Jhumpa Lahiri is one of those writers whose every new work we await with bated breath. The Pulitzer Prize winner’s writing is beautifully simple and full of relatable characters who are all the more honest for their flaws.
Her latest work, the short memoir In Other Words, doesn’t disappoint.
Much as her fiction takes on cultural identity and finding one’s place in the world, the subject of this candid memoir is Lahiri’s complicated relationship with Italy and speaking Italian.
The child of Indian immigrants, Lahiri was raised in the States, where she felt detached from both the English spoken by her peers and the Bengali she heard at home. As an adult, she began learning Italian, and after studying in New York for 20 years, made the life-changing decision to move her family to Rome.
Lahiri wrote In Other Words in Italian, but enlisted someone else to translate it to English--a decision, she explains, to further distance herself from her native tongue. Her Italian words occupy the book’s left-hand pages, while the translated English is on the right.
If this sounds confusing, it’s not. In fact, the book’s overall effect is of wonderful linguistic multiplicity. Lahiri’s point, in fact, is that it’s liberating and enriching not to feel tied to one single background.
Consider this the perfect, breezy read to hold you over until the next Interpreter of Maladies. (God willing.)