Issue 144, Fall 1997
Are you pleased that your book has been published in America?
Very. It’s something that when I began writing would have seemed to me impossible. America at that time was a very distant country, unreachable. Luckily it is no longer that way.
How did you eat there?
No problem. But I would like to suggest to Americans not to leave anything on their plates when they eat (they all do it, for them it’s a sign of good breeding), that is, to take or be served a reasonable portion and to eat it all, even cleaning their plate with a piece of bread, a delicious bite whose existence will otherwise be unknown. It would mean saving mountains of food and garbage every day.
That seems a sensible suggestion.
When did you go to America for the first time?
In 1952, on a most beautiful airplane, the Constellation. The woman who sat next to me on the plane was an Italian-American doctor— I remember her hair, which was red but tinted yellow to make a pale chestnut color. Her father, she told me, had discovered an excellent, green Sicilian olive oil, on Mott Street, in New York. She talked to me about America for a long time. “Lindbergh,” she said, “when traveling by plane would go tourist class and put his hat over his face. He lived in Hana, in Hawaii, he washed his own laundry and made his own bed and cooked for himself. For nourishment, during the great flight, a packet of sandwiches was enough for him.” She ended with an anecdote: “Someone said to the American comic Jack Benny, ‘When you die, you have to leave your money here, you can’t take it with you,’ and he replied, ‘Then death doesn’t interest me.’”
She added a last recommendation. “After the Vikings and Columbus,” she said, “infinite numbers of people have still discovered America.”
“It’s true,” I said.
“Don’t join the group. Take my father for an example, who discovered not America but Sicilian olive oil on Mott Street.”
So when the airplane, with a light shake, touched down on Jack Benny Land (or Vine Land, as the Vikings called it). I knew, in a certain sense, how to behave.