The book I'm reading this week is one I've been reading and re-reading since the summer of 2017, when In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri's Italian-English translation hybrid essay collection came out in the US. Lahiri's collection begins at a turning point: the writer's love of Italian has led her and her family to move from America to Rome, where she will read and write only in Italian.
(Fun fact: it's been six years since, she continues to do so!)
With Lahiri's Italian words on the left page, and a translator's rendering into English on the verso page, I'm continually making stumbling progress with the Italian, but have read the English translation perhaps half a dozen times. Lahiri's voice in this book is clear, plain but beautiful. Strewn between her essays about her journey with Italian, and her relationship with language in general, are opalescent contemporary stories that read like fairytales: a traveler losing a jacket in a mysterious bazaar, a lake that must be crossed.
As beautiful as Lahiri's stories from In Other Words / En altre parole are, it's her exploration of this seemingly peculiar intense love of the Italian that make me want to savor each word. In an unusual way, I have Cornelia to thank for my particular interest in this gorgeous collection; as a child, I read The Thief Lord, and was immediately captivated by the pictures she painted of Venice with its canals, the damp streets, the crumbling theatre, Scipio. In the years since I was first whisked away to the canals of Venice, I've been lucky enough to travel briefly in Italy, and that fledgling love of an imagined city blossomed into a love of the Italian language and a fascination with the young country's ancient history. When I first heard of In Other Words a few years ago, then published in solely Italian, I practically salivated over news of the dual-language printing!
My first introduction to Lahiri was her collection Interpreter of Maladies (for which she's the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize), and was captivated by her language and pacing. I loved the stories' detail; the quiet, observant voices of her characters, and the singular moments in their ordinary lives. Though the stories are different, the voice in her new collection is resonant, rich and delicious--like an excellent espresso or gelato.
-Liz (booklover & marketing manager)