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Combining elements of comedy and tragedy, Gardini’s novel is a call on today’s Italy to know its own language, to speak with substance, and to reconsider the relationship between words and meaning—a relationship broken by mass culture. As Leopardi declares, there is in words an exhortation to probe the depths of truth—a calling to believe that culture and education can still save us.

—from the citation for the Viareggio Prize

Winner of the Viareggio Prize, Lost Words is a vivid portrait of 1970s Italy on the brink of social upheaval

Lost Words

Fiction by Nicola Gardini

translated from the Italian by Michael F. Moore

Inside an apartment building on the outskirts of Milan, the working-class residents gossip, quarrel, and conspire against each other. Viewed through the eyes of Chino, an impressionable thirteen-year-old boy whose mother is the building's doorwoman, the world contained within these walls is tiny, hypocritical, and mean-spirited: a constant struggle.

A new resident, Amelia Lynd, moves in and quickly becomes an unlikely companion to Chino. Ms. Lynd—an elderly, erudite British woman—nurtures his taste in literature, introduces him to the life of the mind, and offers a counterpoint to the only version of reality he's known. On one level, Lost Words is an engrossing coming-of-age tale set in the '70s, when Italy was going through tumultuous social changes, and on another, it is a powerful meditation on language, literature, and culture.

published January 25th, 2016