It is neither a dictionary nor a dictionary, nor is it a simple collection of short stories: the Italian writer Stefano Massini surprises the “Book of Lost Words”, now published in German, with interesting anecdotes and moral considerations. You learn that language is there to think about the meaning of life.
Language is a living tool of society. Stefano Massini proves this in his weekly TV appearance on Italian TV. Not vulgar or offensive, but rather a philologist who looks at the challenges of the present from a European perspective. In his book, The Book of Missing Words, Massini explains that new terms can be used to show developments in our society that there were no terms before. Wonderful and surprising tales that are difficult to describe are presented, and Massini’s book is A Marvel of Imagination. As he himself writes, he wants to present a unique journey through literature and history. Moves from cycling in Antarctica to Leonardo Da Vinci’s secret passion for cooking; Massini tells real and startling stories of emotional states that everyone knows about, but has no name, at least not yet. For example, feeling like you are too close to the goal of your desires – and you still miss it. Massini uses the term ‘Birismus’, having misunderstood the inventor of the ballpoint pen, László Biró, and tells his unfortunate story. Each entry in this beautifully illustrated book is a surprise and shows us language and history with fresh eyes.
To take notes: Stefano Massini: The Book of Missing Words, translated from Italian by Annette Kobatsky. Published by Hanser-Verlag, Price: € 26.
Review of Mario Galgano.