Tuesday, December 2, 2008

if they are roses by Linda Falcone

Linda Falcone writes a column for The Florentine, an English language newspaper in Florence, and this book is a compilation of her columns. It took me a little while to get into it as each column is only 2-4 pages long. I generally prefer novels to short stories and these columns are ultra-short snapshots of life. if they are roses is subtitled the italian way with words, and Falcone uses an Italian phrase in each column to illustrate a cultural trait or difference. The topics of her columns range from cooking pasta to American movies, money, fashion, food, and soccer along with others.

Here she addresses money: “It could just be me, but I’m convinced you can tell a lot about a culture by the way it talks about money. After all, money may not make the world go round, but it certainly coaxes people to turn corners quickly. Find out how a country talks about cash and you will discover its system of values.”

And here is an example of a commonly used phrase that a non-native speaker may have a hard time deciphering.
Magari is versatile to the point of being reversible, and it can cover the entire spectrum of future possibility. For highly probable scenarios like ‘Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?’, magari is ‘Yes, I’d love to.’ For daring propositions that have ‘impossible’ written on them in red, magari means ‘nice idea-but no way.’
If you plan on living in Italy long, you’d best get used to this ambiguity. The Italian language often leaves room for interpretation, and words sway with the mood as if conversation were a sudden summer breeze.”

This book would be an excellent gift if you know a non-native heading to Italy for an extended time period, or for anyone dreaming of doing that.

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