On my fifth day in Italy, I accuse an Italian man of stealing my clothes. His basket, overflowing with clothing, is blocking the dryer into which I placed my clothes, and none of the garments are visible through the glass window. Scusi! I say, and that’s it—the extent of my Italian. I am all out of words and stand there with my hands on my hips, angry and confused and feeling like an idiot. The man speaks in rapid-fire Italian, riffles through his basket. He gestures to the three dryers, as if to say, which one? I point to the one in the middle. He moves his basket, and when I am close enough, I see my clothes there, stuck to the side of the dryer.
Mortified, and not possessing the words to explain, I repeat myself, but in a kinder tone: scusi!
“The unknown words remind me that there’s a lot I don’t know in this world.”
To read In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri (translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein) is to be reminded of all that we don’t know, and all that we seek to find.
Read the full review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words on Brevity.