“I can skirt the boundary of Italian, but the interior of the language escapes me. I don’t see the secret pathways, the concealed layers. The hidden levels. The subterranean part. At Hadrian’s Villa, in Tivoli, there is a gigantic network of streets, an impressive and imposing system that is entirely underground. This complex of passages was dug to transport goods, servants, slaves. To separate the emperor from the people. To hide the real and unruly life of the villa, just as the skin hides the unsightly but essential functions of the body. At Tivoli I understand the nature of my Italian project. Like visitors to the villa today, like Hadrian almost two millennia ago, I walk on the surface, the accessible part. But I know, as a writer, that a language exists in the bones, in the marrow. That the true life of the language, the substance, is there.”

In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri