Kafka: A book must be an axe for the frozen sea within us

Some books are keys that open up rooms inside us, rooms that we used to know intimately but lost touch with. Jhumpa Lahiri's "In altre parole"- in which she tells the story of how she was drawn in by the Italian language to the point that she packed up her suitcase, her family and moved to Rome- is precisely such a key. Trust a writer to take language seriously enough to put her whole career to the test as she starts from scratch and composes her first work in Italian.
As she describes the painstaking, yet universe-expanding feat of immersing oneself in a language that one has already fallen in love with, I find myself remembering quite vividly my own life in a world in which all roads suddenly led to Rome. A world where there was really no difference between I promessi sposi, Neapolitan antimafia rap and those short concise provebs found on the insides of the chocolate kisses wrapped in silver and sold next to the cigarettes at the Tabaccheria. They were all products of the same language, and that place which had encapsulated me completely, erasing everything that had come before this. No, that's not true. It was more like I had come to finally understand myself, who I'd been all along, but never could fully embody.
It is a strange existence, to be in between languages; limited yet liberated, which Lahiri portrays with uncanny accuracy. Communication is difficult and one becomes raw, vulnerable somehow, without the armor that euphemisms and linguistic convention offer. 
Italian is a language that you fall into, head over heels, un colpo di fulmine. So much in me was awaken in Italy. I had my first taste of the complicated concepts of love and loss, which will be forever twisted, tied up and tangled with my memories of the place. Italy provided the backdrop to my first steps into adulthood, a strange space in which to break free and explore the boundaries of myself. I do not mean to glorify, but nostalgia is a tough adversary.
Reading Lahiri did feel like an axe, breaking the frozen sea inside of me and unleashing waves of melting water that I had built bridges over a long time ago. What a miracle to dip my hands in the warm stream again.


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