Sunday, November 11, 2018

Short story translation -- in the Kenyon Review!

I'm thrilled to say a short story I've translated has been published in the Kenyon Review!

It's called "Casta Diva," and it was written by Francesca Scotti.

Since it's not online, the best I can do is post a link to the table of contents of KR's latest print version.

The Kenyon Review has invested steadily in literature in translation and published my review last year of a new translation of Natalia Ginzburg's Lessico Famigliare.

For those keeping track, Scotti is the fourth Italian woman writer whose work I've translated and published this year. Year of the woman? I think I'll be at it more than that.

GRAZIE, Kenyon Review!


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Italian journal 2018 -- final installment

Here's the final slice of the diary I kept during our first trip to Italy with Leo. Re-reading my notes, I see my journal was more of a hodge-podge of reminders and lists, with much less reflection on my complicated ties to the crazy boot nation known as Italy. But that's the nature of travel with children. I needed to take Leo to Italy -- to marry the two parts of my life -- even if it left me little time to write while there. My apologies that the reading isn't particularly engrossing, but the trip, and the practice of recording my thoughts as I reunited with my old adopted country, reminded me of something I wrote in another Italian trip diary: I want to live in Italy and the US, or really Italy and somewhere else. Because everywhere is somewhere else compared to Italy. Thank you for reading!

Aug. 2, 2018

Scoperta: Santissima Annunziata in the piazza of the same name is stunning (duh). A gold-encrusted ceiling, plus an altar set off by a railing that encircles it completely (it's like a little altar-island), covered by a “roof” festooned with golden angels. (Editor’s note: This description fails on all levels. The altar is heartstopping.)

Scoperta #2, in piazza Santissima Annunziata – the rooftop cafe of the Museo degli Innocenti. Vista da mozzafiato. Breathtaking view of the city – the Duomo upclose, in the background the hills. Also a very elegant bar!

Aug. 3, 2018

Ritual visit to the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio where I used to do my produce shopping when I lived in Florence. Leo and I made the rounds of the outdoor produce vendors then went inside to buy some gorgonzola, just as I used to do.

I looked at the shoes on the far side of the market and then darted across the piazza to the mercatino antiquariato. Antiquing in Florence? Don’t mind if I do.

Life in Italy vs Life in the U.S. (a few observations)

My life in Italy is lived often on foot. Eating and drinking often, and often outside the (my) home.
Constantly collecting receipts from said eating and drinking. Lots of wanting, lots of consuming.

Life in the USA: Probably less activity, but also less stimulation – in tutti sensi con lati positivi e negativi…in every way, with positive and negative connotations. 

(Editor’s note, post trip: Meaning, I am often overstimulated in Italy – and unable to sleep. Perhaps because I am used to an America where there isn’t a piazza every few streets, window-shopping is at a minimum (outside of the big cities) and even if there are eateries every few yards, you’re not necessarily as tempted to stop (Taco Bell, etc). In Italy there are also constant temptations for consumerism – probably like living in NYC. Is that good? I want everything in Italy. The velvet Santo Spirito pillow, the house shoes from the pharmacy like I used to wear, the Moka with Alpinista top even though I have too many mokas already. See a pattern?)

Leo is learning some Italian. At the supermarket in Florence, for example, he knew to say “Leo” (pronounced “Layo”) when the cashier asked him, “Come ti chiami?” He can also respond correctly to these questions: “Ti piace la pasta?” (Do you like pasta?) and “Da dove vieni?” (Where are you from?”)
Future trips?

*How about a Tuscany-only trip (for old time’s sake): Montalcino, Montepulciano, Colle Val D’Elsa, Volterra; Val D’Orcia

*Or: one week in Rome

Aug 3, 2018 -- STILL!
On the highway between Rome and Naples, and we are surrounded by some of the highest mountains I’ve ever seen. Gorgeous. Let’s go climbing!

