The Italian

I met an Italian at Mosaik on Sunday. He was a musician who had been living in Berlin for the last 3 years and seemed to carry his drum wherever he went. Since being on my year abroad, social boldness has become somewhat of habit for me, so as soon as I found out he was Italian I plonked myself on the seat next to me and asked him to chat; he graciously humoured me. We ended up speaking all three of my spoken languages at various intervals as if the different phases of the conversation were different verses of a song.

He said that when someone speaks in their mother-tongue you can hear the music of the language: a beautiful accurate and probably very Italian way of putting it. We talked about this musical aspect of language for a while longer, putting it down to personality and experiences often being centered in one language and how we feel most ourselves when we speak in our mother-tongue, that personality is always communicated through a persons voice and tone. He spent a lot of time trying to perfect the rhythms and lilts in my Italian, claiming that I could try as hard as I wanted to, but I wouldn't truly sound (or sing) Italian unless I was willing to spend 50 years of my life in Italy. Only then would he consider my Italian perfect.

I asked him if he missed Italy and he turned to me, hands cupped and eyes earnest and asked 'What is Italy?' with the most despondent and philosophical tone. 'To me Italy is the language, my friends and the 1km space of land I grew up in. And the first two I carry around with me always, so no, I do not miss Italy, because I have no reason to' He then drew back and asked me to speak in English once more because he wanted to hear the musicality in my voice.

He went back to Berlin on Monday and I probably will never see him again, but it was such a delicious encounter that I can't help but wonder whether our paths will cross again someday (perhaps when I've spent 50 years in Italy!) Caro Adam, thank you for giving me a glimpse into what a trilingual existence will look like.

Disclaimer: this is not a candid photograph, but rather the product of typing in 'intense Italian man' into google. Outside of Palermo, July 1943.  © Robert Capa.

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