their secret? Monaldi & Sorti are brilliant!” Halfway the article: “In addition to historical research and to their discoveries, they write wonderfully, and this is one of their winning cards and moreover they are clever builders of plots and counterplots. From this point of view they always respect the principle of variatio delecta: philosophical descriptions are alternated with action, descriptions of the world in the ancient times are interwoven with the psychological deepening of the relationship between Luis XIV and his mistresses, and then again intrigues, sometimes even like in a slapstick comedy. Even humour is not missing, thanks to the parrot Cesar Augustus. This all means: variations à volontè. Discussions about obstetrics or botany are also remarkable, thanks to the stylistic touch of Monaldi & Sorti, who at every step interweave history and fiction. Secretum is a fascinating baroque book. Not only for the perfect historical setting, but also because the authentic spirit of the époque is breathing through the marvellous and bountiful writing. But above all thanks to the central subject: the world is a stage, with all the rhetoric and the masquerades that are all part of the game. What is truth and what lie, verity and falsehood, appearances and hidden reality? The beau monde of the guests to the wedding, the beggars and their secret language, or Atto Melani, that sneaker, the conspiring cardinals, the “bizarre apparitions”, the decorations of villas and gardens… Nothing and nobody is what he looks like”. “Rich in sensuality, this is a masterfully told story of baroque thought and sensibility, filled with vivid impressions from the realms of politics, art, and the Church.” Trouw, the Netherlands. “Secretum is an incredibly fascinating book.” De Standaard, Belgium. “Without resorting to indigestible erudition, they recount an extraordinary political and criminal intrigue set in Rome, a plot aiming to undermine the balance of power in Europe at the end of the 17th century.” Le Figaro littéraire, France. “This extremely exciting and richly detailed historical thriller is opulent like the baroque age where it is set”. DPA (State news agency) – Germany. “The second historical crime novel of the two roman authors, who were applauded for their meticulous research, their suggestive language and imaginative interpretation of authentic documents. An exciting, opulent book, with two peculiar but very lively main characters” Blick – Switzerland. “Set within the political field of the Vatican, Imprimatur and Secretum are distinguished by the quality of impressive and substantial research they contain” Het Volk, Belgium. “A wonderful mix of historical facts and fiction” Woman, Germany. “The bestselling couple Monaldi & Sorti lives and loves the baroque atmosphere of their books. The main topics are power and intrigues. The readers can expect a whole bunch of exciting revelations”. Bunte, Germany. “Entertaining historical instruction that shows also historical machinations of the Church” ORF2 – Zeit im Bild (Tv news of the Austrian public television). “Monaldi & Sorti baffle with part three of their cycle. Veritas is a real pleasure for the lovers of baroque writing. The novels of Monaldi & Sorti are pure literature!” NRC Handlesblad – the Netherlands.
According to Monaldi & Sorti, “The past should help us better understand the present. Accordingly, everything in our novels, down to the smallest details, is historically documented or at least historically probable.” In Imprimatur and Secretum, not only are all the characters, settings, and artifacts authentic, but as “evidenced by journals and documents of the time, so are the gossip, rumors, and controversial themes discussed at meals or between them. Authentic as well are the friendships and enmities, just as they were in the reality of that time, and the physical appearances, idiosyncrasies, and manias of all the cardinals, ambassadors, and nobility… All the games and activities can be found in a variety of books about that era.”
Acclaimed in his time, esteemed by those in power, and celebrated in verse by poets, he fell into historical oblivion after his death. Only now, through the novels by Monaldi & Sorti, has Atto Melani (1626-1714) reappeared out of the historical darkness. Their hero was a remarkable figure, truly as if a character from a novel. A castrato singer and composer, later an abbot, diplomat, and secret agent, a friend of popes and cardinals, princes and kings, Melani was born the son of a poor church-bell ringer. Thanks to his talents, keen intelligence, and destiny for intrigue, he was able throughout his long, adventurous life to achieve fame, honor, and wealth. For decades he worked in close cooperation with Cardinal Mazarin and Louis, the Sun King – even acting as a spy in their service. Nobody of that period was in a better position to be privy to state secrets than Atto Melani.Eight thick volumes containing the letters of Abbot Melani, providing the core material for this literary cycle, were among the most important, and sensational, discoveries made by Monaldi & Sorti. Certainly a decisive accomplishment of scholarship was their exact reading of these letters, which had until then been generally ignored by academic research.
Obstacles and Resistance
In their first novel, Imprimatur, Monaldi & Sorti made public certain documents proving that Pope Innocent XI (proclaimed blessed in 1956) had made a deal with the protestant William of Orange – to the effect that the pope would connive in the expulsion of the Catholic ruling house of Stuarts from of England. This discovery and its literary manifestation in Imprimatur produced a certain amount of consternation among journalists and historians – and in the Vatican. The publication of the novel with its volatile revelations for the Vatican had an immediate impact on one particular priest, who happened to be the inspiration for the bishop in the novel. On the Vatican’s orders, this priest was transferred from Rome to Constanza, formerly Tumis – interestingly, the same small city on the Black Sea to which Caesar Augustus banished the poet Ovid. Caesar had suspected Ovid of having inserted allusions to delicate private affairs of the imperial family in his literary works, and so expelled him from Rome because of “literary offenses.” Likewise associated with a literary affront, this innocent priest must now adjust to life in Romania. And, as further consequence, the priest’s literary alter ego writes the letter that starts off the novel Secretum, describing his own relocation to Constantia. Although Monaldi & Sorti knew that their historical revelations were explosive, they never imagined their novels would have such far-reaching effects. Monaldi & Sorti have thus decided not to have their novels published in Italy. The first country in which Secretum and Veritas appeared was the Netherlands, the very country in which Italians of the 17th century published their writings in order to avoid papal censorship.