Buon Compleanno, La Bella Lingua!
In English a book that keeps selling long after publication is said to “have legs." I like to think that LA BELLA LINGUA, which celebrates its fifth birthday this month, has sprouted wings (ali) that continue to carry it to new readers and to bring wonderful new people into my life.
Readers from Vancouver to Paris to Sydney to Singapore have shared tales about their love affairs with the world's most enchanting language. An artist who lives on a remote farm in South Africa says that LA BELLA LINGUA inspires her lush paintings of Italian fountains and gardens. A Danish woman writes that my book stirred memories of buying Italian newspapers at the train station in Copenhagen as a girl and “chewing my way through them" because of her love for Italian parole (words).
In a scene straight out of Harry Potter, a Londoner describes pulling his rucksack from the luggage rack of a commuter train, “when 'plop!' something landed on the seat in front of me. Staring up at me was a bespectacled lady in a gondola. The words that caught my eye and proved to be my salvation were: 'tesoro mio!' (my treasure)–two words that have never rang so true.” He credits LA BELLA LINGUA with rekindling his “thirst, quest, obsession with learning Italian.”
A humanities professor in New York has a confession of his own: “It took me more than two months to read your book–essentially because I didn't want it to end. I kept it in my car, bringing it out when I stopped at a wine bar for a drink or a bite to eat. And now that I have finished–what am I to do?”
Although I had worried about how Italians would respond to a non-Italian writing about their beloved language, their enthusiasm has been heart-warming. A graduate student at the Università degli Studi di Macerata has written a 137-page thesis: La Bella Lingua di Dianne Hales: Una proposta di traduzione (A Proposal for Translation).
Un giovane scrittore italiano (young Italian writer) felt compelled to thank me “per la passione e la preparazione e l'arguzia" (for the passion and preparation and wit) with which I described the language in which he writes.The greatest honor came when the President of Italy appointed me a Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity) in recognition of LA BELLA LINGUA as "an invaluable tool" for promoting Italian.
I credit the book’s enduring appeal, first and foremost, to its inspiration: la bella lingua italiana (the beautiful Italian language). It has been a joy to get to know teachers of Italian (my heroes!) around the country and to work with Italians on initiatives such as We Love Italian that promote their luscious language.
"A cent'anni!" (100 years!) Italians say to friends on their birthdays. What more could I wish for my libriccino (little book)? And I hope you are ready to welcome its sorellina (little sister)–MONA LISA: A Life Discovered—into your hearts this August.
Click below for a song that captures the love of Italians for their bella lingua: