Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri visited QC on March 7 to discuss her past work, the publishing business and her new venture of writing and translating works in a different language.
Lahiri has authored works such as “The Namesake,” “The Lowlands” and “Interpreter of Maladies,” but it was her most recent texts—2016’s “In Other Words” and 2016’s “The Clothing of Books”—that were the focal discussion point of the event. Given her accomplishments in her career, Lahiri’s new focus has shifted to writing in Italian and translating works from Italian into English.
“It’s an experiment worth pursuing,” Lahiri said. “It’s a new way of seeing things; I’m enjoying how different it is.”
At the QC evening readings event, the night began with Lahiri reading an English translated short story from “In Other Words.” The story was titled “Penombra” in Italian and translated to “Half-Light” in English. Following the short reading, Lahiri sat down for an interview with Leonard Lopate, the emcee and interviewer of the QC evening reading series.
Throughout the evening Lopate asked Lahiri about her new exploration of writing in Italian and her first time venture translating a work from Italian to English. Lahiri translated Italian author Domenico Starnone’s 2014 “Lacci.” Starnone’s “Lacci” won the first ever “The Bridge” award, a prestigious prize for Italian writers in Oct. 2015 in the fiction category. The English translation, “Ties,” was released on March 7.
“Translation is the deepest form of reading,” she said during her interview with Lopate.
Lahiri’s 2016 English release of “In Other Words,” a translation of 2015’s “In Altre Parole,” discusses her lifelong journey and romance through the trials and tribulations of learning Italian, moving with her family from America to Rome for an extended stay, and her writing process. Lahiri first visited Italy in 1994 and that visit is the focus for the chapter “Love At First Sight” in “In Other Words.” The passage describes her visit to Florence with her sister and her admiration for the city of Florence and its most impactful quality to her, the Italian language.
During the evening reading, Lahiri discussed with Lopate the struggle of publishing “In Other Words.” Lahiri cited that the publisher had concerns with the book’s length and that the only way to resolve the issue was to include the original text with the English translation. “In Other Words” was published with the original Italian words printed on one side of the page and the English translation on the other, doubling the book’s length. The cover of the book is also something Lahiri discussed in great detail as well.
“In my experience, the title, like the cover, belongs to the publisher,” Lahiri said.
The cover of “In Other Words” shows Lahiri in a library with one book open and a second book closed on a wooden table as she looks off to the side.
“I was very wary of putting myself on the cover of my book,” Lahiri said. “But I learned that many of my books published my face on the cover in foreign markets.
Lahiri has returned to the United States to accept a position at Princeton, but just because she has returned to a predominantly English speaking country does not mean she is leaving her passion for the Italian language.
“The next book is being written in Italian,” Lahiri said.