The Mezzogiorno: some things are not easily explained.
When I first moved to Italy over 20 years ago and took up my post as a language teacher in B-, I knew next to nothing. Not only was I ignorant of the world, but I was entirely ignorant of the place.
Of course, when we think of Italy, we think of a long lace up boot that seems to extend into a particularly voluptous thigh. Southern Italy, or as the Italians know it, "Il Mezzogiorno" is down there in the boot.
Here, we can picture in the heel of our boot are Bari and Brindisi on the Adriatic Coast, and, on the Ionian Sea, creeping round to the Mediterranean, Lecce and Taranto. And there, on the other side, where you begin to do up your laces, is Naples and the bay that has immortalised her. And down in the toe, looking across the Strait of Messina to Sicily and The Kingdom That Once Was is Reggio Calabria.
But that is not the point. For me that is not my Southern Italy. It is not represented by a boot, but this other idea, that of the Mezzogiorno.
The Mezzogiorno: literally it means half "mezzo" day "giorno". Which is why, over twenty years ago, when I began to grapple with the Italian language, it became in some crude translation, or reiteration of my mind: The Half Day. There, in the Mezzogiorno, it always seems to be noon, and everything seems to stop and repose in some crumpled linen sheet.
Resting there, somehow it must have grown in my mind. Only later, when I came to write The Half Days, I saw, like the character in the story: those half days stretching into the summer nights where the business of the day was forgotten in a round of carnival pleasures.