Best dishes of the trip so far:
*Le pappardelle al ragu di anatra (wide noodle pasta with a duck-based ragu sauce) – Pistoia
*Le pappardelle ai funghi con verdure (Abetone -- outside of Pistoia)
*Mixed antipasto – Il Quartino a Sesto (thanks Ilaria e Rosario!)
(Last entry added at the end of the trip -- read on)
*I troccoli allo scoglio – in Vieste (they had me at ‘scoglio’)

Best ciambelline so far (very important ranking)
*Caffe Pinti (corner of Borgo Pinti and Via Giusti) -- Florence
*Coronas Cafe – via dei Calzaiuoli – produzione propria ma ci mancherebbe
*Bar at the foot of Ponte alla Carraia, via Serragli side
(Last entry added at the end of the trip)
*Panificio Giuffredda – Defensola neighborhood, Vieste

Stopping at the autogrill on our way down south, we order sandwiches for lunch and the cashier automatically asks, “Il caffe lo vuole dopo?” Do you want a coffee after your meal?

From the Department of business cards I saved: Our fresh fish diet in Puglia, courtesy of La Pescheria, Loc. Defensola, 68, in Vieste. Where the fishmonger asked Leo, “Come ti chiami?” and he not only correctly replied, “Leo,” but also knew the answer to “Quanti anni hai?” (The response: Sei – 6). Another moment where a heart of attack of happiness nearly leveled me!
August 9, 2018
So much goes unrecorded, and not recorded until later when it’s come to seem like a totally normal event. Like:

*Walking – but sometimes careening -- down a rock-strewn path to reach our preferred beach in Vieste (Puglia), only to then walk across the tiny spit of a beach and through the water to reach a second even better beach. (Just like Jersey! Well, no, not at all).

*The blessed saltiness of spaghetti alle vongole; you’re inhaling the sea with every bite

*Also Italians on vacation – an encyclopedia of habits in and of itself (i.e., the gear they pack – including proper lunches with real utensils and snacks, not handfuls of sandy potato chips – in order to stay at the beach ALL DAY. And I mean ALL DAY).

*Related: how finding some Italian habits annoying is a gift – that’s deep immersion

*The light – the sunlight, especially at 5 pm. Artists, of course, have known this about Italy for centuries but it doesn’t lessen the "eureka moment" you might have every day here.

Cristiano cannot host us in his apartment in Naples because a pipe burst so we call the B and B where we stayed the last time we were in San Marco and managgia, they are hosting a wedding party so the main hotel – the beautiful, stone, medieval building – is occupied but there is a satellite location we can stay at.
Aug. 4, 2018
First night in San Marco (Mike’s grandfather’s town) and it’s "summer fest." 

We arrive tired from the drive and from two weeks of full-on vacationing only to find our hotel (the satellite location) is two feet from a blaring musical block party of sorts that went on long into the night. Quiet mountain town? Not so much. I took melatonin, inserted ear plugs and drifted off to intermittent sleep.

By music, I mean there was a live band (they played a version of Gianna Nannini’s "America," the only bright spot of the night) AND a DJ playing techno tunes.

Yes: techno music hammering our little hotel where our little angel somehow managed to sleep (although only about 9 hours). Ahhh....Italy!

Aug 5
How to rebuild “Marisa” in a way that lifts it above the traditional original stesura that is trite and lifeless? Note to self: Re-read Alice Munro short stories.

Is this worth the time or what about “Polly’s Guide to Italian Men”?

We are finally at a low moment in the trip – our stay in San Marco, two nights of ear-splitting music for the majority of the night. Not 2-3 hours, because they probably played from 10 pm to 3am or 4am (I declined to look at my watch for fear of flying into a rage).

Best laid plans of mice and men. We had talked up the visit to the town so much to Leo (who christened it “Cocca-town” since half the population or more has "Cocca" as a surname). Well, I suppose really the visit was only disappointing to the adults so onward and upward.
We are on the coast of Puglia, “immersi nel verde” (as hotel brochures like to say) but it’s a verde molto particolare. The Airbnb house isn’t in a forest ("verde") but rather a grove of olive trees, fig trees, palm trees, etc.

We are staying in the town of Vieste in an area called Defensola. When we arrived, we were tired from the long journey, and we stopped at a gas station where there was also a restaurant. (Not so odd in a smaller town, especially a resort town like Vieste,) And it was there that I ate the best spaghetti alle vongole I’ve ever had (spaghetti with clam sauce, but it was a type of clam I’ve never had stateside – long and meaty). Stunningly good.

Leo asks, “Mommy, what’s your favorite number to count to?

And he asks, “What’s your favorite part of Italy?”

And also, “Mommy, what’s your favorite sea animal?”

One more: “Mommy, what’s your least favorite odd number?”

(Editor’s note: these are actual questions, transcribed as close to the moment uttered as possible so as to ensure authenticity. I want wallpaper with these questions. I want these questions to never end. Oh and for the record: 100, Florence, sea turtle and 11).

In Vieste, there’s no orario continuato. Shops – even the larger supermarkets – close for lunch. What a throwback.
How this trip differs from the last two: full immersion vs partial immersion.

This is a trip of the latter, which shamefully leaves me hungering for encounters with Italian, with any circumstance in which I can brush up against Italian life. Even a car radio blaring the voice of the DJ! (Editor’s note: when you’re alone, you can do anything, go anywhere, talk to anyone as long as you want)

Aug. 8
7:25 a.m.
Awake, alone, translating, scribbling notes nel bel mezzo della campagna pugliese. I’m surrounded by olive and fig trees, as I mentioned, and I feel like the only person alive. Yay! (I can hear, however, noises from birds and other animals lurking about plus the clink of the coffee spoons in the vacation rental next door).
I, too, am learning new words! Mancino = lefty. (Leo!)

Aug 9

Vieste is the Italian summer holiday headquarters.

We are just outside the town and in an area dominated by vacation villaggi – only Italians would dream this up. They’re not resorts – few stars/stele – but with the all-inclusive vibe (including presumably a coffee bar!). Everyone is squeezed in on top of each other – which is how they like it! 

Even in the digital age, Italians still hunger for human contact.

Aug 11
Final morning of the trip. We’re in Focene, a seaside town outside of Rome by the airport. Note for future trips, Jeanne: the beach towns near the Rome airport! That’s where it’s at.

As I write, I am eating the largest ciambellina I’ve ever seen (hot from the oven!). Perfetto!


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New lit by Italian women writers in translation (by me!)

I've had another translation published -- and another Italian woman author can now begin building a following in America.

It's a short story called "Autumn Lessons" by Francesca Marzia Esposito and I simply love it. You can find the story here and what follows is a tiny excerpt:

Lori runs past me in the hallway. He says he has to use the bathroom. I follow him with my gaze then I look back at Max’s pained face. I keep my hand on the door knob. He’s not coming in anyway. He readjusts his eyeglasses on the bridge of his nose; it’s a new tic of his. He’s been doing it over and over now for a few months. When we were together, he didn’t do it, this tiny repetitive movement. It could drive you nuts. But maybe he just needs to tighten the screws on the frames.
“How did it go?” I ask.
“Is there something I need to know?” Is it about Sandra, I wonder? But I don’t say it.
“No,” he says. “Everything is okay. I’m just tired. We’ll talk another time.”
Once upon a time, I think, as I close the door. But it didn’t go that way.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Italian journal 2018 -- part II

July 28, 2018

We're experiencing un caldo tremendo which I’m exacerbating by drinking too much wine and eating too much everything. I am actually ‘carb-loading’! Something I rarely do. Pizza/pasta/even taralli, which Mike bought and which I normally swear off.

Plus lots of morning biscotti! (We bought a bag of galletti at the store).

