My relationship with Italy and the Italian language has been filled with twists. Although bilingual and educated (for the most part) in Italian, since waving goodbye to my odd little highschool I have not used it much. At university I tutored those learning, and naturally sang arias in it, but it was no longer the language of conversation or education. Italian literature, which had once filled my shelves and summers, was no longer a staple of my printed diet. Eco, Buzzati, Salgari, Levi fell by the wayside to make room for all the American literary pop culture I needed to catch up on.
My relationship to the country itself has also been problematic, especially since experiencing Japanese society. While Italy is a land of unspeakable beauty and other delights, it can also be loud, confrontational and aggressive. Thinking of those around you is not as common as it is in Tokyo. Being an introvert in Italy can be absolutely exhausting, as I feel I must be on my guard. In a way I turned away from my own country.
Then upon my virtual doorstep arrives Giappone Mon Amour, and shocks me into remembering how absolutely beautiful Italian writing can be. A language replete with adjectives, highly specific verbs and turns of phrase, it is a delight to the reader. With the exception of the occasional Benni book it has been years since I have surrounded myself with such a rush of latinate words.
Italian writing, like speaking, has an unmistakable torrential cadence, as you can often read for half a page before finding a period. Like all deluges, a lengthily elaborated thought will break off sharply and go into another, tenuously related direction. It feels like being wrapped in the wafting smell of deeply roasted coffee and lashings of sugar.
After so many years of spending each day pushing at my ignorance of Japanese, reading her work and fully understanding the references, quotes and literary tradition she links to is like sinking into a warm onsen.
So here I am, sitting in a Tokyo train, falling in love again with Italian, thanks to a woman I have never met (although I hope to, as she has a really adorable corgi) and her impressions of Japan.
The universe works in mysterious ways.