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Dacia Maraini is a stalwart Italian writer, and I was indeed fortunate to be able to get to know her better yesterday evening. This blog is an on-again-off-again affair, and I would have probably not posted today either other than the fact that something Maraini said stuck in my head.

“Words pain a writer,” she said, “a writer, fights with words, fights against words, fights for words.”

Powerful stuff, that.

The evening was part of the week of Italian language the world over, and there was also a lot of conversation about how English words are entering the Italian language. Whether they are contaminating Italian, or if they are a natural step in the evolution of the language was a matter of debate.

To me, the answers are very clear. Being an Indian, I write in English, but that that does not make me less Indian. English is just another language, just like the three others I speak, and that is that. But this attitude might be the result of India’s colonial occupation. The Italians are newly exposed to English in this increasingly globalized world, and it will take them time to see it as just another language, and not a threat.

I wanted to say all this but desisted.

Here was an 83-year old, who had survived a concentration camp as a six year old. She fairly lit up the convention hall with her beauty and energy, and all I wanted to do was just soak it all up and be silent.

I have to look up her books and start reading.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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One Comment

  • shoreacres says:

    What an interesting post. I've experienced first-hand the French ambivalence toward the English language, but never had thought about such anxieties or animosities in terms of the Italians.

    I appreciated the quotation about the writer's struggle with and fight for words. But that isn't the whole story – which I'm sure Dacia Maraini understands. Words also are a joy, a gift, a surprise. It can be a struggle to find the right word (the poem which gave my blog its title has a first line which says "Even the right word takes effort"), but the pain she speaks of implies an intimacy with words the non-writer probably doesn't know.

    I wonder if her early life experiences have shaped her view of language and writing in such a way that the struggle predominates?

    Any any event, great, thought-provoking post. Thank you!