As I write, we're on the train to Sesto to see Ilaria and Rosario. Wondering what funny things Rosario will say to Leo – he’s very funny with children! (Editor's note: especially "funny" with children who misbehave)
Dexter works now at the Scottish pub – in Corso dei Tintori. I learn this by leaving the apartment rental and bumping into him two blocks from Santo Spirito. He’s on his bike, biking to work. How long has it been since I’ve seen him? Not sure. Could be two years. Could be 10.
Orario for the trains to Pistoia:

18:47 à 19:03
19:10 à 19:21

Vicki says we can take the #2 bus to the Giardino all’Orticultura. Also the #57 bus.

Children can turn any event into a time for play. We went out with Ilaria and Rosario tonight and afterwards when they took us to the train station, I think Leo simply liked waiting on the platform for the train. 

It’s also amazing how much can be communicated without words. Leo doesn’t speak but a few words of Italian but he definitely “met” Ilaria and Rosario. He knows them now.

Writing? Almost nothing. Translating? Little, but I did buy a new copy of the Di Lascia text so I feel (mistakenly) like I’ve actually accomplished something (I’d kill for a version in hardback).

I have to restrain myself in the bookstores. There’s a new one here in Florence – IBS. The Internet portal turned brick-and-mortar store. It’s enormous. On Via Cerretani.

Angelo e Vicki's boys -- David (9) and Kristian (12) -- are learning English in school but they were shy about speaking it when we met up with them today! I love talking to them in Italian. I like the way they enunciate so clearly – I think all children do. It’s before the mumble stage that the rest of us carry on in.

I pay a visit to Roberta, the scarf store I once patronized. But the viscido salesman from so long ago whom I’ve been trying to drop into a short story isn’t there anymore.
I fear I will totally have to re-write “Polly’s Guide to Italian Men.”
On the train again, this time headed to Pistoia to see Giovanni and Veronica. It’s one of the appuntamenti that mean the most to me during our trip.
July 31, 2018 -- Da Giovanni

Two nights in Giovanni’s mansardo. Quiet, peaceful, an outpost of generosity. We wake up in the morning, there are three kinds of biscotti, coffee, hot milk, marmellata, homemade bread and a willingness to help in any way. Giovanni and Veronica are the best kind of Italians. Plus they have a veranda where you’ll find an olive tree, a lemon bush and two planters full of basil. An oasis, a house full of love and all of the mementos a loving life produces.
(Back in Florence) Leo and I visit the private park at the Four Seasons hotel behind Irene's house. Irene said we should just tell the concierge that we are going to the cafe. When we walk up, there are two doormen out front and I dutifully tell them that we want to visit the bar (but not without some trepidation), and one of them looks at Leo’s shirt – a Fiorentina soccer jersey – and says, “Con quella maglietta lui può andare dove vuole!” With that shirt, he can go wherever he wants.

The private park – or the hotel grounds, you could say, but they are large enough and grand enough that the word park seems to fit – is exquisite, with sculpture and perfectly manicured landscaping.

But also confounding. This is Florence? So manicured, so pristine. An oasis tucked away that it would appear only rich foreigners can enjoy, while outside the walls of the hotel property a heat wave broils the city.
Ode to the iconic Italian coffee bars: a refuge, un appoggio, a democratic venue, culinarily speaking. They are communal spaces where most people consume their coffees side by side at a counter, unlike at Starbucks where many retrieve their coffees and then retreat alone to a table. (Retrieve and retreat). Italian coffee bars are mini town squares -- in small Italian villages, they function practically like town hall where anyone and everyone comes at some point in the day. They open in the morning for coffee and pastries and often remain open until midnight, serving wine and beer and just about anything else you can think of. 

But mainly they serve company, they serve interaction and community. Chitchatting with the barista about soccer or politics is a time-honored Italian tradition (and one of the best reasons for an expat to master Italian).

It’s the real bar “where everyone knows your name” (though unlike the bar in "Cheers," visits there often have nothing to do with alcohol, especially for Italian patrons).

I’m moved to write this ode for several reasons, or really due to several bars I visited this trip where the barista – who might have been just some young kid – cheerfully greeted every single person who walked in the door. Not the fake chain store greeting but a genuine welcome, with a tone that suggests, ‘Oh good, you’re here.’

