Lost words, words found


I recently found, in the bookshelves of friends’ house, a book I had forgotten. I actually thought it was in my old room in Italy. I found it in Switzerland. It travelled, now I remember, from Italy, to Spain, to Germany, to Switzerland and it is now with me here in London.
The book title, in Italian, is ‘La Donna di Porto Pym’. The author is Antonio Tabucchi. A writer I used to love a lot, in the same way one loves writers who are linked to a specific part of our life, a journey, an encounter, memories.
I have not been reading books of him for several years now, but I have the impressions and feelings that his books gave me fifteen years ago. Blurred memories where the stories he narrates are mixed with past events.
Tabucchi is also the author of ‘Notturno Indiano’, ‘Indian Nocturne’, a short book that had a great influence on me. Printed on nice yellowish paper. Almost squared size. With a rough paper as it they had not finished the work of making it smooth for the print. Nice to feel on the finger tips. It was recommended by a German friend living in Munich. A book we exchange as a present among few friends for Christmas and birthdays and who gave to two if us (Gennaro and me) the idea of plan our first trip outside Europe to India. We were 23 years old and together with three more friends we bought our rucksacks and set for the great trip. We bought India’s Lonely Planet guide, which at that time was available only in English language and from selected bookshops in Milan. The same guide, the main character of ‘Indian Nocturne’, flips through in the cab along Marine Drive in Bombay, upon his arrival to India. We were characters of a story (our stories) and travellers. I felt partly in the book and partly on a great adventure.
I could not say it then, but can now: that journey and discovery with all its difficulties, its inexperience, its moments on the roof of a night bus from Kathmandu down to the Indian border in Sunauli, changed me and contributed to the fact that I am now here in London, writing these words, on this laptop, thinking about going back to Katja and the girls to Ha Noi in two weeks time.
I open the first page of ‘La Donna di porto Pym’. Strange how this books has reminded me of the other, ‘Indian Nocturne’. I open the fist page. On the top-right corner a date: 30.12.87. It’s my mother handwriting and it’s her birthday. I cannot recall if it was me who went to the bookshop to buy it as a present or whether it was her who went to buy it for herself. I imagine a old foggy day in my hometown. I flip thorough the short stories and see the one where a man describes in great detail for three pages a famous Van Gogh painting in a museum to a friend, and only in the last couple of lines we discover that this fiend is actually blind. Then another short story: ‘Persone Felici’ (‘Happy People’). The young researcher and the literature professor. They are sitting at the terrace of a small restaurant looking over the ocean (I imagine Portugal). She is young, he is much older. The evening is mild. The ocean moves slowly along its currents and waves. The line of the horizon hidden by a thin haze. The sun already below it, but still spreading his fading light to the sky. The white table cloth, the typical appetizers: black olives, goat cheese, white bread. A glass of white wine for him, just water for her. They do not seem to talk much. They look at the ocean. They do not seem too happy. She is accompanying him for a conference. They talk only few words. Then she tells him she is pregnant. The tension has gone. Words are flown away by the wind and there are only their eyes looking at each other to tell how happy they are.