Anne Giardini is a writer, lawyer, and President of Weyerhaeuser Company Limited.
I first read Giardini’s Advice for Italian Boys all in one gulp, and often dip back for its bittersweet bites of folk wisdom. I love spending time with this Canadian-Italian family. Strictness is flavoured with brothy sensuality, as a young man discovers the difficulties and joys of finding his way in the world, aided (and often puzzled) by the advice handed out in the form of proverbs by his Italian nonna.
Sadly, not all of Nonna’s wisdom could go into the novel. But thanks to Dr. Johnson, we have the benefit of some added nuggets, below.
In introduction, Giardini says:
First, here is a direct quote of Nonna’s that was cut, because it was so odd. “I got the small finger on the foot, not on the side of the heart, on the other foot: e glnfiata“. (You may need to know that “e gonfiata” means “it’s swollen.” (This sentence does make sense if you parse it closely.)
And among the hundreds of Italian sayings that I didn’t use, here are a few:
“Occhio non vede, cuore non duole.” (“What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.”)
“Il diavolo fa le pentole ma non I coperchi.” (“The devil teaches us his tricks but not how to hide them.”)
“Non fare il passo piu lungo della gamba.” (“Don’t cross your bridges till you come to them.”)
“Non c’è rosa senza spina.” (“There is no rose without thorns.”)
Amaru cu avi bisuagnu.”( Sicilian ) (“Bitter who needs.”)
“Il diavolo non è poi cosi brutto come si dipinge.” (“The devil is not so black as he is painted.”)
“Un diavolo caccia l’altro.” (“One evil drives away another.”)
“Fra il due mali scegli il minore.” (“Choose the least of two evils.”)
“Chi troppo vuole nulla stringe.” (“Grasp all, lose all.”)
“A galline fà ll’ove e o galle cia abbruce ‘o cule.” (“Chicken delivers eggs and the cock complains of a pain in his bottom.”)
” And finally, a bit of dialogue also cut fromAdvice for Italian Boys
“My work in the media has taught me that real life isn’t logical. True stories never unfold without riddles and gaps in them. Things are never as obvious in life as they are in films or novels. Straightforward narratives – this thing leads to that – always ring false to me. What actually happens, all the time, are events that cannot be explained in any rational way. Miracles are the norm.”