occasione da prendere…
… E infatti, infatti non dimentico
la mia fotografia
e l'amore se non ce l'ho.
Ripeterei tutto quello che è passato
comprese le tue bugie
perché le scoprirei molto prima e senza aiuto."
(An) opportunity to take…
… And indeed, in fact I don't forget
and love, if I don't have it (with me).
I would repeat all that has passed
including your lies
because I'd discover them much earlier and without help."
- From "Chiedimi se Sono Felice (Ask Me if I'm Happy)" by Samuele Bersani (translation mine)
One of the first things people living outside Italy often say to me about Ask Me if I'm Happy is "I love the title!" Every time they do, I have to smile. I'm pleased they like the optimistic sound of it. I'm glad they'll likely remember it – or, hopefully, they'll remember something close enough for a bookseller to find it for them! And of course, I'm glad it sounds unique enough for them to comment on it in the first place.
Here in Italy, that's not the case. Here, my students and co-workers at the language school, my friends and acquaintances, have all asked me the same question: "You know that's the title of an Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo movie (Chiedimi se Sono Felice), right?" And I have to laugh, and nod, and say "Yes, yes; I know. It's a favorite of mine." For, you see, this title had a life before my novel. I confess – much like Jackson Browne lifted "Tender is the Night" for his personal use, just as Kate Bush appropriated "Wuthering Heights" for her own haunting tune, I too have nicked this title from another source. Or rather, two.
I've quoted a few lines from the song at the start of this blog to show I'm aware of it. More to the point: I was inspired by the song. This story has nothing to do with the film in any way, but the song (which, incidentally, was featured in the film) has strong similarities. At least, it does on the surface.
I'd listened to this song many times, but I didn't think I had really taken it to heart until I had finished writing the first drafts and needed a title for what was – at the time – a novel consisting of four novellas. A couple of lines suddenly stood out to me, and I looked up the lyrics online to be sure I was hearing them correctly. With my novel in mind, these lines (among others in the song) took on a new meaning for me and were an almost perfect fit, considering the storyline. When I said to my husband that I thought it would be a good title for my story, he thought about it and eventually agreed.
So I went forward, aware that readers would bring this up if they knew about the film or the song. The title stuck, becoming known as Ask Me... in its abbreviated version. One of my students teased me, saying if the book should be translated into Italian, at least we'd already know the title.
The thing is, should I be so lucky that this book should merit an Italian translation, I doubt it'll take back the moniker of Chiedimi se Sono Felice. The fact is, most books and films translated from English to Italian rarely get direct translations of their titles. Common practice is to give it a new title – sometimes relevant, sometimes obscure – which seems to work better in Italian. I'm ready for them, though. I've already got an Italian title in mind, and it works on several levels, including English.
The best part? It was the title of the story when it appeared on the URBIS and Authonomy writing sites, where it first caught the eyes of those who would go on to support my work today. At that time, the story was called "Connections" and was a play on words, meaning travel connections, personal connections and the circumstances which connected Emily and Davide. And what is one translation of "Connections" in Italian?
So I invite you to go ahead, because I know you're dying to:
Ask me if I'm happy.