In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri tells a personal story of a journey into a new language, as a reader and then as a writer. Lahiri wrote this essay of exploration into Italian, in Italian. Another writer translated it to English. The texts of the two languages appear on facing pages. It’s the story of a brave, determined artistic and human quest, told with expected quiet grace.
“How is it possible to feel exiled from a language that isn’t mine? That I don’t know? Maybe because I’m a writer who doesn’t belong completely to any language.” p. 21
“I read slowly, painstakingly. With difficulty. Every page seems to have a light covering of mist. The obstacles stimulate me. Every new construction seems a marvel. Every unknown word a jewel…I read as I did when I was a girl. Thus, as an adult, as a writer, I rediscover the pleasure of reading.” p. 37
“The unknown words remind me that there’s a lot I don’t know in this world…I believe that what can change our life is always outside of us.” p. 43
“When I read in Italian, I feel like a guest, a traveler. Nevertheless, what I’m doing seems a legitimate, acceptable task. When I write in Italian I feel like an intruder, an impostor. The work seems counterfeit, unnatural. I realize that I’ve crossed over a boundary, that I feel lost, in flight. I’m a complete foreigner.” p. 83
“I think that the power of art is the power to wake us up, strike us to our depths, change us. What are we searching for when we read a novel, see a film, listen to a piece of music? We are searching, through a work of art, for something that alters us, that we weren’t aware of before.” p. 171
“I write to feel alone. Ever since I was a child it has been a way of withdrawing, of finding myself. I need silence and solitude.” p. 185