Aug. 1, 2018
Still staying at my friend Irene’s house in Florence (my old roommate!). I’m having one of those moments that seem inverosimili. How did I get here? Oh sure, it’s not like I know the Queen of England but I know someone whose gorgeous apartment overlooks a private park attached to a hotel that's so grand the Queen of England might actually stay there.

Unrelated: Would the Accademia della Crusca care to collaborate?! (As if) I’m driven to jotting down instances of English I see in Italy for airport parking. Specifically, it’s signage for an off-site parking lot – presumably open to all, including, ahem, Italians! – and it’s simply called PARKING. Like that’s some internationally-known word or brand, along with Coca-cola, OK and computer. Um, not really.

(As I transcribe these notes, I see an article in ITALIAN trumpeting “foliage” tours near Torino. Because only in English do we have foliage. Leaves and especially leaves that have turned Fall colors are clearly NOT NATIVE to Italy (!!!), hence they must use an English phrase to describe the phenomenon. Poveracci! No word, apparently, for foliage. Despite thousands of years of actual foliage).

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Italian journal -- 2018 (Part I)

July 21, 2018
On board the plane to Rome. Leo says, “This is life in the air.”

July 22, 2018
We arrived in Rome today and we’ve already visited the Pantheon, my favorite building in Italy (Mike's, too). I asked Leo if it was now his favorite building in Italy, too. Wisely, he held off on commenting, having only arrived two hours ago.

Our hotel is tucked inside the walls of the city, by the Villa Borghese.

A proposito: at the park around the Villa, our visit morphs into a one-of-a-kind, laugh-filled afternoon tooling around the sprawling property in a "rickshaw bike." It looks – vaguely – like a rickshaw but has bike wheels. And feels as though it is about to tip over every second!
I am awake now at 3:30 a.m. Probably partly an oversight, as far as the sleep aids I chose, but also the Italian motor within has been awoken and won’t shut down! Walking + streetlife + errands + vistas + the lingua di Dante. That’s too potent a combination for a simple sleep aid to conquer.

In Rome, seeing things I’ve never seen before, despite myriad visits and even a summer spent tutoring spoiled Roman noble children.

Take, again, the Villa Borghese and the magnificent park that surrounds it, which includes an overlook in Piazza Bucarest of the city, bursting with cupolas of every size. Oh this exists? Oh, okay.

Plus Via Veneto. I remember being there maybe once. How fancy! Home to the American Embassy, well whaddaya know. Even Palatine Hill – sure I’d visited before but so much of it appeared thoroughly new to my eye. Is that Rome's magic?

In the taxi ride from the airport, I saw a sign for Via Merulana, from the Gadda book (The one with the title that begins "Quer pasticciaccio"). First time visitor!
In Florence now: we are staying on Via del Campuccio, in Santo Spirito, a stone’s throw from my old apartment on Via dei Serragli. The key for the door: to open, place the logo down and turn clockwise a quarter turn. Va bene. I’ll try.

Leo says, “Mommy, what’s your favorite vowel?”


(I've learned to have answers for any question he asks, even if I have to stall first with, "Oh that's a good question.")

He agrees. “Me, too. ‘E’ is in my name and the word love and there are two in your name.”

July 25, 2018
Scoperta: Piazza Torquato Tasso has a playground. And a small soccer field. The piazza is also home to Il Tranvai (where Floriano took me many moons ago). Leo and I walk onto the mini soccer field where we find a 6-year-old Florentine boy who’s more than happy to kick around the soccer ball (courtesy of the Della Roccas -- see below).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Souvenir shrine, or what I bought in Italy

My favorite post-Italian trip ritual (outside of crying and lamenting my exile) is to lay out my souvenir haul on a table and arrange the items for a “group photo.” Yep, a group photo of my souvenirs. It’s essentially a tiny, secular shrine to all the things I love about Italy. Probably sounds sad!

