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What does your title refer to or signify, and why is this the title of your collection?
The Other Language is also the title of the first story of the collection, in which a 12-year-old Italian girl from Rome, in the wake of her mother’s sudden death, falls in love with an English boy with whom she longs to communicate. So she decides to learn his language because she loves him, but also because “one of the many ways to survive the pain buried inside her was to become an entirely different person.” She’s looking, too, for a change in herself. All these stories are in different ways stories about change: transitions—displacements— not only geographical, but emotional as well.
What is your experience with “other languages”? What, do you think, happens to you when you speak a language not your native one?
The book’s epigraph is from a Derek Walcott poem: “To change your language you must change your life.” Learning a new language is an act of transformation; it means delving into another logic, a new mental construct. We become different people when we speak another language, and that can be exciting, rejuvenating—but often frightening, a bit like walking in the dark. In some way by speaking a new language we commit an act of betrayal towards our mother tongue, our past identity. But we also sometimes can, in moving beyond our comfort zones, find a new kind of freedom, and I think a writer can find great freedom in a language that is not his or her own.
Why, as a native Italian speaker, do you write your novels in English?
I lived for many years in the States and then in Kenya, so and I have spent half of my adult life speaking English; it has never abandoned me, not even now that I’ve gone back to live in Italy. It has become my truest voice on the page; it allows me to express myself without the constraints and the inhibitions of my native language. I love how direct and concise English can be, compared with the richly convoluted, often ambiguous baroque of Italian. Plus, humor in English is somehow unbeatable.
All of the stories in this collection involve some sort of travel and going to spaces out of one’s element where one is a stranger/foreigner. Why do you write so much about travelling and feature so many travelers as protagonists?
My life has been quite nomadic, and I find it difficult to call any place “home.” Since I was a child I dreamed of going to live in faraway, exotic places, and that wanderlust, which is also maybe a kind of malaise, still affects me today. Being unmoored from the familiar brings an edge, a sense of vulnerability—which is a feeling I treasure. It’s an excellent state for a writer to be in, as he or she creates something new. And a wonderful feeling to explore.
What is your favorite place to travel? To live?
I live in Rome now, and I have a love/hate relationship with it. More love than hate, I’ll admit. I’ve lived in New York, too, when I was young, and spent quite a lot of time there. But I left my heart in Kenya and fell in love with New Mexico, where I lived for a short time in my mid-forties, and where I return as often as I can. Nature and wide-open spaces play a very important role for me. I can’t bear to have my feet walking on concrete for too long.
Wonderful, thoughtful a group of stories that doesn't infect your mind with negativity or angst. Just real people being real. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Andrea Pflaumer
I read a lot and this was one of the best books I read this year. The story about the Channel dress is amazing.Published 2 months ago by Traveling Lady
Wonderfully written book with special and unusual stories, all of which transported me to faraway places! The author's use of language is phenomenal. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Robin Sue
These short stories - although very different in tone and perspective - all contain a single voice which grew and developed as I read each story. Read morePublished 4 months ago by corinne d clark