New and notable: Jhumpa Lahiri's In Other Words

For many authors, writing a book in another language (specifically, a third language learned later in life) would be no mean feat. Pulitzer-prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri took on this challenge undaunted and with aplomb when she decided to write her memoir in Italian. Lahiri's mother tongue is Bengali, and she also learned English as a child, but as she mentions in this interview with NPR, neither language ever felt quite her own.

After visiting Italy in the mid 90s, she was smitten with the Italian language, ultimately moving to Rome with her family in 2012, where she immersed herself fully in the new linguistic environment, speaking and writing exclusively in Italian. In Other Words chronicles Lahiri's life, as well as her struggle to find her authentic voice, and the role that writing in Italian has played in that quest. She gives a nod to her fellow authors who composed successful works outside of their mother tongues (Nabokov, Beckett, Conrad) as she joins their ranks.

Since the book is presented in a dual-language format, readers of Italian can follow along and compare the original text with the English translation by Ann Goldstein, who is also responsible for the English translations of Elena Ferrante and Primo Levi. Lahiri's works of fiction in English (The Lowland, Interpreter of Maladies) have won multiple awards and critical acclaim, so to venture into autobiography in a third language is a bold move! For a writer always looking to push herself and find her truest voice, this foray into new creative territory is exciting.

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