In Other Words is the story of Jhumpa Lahiri’s passion to learn Italian. On one level, this book addresses the mundane: Lahiri’s experience with tutors, living in Italy, writing in Italian, and grappling with the intricacies and nuances of a different language. Lahiri, however, plumbs the depths of these experiences to reveal deeper insights. For example, Lahiri writes of her alienation from both the language of her birth, Bengali, and her first adopted language, English, and the independence she finds in choosing her third language. She discusses the different assumptions she cannot escape as a Bengali-American when she speaks Bengali, English and Italian. Lahiri describes both the constriction and freedom she feels as a writer in struggling to write in Italian. Most interestingly, Lahiri wrote In Other Words in Italian but refused to translate it to English to protect her limited Italian and to prevent Lahiri from changing her work in her stronger language.
Lahiri, who has won numerous prestigious literary awards, has written a thoughtful book that provides the reader with new and surprising insights that transcend the mechanics of learning a foreign syntax.
(Reviewed in exchange for a copy of book in Manhattan Book Review.)