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.
©2016 Jhumpa Lahiri (P)2016 Random House Audio
"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 )
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)!
I love Rome, the Italian language, and accounts of personal journeys, and I am happy for Ms. Lahiri's great success. But while I found her very personal reasons for this undertaking--her initial great success in English, her primary language--interesting, I thought that expecting this book to be of wider interest was a lot to ask. (Also, I found her ongoing gripes about people's surprise at what language she was speaking and how well she was speaking it to be tedious and self-absorbed, but maybe that's just me… ) And having her Italian translated back into English by someone else was just weird.
Her section on Daphne and Apollo and metamorphosis was brilliant, though. Stunning really.
Regarding the audio version, while the narrator's Italian was excellent, I found her reading voice to be a bit difficult to listen to, a little monotonous and strained. But my biggest quibble is with the audio book's form, though there was probably no other solution: having the first half of the book be in English, and the second half of the book be in Italian. In the print copy, I believe, the Italian and English versions are on facing pages, separated paragraph by paragraph so the reader can compare them. That is not possible with the audio version.
Still, I am glad the audio version exists, and I wish the gifted writer continued great success. But I found this particular book to o be something of a disappointment.
I could not finish it as one can perceive that it is written in a language foreign to the writer. Short sentences for beginners. I love her books in English, well interpreted with the Indian accent. But this book has no story and it is written as I would write a book in French or German.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
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.
Audiobooks have enriched my reading experience and made my life much more interesting.
When I first heard that Jhumpa Lahiri had chosen to put her writing career on hold in order to pursue her long-term passion for the Italian language, my initial reaction was similar to the one many sports fans had when Michael Jordan decided to come out of retirement to follow his dream of becoming a professional baseball player, namely admiration, perplexity and a little bit of curiosity.
Why would a wildly successful author, Pulitzer Prize/Pen Award winner, awarded with the 2014 National Humanities Medal, take such a leap of faith?
The answers to this question are complex and profound and after reading this short but very poignant memoir, my sense is that Lahiri herself doesn't necessarily have definite answers.
Written in Italian, "In Other Words" include a few fictional stories, which Lahiri acknowledges were based on her own experiences during the two years she and her family lived in Italy on what she calls her "linguistic pilgrimage".
I am not sure that the author would be able to replicate her success in her new adopted language, so far it seems to me that is a work in progress.
Self-doubt, the search of identity and a foreboding sense of understanding many cultures but not completely fitting or belonging to any of them, is at the center of this short memoir.
On a personal level, I felt a deep sense of connection and empathy with the author and how aptly she describes the sense of wonder one can experience when learning a new language, a process that can be rewarding and enlightening, but also intellectually exhausting.
I felt that Lahiri so accurately described my own experience while reading in a second language - in my case English - when she asserts:
"I believe that reading in a foreign language is the most intimate way of reading".
Lahiri's account of her quest to master the Italian language struck me at times as a little bit self-serving and redundant, but as a whole I truly enjoyed this introspective, thoughtful meditation on the central role language plays in our lives and most importantly in the lives of writers.
At this point in her life, she sounds to me like a writer in transition, a woman looking for answers who can't stand still because she is trying to figure out the next chapter in her writing career.
Although Lahiri's narration felt a bit flat and I thought it lacked intensity on her delivery, I've come to appreciate memoirs read by the authors because ultimately they are better at expressing their own words.
Every part of me wants to give this at least 4 stars for the writing. Sigh. The narration was so monotonous and inspirited. I hope they consider a rerecord.
Granted, I didn't read the whole description of the audiobook before purchase, but I was expecting a 7 hour book that I could fully understand. If I am ever lucky enough to learn Italian I will be able to return to the second part of this production. Jhumpa Lahiri's efforts to take the leap and write in a 2nd (3rd?) language are admirable.
Caspita! La mia scrittrice Americana prediletta diventò un’ autrice tutta Italiana! Non ne sapevo un bel nulla di questo suo lato segreto, la mia sorpresa è così ancora più grande. Eppoi questo testo è inpeccabile, tutto lei.
Per me questa narrativa sa del Secondo Dopoguerra, Morante, Ginzburg, Silone, magari Pavese o Primo Levi. Antiquata in un senso positivissimo, una prosa profondamente radicata nelle tradizioni letterarie novecentesche. Be’, mai dei predecessori migliori!
Tale cambiamento linguistico è ben raro nella letteratura. Mi viene in mente “L’analfabeta” di Ágota Kristóf, ma il suo è un resoconto assai scarno rispetto a questo saggio serio. Ognuno che riflette sulla lingua, su qualsiasi lingua, deve leggere „In altre parole”. Spero non ci vuole sottolineare tale obbligo di pensare spesso alle lingue, all’identità.
Certamente, questa mi è subito diventata un’opera arciimportante, stracolma di idee e contenuto molto compatti. Quanto alla versione sonora, per me è decisamente il libro audio dell’anno 2016.
Penso alle mie lotte diurne con l’Inglese e non vorrei aggiungere molto alla pronuncia della signora Lahiri. Dimenticavo per interi minuti che ella non è italofona, e questo non è poco. Una cosa però deve comprendere: senza l’uso corretto (e frequente) del raddoppiamento consonantico il flusso del discorso non sarà mai completamente autentico. Penso una seconda lettura avrebbe anche portata dei risultati migliori. Comunque sia, l’autrice ci offre un’esperienza del tutto gradevole.
Raccomando i lettori bilingui ascoltino ambedue le registrazioni. La traduzione Inglese del testo originale dà effetti sorprendenti, ci mette qualcosa di più, qualcosa di diverso. Tutto sommato lo considero un capolavoro e lo riascolterò varie volte di sicuro.
Penso a Giumpa con calore. Penso in un certoqualmodo sia arrivata a casa. Benvenuta in Italia, benvenuta nell’Italiano!
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