In Other Words

In Other Words

Book - 2016
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At heart, this is 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.
Publisher: New York [New York] ;, Toronto [Ontario] :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2016
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781101875551
Characteristics: xiv, 233 pages ; 22 cm


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May 20, 2017

If you love to read, it seems reasonable you might be drawn to a book by a writer who is discussing why she writes. That may have been why I picked up "In Other Words", but the reason I read through it with enormous pleasure is the utter frankness and honesty I felt from Jhumpa Lahiri as she described her life, her parents immigrants from India, she brought up in Rhode Island from the age of two. She was and is consumed with language. She is also a West Bengali Indian brought up in an America that is frequently unkind to non-Whites. She has many compatriots (my wife included) who are thoroughly American but not White, and I found her story gripping, frustrating, humorous, intense. The combination of her love for language and writing and her deeply seated feeling of not really belonging, anywhere, moved her to study a THIRD language, to study it so intensely that she grew capable of writing in it. Her story is fascinating and absorbing. I will be returning to it.

Apr 06, 2017

I just couldn't get into it, and I love all her previous writing. Perhaps I will try again later.

Dec 12, 2016

Others have commented here about the risks Lahiri took, both in using the Italian language as her choice for composition (and un-corrected for grammar in Italian!) and in the internal style of the narrative. The book thus cannot be as successful on the surface as earlier novels. What makes it so successful regardless is her strong and literate personality in *any* language, trying to plumb the depths of vocabulary almost as a poet would.

Oct 02, 2016

It's a graduate thesis and nothing is wrong with that, but it should be marked as such. I wouldn't mind reading it as part of an academic program - it's pretty boring as well - but in my spare time? Not a chance. I better learn Italian!

sungeun2k1 Aug 21, 2016

Jhumpa Lahiri's first foray into writing in Italian (her third language) is a memoir of her relationship with the language and largely reads like pages from her journal. There are moments that resonate beautifully, while some of it seemed almost a rambling stream of consciousness, which is a shame, because I would have liked to hear much more about her family's time in Rome than just her internal monologue about the language.

The two short stories she includes (her first fiction written in Italian) are abstract and lovely.

May 15, 2016

"In Other Words" is like Lahiri's other books and yet it is not. The theme is that Lahiri falls in love with the Italian language and sets out not only to learn the language but to write in it! This is her achievement and what we are reading is her English translation - translated by another translator not Lahiri herself. I tried keeping up with the Italian version but failed miserably, needless to say, since my knowledge of Italian or lack thereof prevented me from appreciating it! The book is fraught with metaphors and Lahiri's analogies too are great. All in all a great read.

May 04, 2016

A strange and mysterious book: maybe the biggest mystery was why I kept on reading. Language, identity, belonging, all at one remove. Then, the frustration of living with your language, identity and sense of belonging, all at one remove! Includes a great short story...

Apr 04, 2016

I was swept along for a hundred pages then realized the author was constantly reworking the basic ideas:
"I am writing in Italian. . . It is difficult. . . etc."

Closed the cover.

Feb 27, 2016

Lahiri is one of my favorite authors, so I was curious to read her new book, written in Italian and translated into English. Fascinating exploration of her decision to live and write in Italian; I love her writing and loved how she decided the risk of writing in her 3rd language was worth it, because art and creation is all about risk. Also cool to see the Italian page adjacent to the English page. I don't read or speak Italian, but because of my limited knowledge of French and Spanish, I could understand some of the words.

The book also made me wonder whether Lahiri will keep writing, and if so, in which language. I do hope that whichever language she chooses, she keeps creating and I can read her work.


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sungeun2k1 Aug 21, 2016

"Because of my divided identity, or perhaps by disposition, I consider myself an incomplete person, in some way deficient. Maybe there is a linguistic reason--the lack of a language to identify with. As a girl in America, I tried to speak Bengali perfectly, without a foreign accent, to satisfy my parents, and above all to feel that I was completely their daughter. But it was impossible. On the other hand, I wanted to be considered an American, yet, despite the fact that I speak English perfectly, that was impossible, too. I was suspended rather than rooted. I had two sides, neither well defined. The anxiety I felt, and still feel, comes from a sense of inadequacy, of being a disappointment."

WVMLlibrarianCathy Mar 01, 2016

When you live in a county where your own language is considered foreign, you can feel a continuous sense of estrangement. You speak a secret, unknown language, lacking any correspondence to the environment. An absence that creates a distance within you.
- p. 19, In Other Words


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