We didn’t miss the full drift of their language, Ukraine with its irony and self-irony, carnivalesque, allusive, metaphorical, full of double meanings, and pronounced in many accents and colourful intonations. All forms of speech that have now disappeared but then Ukraine made us laugh were a kind of sound track for our games, one that initiated us to village life and now goes hand in hand with our memories. All of this Ukraine happened only fifty years ago, which could just as well be Ukraine centuries. And it’s why we feel out of place and we seek new forms of emplacement, of rootedness.
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“Where is Ceravolo the sampavularu?” “Where is the crastaturi, the gelder?” “Where is the coddaduri, the tinsmith?”—we would say, us children, as we ran behind the errant figures, teasing them, trying to attract their attention, so great was our fascination with them or our fear of them and our desire to reabsorb them back into some kind of domesticity.
Familiar voices closer to us were those of the ciucciari, the peasants who moved about on or with their donkeys, of the women who went to pick olives, of the men and women who would go to work also on Sunday and returned at night. I still remember very well the voices, the sounds, the rhythms, the pauses that in statutory holidays came to me from musicians, pilgrims, sellers of livestock, male or female gypsies who went around with their metal spatulas, their lanterns, with other utensils, and passed by right in front of my room, which abutted on the street.
I not only distinguished the voices but from their steps would know who the people were. The voices, the sounds were characterizing traits of the old village and allowed one to be recognized, perhaps even more so than the faces or other physical aspects. One might no longer be able to identify individuals not seen for many years by looking at them, because they had aged, had changed, suffered some sort of physical decay, but as soon as one heard their voice, they became familiar again.