Odd thing is that in my post-trip melancholy, I find that seeing the little bits and pieces of Italy I’ve cobbled together to bring back gives me a tiny jolt. Right now, in particular, a steady bolt of vacation memory euphoria comes my way every time I catch sight of a small ceramic wine carafe decorated with an image of grapes that we bought in Vieste, in Puglia’s Gargano peninsula. Essentially my life depends in this moment on its beauty, on how lucky I feel that I persuaded Mike we could fit it into the suitcase.

Also a set of "Buongiorno" coffee cups. The “O” at the end is actually a little picture of the sun! Dying over here right now from the Mediterranean madness for quaint and picturesque.

And a beautiful picture of Florence – is it an engraving? Not sure how to describe it. And many many other things, including books, of course (Rossella Milone’s Cattiva AND a book of poetry Edith Bruck gave me as a gift and finally Sciascia’s book about the Aldo Moro kidnapping); magazines, the weekly puzzle magazine Italians are crazy for (not the only weekly puzzle book for sale at the giornalaio, if you can believe it! Not even close); a Florence coloring book of important paintings from the Uffizi (for Leo, though I can attest it will satisfy big colorers, too), plus two baby bottles of wine from Puglia (which is to say bottles of wine that are small, not baby bottles you might give to a baby) and a quartino wine carafe, like you get in a trattoria.

Putting the two wine carafes aside, the items I prize most whenever I return from Italy are inevitably made of paper. The books, the magazines, the Florentine paper. I even bought a roll of paper with the Florentine giglio to line dresser drawers and kitchen shelves. And I am not even thinking of all the little receipts and business cards and brochures I tucked into my purse and which followed me home. As they did last year; the bag of receipts from Torino is still sitting in my closet. If I were to look at them, I would find -- like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs -- a trail of the places I visited.

So there you have it – my souvenir group photo. Holding onto the trip by gazing at my shrine.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

An Italophile prepares for a trip to Italy

I'm not thinking about monuments -- except the Pantheon, my favorite building in Italy -- nor am I likely to visit many museums.

I am instead, as an Italophile preparing for a trip to Italy this summer, thinking about ciambelline -- see the name of this blog! -- and where I will be eating them and how to find the largest, freshest ones at each stop along my route.

And I'm picturing myself walking the streets, almost obsessively, as a way to reclaim my adopted country. (I won't be happy unless I walk all day.) I'm thinking about window-boxes full of flowers and all of the other small workaday jewels I hope will pass before my eyes when I touch down in Italy.

I am thinking about my own private itinerary, especially in Florence: lingering under the window of our old apartment near Santa Croce in Florence; visiting Bar Simone across from the turbine plant where I worked; stopping by piazza della Repubblica because I had to thread my way under its arch and across its lovely cobblestones so many evenings on my way home when I lived in Florence; making a beeline for Costa San Giorgio and via Erta Canina and all the other hilly streets on the Oltrarno where one can get a good walk and a stunning view all at once.

Also: Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio, where I did my produce shopping, making sure to walk through Piazza dei Ciompi on the way (in the hopes the antiques market is still there). Also: any place where Italian words will be on display. So bookstores -- but also grocery stores. Plus, the sandwich shops along Via della Vigna Nuova, and the Arco di San Pierino where druggies used to prowl but now tourists consult maps on their iPhones.

I'm fantasizing about the beach towns in Puglia I'll visit for the part of the trip down South. I know that will be the most languorous leg of the trip, and I am already imagining the Pugliese wine (Nero di Troia, Aglianico, Primitivo, ecc) I'll be consuming along with bruschetta and spaghetti allo scoglio from beachside cafes as good as what you'd find in a city.

In other words, I am making a mental list of my must-sees, and more often than not they consist of tiny corners of Florence (and to a lesser extent Rome and Puglia) where I feel I can best breathe in the Italian way of life.

I'm also thinking about about what I will buy. What mementos will follow me home and insinuate themselves among my belongings, serving as little bursts of Italophilia in my daily life.

