From the best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize winner, a powerful nonfiction debut - an "honest, engaging, and very moving account of a writer searching for herself in words" (Kirkus Reviews).
In Other Words is a revelation. It is at heart a love story - of a long and sometimes difficult courtship and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language. For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college. Although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterward, true mastery always eluded her.
Seeking full immersion, she decides to move to Rome with her family for "a trial by fire, a sort of baptism" into a new language and world. There, she begins to read and to write - initially in her journal - solely in Italian. In Other Words, an autobiographical work written in Italian, investigates the process of learning to express oneself in another language and describes the journey of a writer seeking a new voice.
Presented in a dual-language format, this is a wholly original book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with an intensity and clarity not seen since Vladimir Nabokov: a startling act of self-reflection and a provocative exploration of belonging and reinvention.
Read by the author in both English and the original Italian.
"In this slim, lyrical nonfiction debut, Pulitzer-winner Lahiri traces the progress of her love affair with the Italian language. Unlike Samuel Beckett and Vladimir Nabokov, who also wrote in adopted languages, Lahiri doesn't leap directly into fiction. Though the book contains a short story, her first order of business is to tell her own story. She writes exquisitely about her experiences with language.... Her unexpected metamorphosis provides a captivating and insightful lesson in the power of language to transform." (Publishers Weekly)
"Affecting, engaging.... In a perfectly titled memoir, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist chronicles her efforts to learn and write Italian. Lahiri, who wrote her text in Italian, presents an English translation (by Ann Goldstein) with Italian and English on facing pages. For Lahiri, Italian was her third language - her mother spoke Bengali - and she relates the reasons she felt drawn to Italian, her many difficulties learning it, and her move to Rome to write.... Although there are paragraphs about vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, Lahiri is more interested in the effects of all of this on her writing and on her identity. Her memoir is also chockablock with memorable comments about writing and language. 'Why do I write?' she asks. 'To investigate the mystery of existence. To get closer to everything that is outside of me.' An honest, self-deprecating, and very moving account of a writer searching for herself in words." (Kirkus )
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Beautiful meditation on language and art
- A. Potter
For me, 1 problem with the book, and 1 1/2 problems with the audio version