Magazine article World Literature Today

In Other Words

Magazine article World Literature Today

In Other Words

Article excerpt

In Other Words

Jhumpa Lahiri Trans. Ann Goldstein Knopf, 2016

Jhumpa Lahiri's In Other Words is a vulnerable journey of selfexploration by means of linguistic exile. It's notably her first book written in Italian and her first autobiographical work. Letting go of her foothold in English, she invites the reader on a steadfast pursuit to master the Italian language, and along the way she shares how language has played a role in her perceptions of the world and, likewise, how the world perceives her.

This bilingual edition of her book allows novice learners of the language (like myself) to read her original Italian and experience her metaphors for learning a new language firsthand. Akin to swimming in a lake, she describes abandoning the shore to swim across as total immersion. I often found myself "hugging that shore" of Ann Goldstein's English translation, but reading in this way allows the reader to relate with the joys and frustrations of learning a new language with clarity. She explains that to live without your own language is to "feel weightless, and, at the same time, overloaded"-like breathing the air of "a different altitude."

Her Italian vernacular is (as she notes) not particularly ornate, but in this way her succinct vocabulary makes the text accessible. …

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