Well, I'll buy books, it goes without saying (thinking of perhaps shipping a crate home, in fact -- no joke. The literary translator's indulgence?).

Also, coffee, of course (Caffe Kimbo and other Southern Italian brands that are a bit hard to find in the States). Saffron, Italian breakfast cookies (if for no other reason than to distribute them to Starbucks for a teaching moment). Also maybe a new coffee canister. And another darling red and green "mokina" coffee maker, like this one.
And magazines of all kinds (including the political weeklies, maybe a cooking mag, and the world's most beautiful travel magazine: Bell'Italia). Plus postcards, brochures, stationery. Papery vehicles of Italian artistry, in other words (particularly vibrant in Florence where the decorative arts were much prized during the Renaissance).

I also fantasize about conversations I will have in Italian when I arrive. (Hey I'm old -- this is how I get my jollies! Too much wine and I am not jolly the next day). Conversations with friends, conversations with baristas (soccer will come up) and fruit vendors and the taxi cab driver (che casino!) and the signora waiting for the bus who's worried there might be a sciopero (labor strike).

And what I do to prepare for this onslaught of conversation and kibbitzing is listen to podcasts and watch movies and of course read Italian. Though I've found in recent years it's best, before embarking on a trip to Italy, if I consult newspapers, magazines and web sites rather than bury myself in, say, D'Annunzio. What are Italians talking about now? That's what I want to know. That's the talk soup I want to slip into once I arrive (even if it includes the name Salvini).

Here are some books I'm reading:

Lezioni di Tenebra, Helena Janeczek (who just won the Premio Strega!)
Non ora, non qui, Erri de Luca 

I'm also listening to podcasts, including this one.

Here's a movie I watched to gear up, with the amazing Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher:

Last but not least, a song from my personal, ready-get-set-Italy soundtrack (used in a film I want to see so badly, Il Nome del Figlio, with Alessandro Gassman).



Monday, February 19, 2018

Ho vinto! PEN-Heim translation grant news

I swear I rarely have the privilege of saying "I won" but I can truly say I have won a grant to continue work on a translation of an important Italian book that I desperately want to bring to the English-speaking world.

The award is the PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature, part of the prestigious PEN-Heim Translation Grant program (given by PEN America, which is probably the most important literary organization in the US, and one that is on the front lines, fighting for writers' freedom to express themselves without fear or repercussions all over the world).

And the book is Mariateresa Di Lascia's 1995 novel, Passaggio in Ombra (working title: "A Walk in the Shadows"), which won Italy's top literary award, the Premio Strega.

You can read about the other wonderful projects that won PEN translation grants here.

Long live Italian literature -- particularly literature by women authors!


Friday, February 02, 2018

Post-Italy trip journal ('bits' journals)

It's been a long time since I've published part of my journal and an equally long time since I put out a call for the "bits" journal. It's the diary where you jot down little observations, thoughts, bits of inspiration. Who has one they want to share? Here's a slice from mine, at the moment last year when I had just returned from my trip to Italy:

May 24, 2017
Arrived last night alle 6 from Torino/Milano/Fir trip…and even though I only went to bed at 9, I woke up a mere six hours later and couldn’t go back to sleep not because of jet lag or my internal body clock or anything like that but because I couldn’t turn off the Italian conversation and thought generator in my mind! It’s 3 a.m. and I’m thinking of one more thing I want to tell Giovanni and an idea to share with Irene, and thoughts about collaborations with Luca and bits of conversations held during my delightful trip to Torino, Firenze and Milano. I’m walking down streets in these three stupendous cities and commenting as I go….in Italian, of course, sempre in Italian, or some weird mix of Italian and English.

Oh Italy, damn it, you’ve effin’ done it again! Why would I ever want to be just thinking in English, quando invece posso permettermi what I call the bifurcated mind, forever divided between the two languages. But not an orderly division but rather a wonderfully Italian brand of caos where a thought begins in English e finisce invece in italiano.

