In Other Words

  • by Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein - translator
  • Narrated by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • 6 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

"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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Beautiful meditation on language and art

As a journalist who has studied a foreign language, lived abroad, and spent considerable time in Italy, I enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri's exploration of the themes of exile and finding a new voice in her writing through another language (in her case, a third). This slim volume, translated from her new-found Italian to English, her language of core competency, reflects the often staccato style of a foreign speaker, which felt repetitive at first. That's forgivable, because Lahiri makes you co-pilot on her journey to navigate her way through this new, more romantic language, one that makes her feel more at home and creative, but one in which, to her own admission, she still struggles. What I missed from this book was more of her story (she moves her family to a new country and rarely discusses those struggles or sacrifices). I also craved more details of her new surroundings, the gorgeous city of Rome, which she leaves mostly to the reader's imagination. This book, which seems to be part journal, is almost more of a lengthy essay fit for a literary magazine than a book-length memoir. I was shocked when, three hours into my listening, the book ended. For the remaining three and a half hours, she reads the same book in Italian (a beautiful Italian, but still Italian)!
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- A. M. Potter

A Lexical love affair

Jhumpa Lahiri won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for “Interpreter of Maladies”. She has won many literary awards over the years. This is her first non-fiction book. I was interested in reading this because the advertising blub said it was about her struggle to learn a new language. I have been struggling to learn Spanish so I thought I might learn something about learning another language from Lahiri. This book will interest those readers who are interested in learning another language and are interested in the writing process.

Lahiri’s essay goes into her relationship with language and of her identity of always feeling like an outsider or foreigner. She was born in England of Bengali immigrants. She moved to the United States as a small child and was raised speaking primarily English; the family spoke Bengali at home. She tells of learning Latin in school and then as an adult learning Italian. She said she fell in love with Italian and felt it much more of an expressive language than English. She moved to Italy to totally immerse herself in the language.

Lahiri goes into great detail about the work of writing and language. I learned about what the author goes through trying to find just the right word to express the exact meaning intended. I also learned some techniques to help me in my attempt to learn Spanish. I thought it was interesting that speaking Bengali helped Lahiri with the pronunciation of Italian words; apparently she speaks almost accent free which would not be the case if she went from English only to Italian. The author revealed much about herself and love of lexicology and the inner drive to write.

The book is beautifully written; I read the audiobook version from Audible and think this is the best way to read the book because of all the Italian words. The book is divided in half: the first part in English the second half is the original Italian version of the book. Lahiri had a translator Ann Goldstein translate the book from Italian to English as she was afraid she might try to rewrite the book in English. Jhumpa Lahiri narrated the book herself.

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- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-09-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio