In Other Words

Knopf. 2016. 256p. tr. from Italian by Ann Goldstein. ISBN 9781101875551. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101875568. LIT
OrangeReviewStarLahiri (creative writing, Princeton Univ.) is internationally renowned for her novels The Namesake and The Lowland, her Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, and other writings. This new memoir, which the author wrote in Italian, is a great surprise. There's a second surprise, too: the English translation, here presented opposite the Italian, on every recto, by Goldstein (a New Yorker editor who has translated Elena Ferrante and Primo Levi, among others). The book is a series of journal entries that meditate upon Lahiri's frustrations and joys while learning Italian, and her growing desire to use that language only. It delves deeply into the author's relationship with languages generally—as the American-raised daughter of Indian immigrants, her Italian experiment is not the first time she's been caught between two linguistic worlds, accepted by neither. Students of other languages will nod in recognition as Lahiri describes her growing hostility toward English, a tongue she begins to find "overbearing, domineering, full of itself."
VERDICT This unusual memoir is a must for language learners exploring their motivations; it will also resonate with Lahiri's fans and other literary fiction lovers. [See Prepub Alert, 8/24/15.]
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