One more thing, as I am writing in my journal: CROSS OFF 'ITALIAN TRIP' from the "to do" list….Bell’e fatto!

May 25, 2017
I find myself trying to extend the lease on this burst of Italian life that has taken over me – an esprit de corps that develops when Jeanne spends a week walking miles upon miles each day through Italian cities that return the favor with delights and curiosita’ around every corner.

I feel this energy draining from me as I go back to driving everywhere, as I go back to having to connive walks out of Leo, to a city where walking is simply not the Flaneur tradition I love so much…

Can we call this the American paradox? Oh what a wonderful country, what a country of innovation and industry and possibility…but I feel so much more alive in another country (!!!). Part of the blame goes squarely to Atlanta but it ain’t like it’s the only city in America where it’s not easy to live the walking life style.

I worry even about how to go back to a life that’s so sedentary…Yesterday all I wanted to do was walk and I struggled to come up with places to walk….

My tongue still wants to form Italian words…The Italian conversation generator in my mind is still running in the background. I need to take advantage of it, perhaps to write something!

Poesia? Ce la farei? L’unica cosa che mi appare ‘facile’ che poi non lo e’. 

It bears mention that I am super thin and full of energy! Why? Well, of course, I just came back from “my spa.”

June 2, 2017

I was there, I was really there, and waking up way too early this morning, I remember – I was there, and now I am so far away, and the trip to Italy is receding in the distance and last week – when I was still there – might as well be last month. I’m back to my car-centric life, back to a life spent with so few interfaces, that IS the way I like it but somehow in Italy, I’m okay with constantly “interlocuting” with this or that other person. It seems natural. Like being in motion – being in motion in Italy feels so normal. Here, there’s just so much space to traverse before you reach a point of interest. Is it simply the “other”?

June 13, 2017
I appear to be writing a travel story for CNN – seems impossible since it will fulfill one of my writing goals for the year – and here are some of the thoughts that may or may not make it into the final version:

I’d somehow forgotten how lovely it is that in Italy the baristas talk to the customers – I mean really talk to them. It’s actually worth learning Italian for.
When I saw a barista point to multiple sizes of paper coffee cups at a bar at the Milan airport, it set off a small death somewhere inside of me. I’d never, ever seen something like that before at an Italian bar. Coffee used to come in two sizes: espresso – a little baby shot of coffee, as we all know now – or cappuccino size. Which is the size of the standard coffee cup in Italy. Period.
But some things never change. Outdoor booksellers still meticulously set up their wares, in the case of Torino, underneath the porticos. That means no rain interferes while you browse the widest and most random selection of Italian books you’ve ever seen. Ancient art books, obscure foreign political treatises, well-preserved comics, everything … They’re permanent fixtures in Italian cities – this, in a country of non-readers. Who buys the books? I don’t know and I don’t care. I like to think that in Italy some things, for better or for worse, are still done despite an assurance that the profits will be small. Very small. As I perused the books, I liked to think the booksellers knew that for a literary type like me, nothing beats glancing at titles and flipping through books outdoors, while occasionally glancing up at a bike crossing the piazza or the Renaissance church across the way….


Friday, January 19, 2018

My essay on Tabucchi's Viaggi ed altri viaggi

"It’s a travel writer’s job to enchant us with tales of lands we’ve never seen—and which we may never see. But it seems like a particular phenomenon when the travel writer is enticing you to visit a land where he, too, is a foreigner. 

"So infectious is Italian novelist Antonio Tabucchi’s account of his travels in Portugal in the original Italian that one cannot wait until the book is translated into English to write a “review” of it. Not that Tabucchi sounded like a foreigner when he wrote lovingly of Portugal and of his second tongue, Portuguese. Quite the opposite. But that’s often what acolytes and converts sound like: They are more fervent than the natives."

To read the rest of this essay on Tabucchi's book of travel essays, Viaggi ed altri viaggi , please click here to visit Three Percent's web site.