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January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Jan' 2018


An autobiography

M. R. Dua

"IT remains my most intimate book (in Italian) but also the most open…is autobiographical… is a story told in third person, but the protagonist, slightly changed, is me," writes Jhumpa Lahiri, in the book's last chapter titled, "Afterword".
The book was originally written in Italian when the author moved from New York, US, to a new Rome, Italy, with her family,nearly 20 years ago.
Dr. (Ms.) Jhumpa Lahiri, 50, is a noted Indian-American writer, who has authored six NY Times best-seller volumes, and bagged numerous prestigious awards, including Pulitzer, PEN, etc.
Jhumpa's Kolkata-origin librarian parents migrated from England to New York, and later settled in Boston, Massachusetts. Her maiden name was Nilanjana Sudheshna Lahiri. But 'Jhumpa' was her pet name that her parents addressed her by.
Married to a 'Time' magazine's senior editor, Alberto Vouvoulias-Bush, they have two children, and currently live in Rome, Italy.
At a young age, Jhumpa Lahiri became allured by the Italian language when she visited Florence with her sister after living in the US for over two decades. That visit turned out to be a harbinger of complete transformation of Jhumpa's life as a writer.
Soon after, she quit writing in English, to change over to Italian. 'In Other Words' is Jhumpa Lahiri's first work in Italian language. Jhumpa has obtained M.A., Ph.D. degrees in English literature from Boston University. It has been translated in English by an Italian by Ann Goldstein, an award-winning translator.
The book, written in the first-person style, is a lucid account of the author's process of switching over from writing in English to Italian. Normally, a reader won't bother about the author's reasons for doing so, but the gripping style in which Ms.
Lahiri has presented the book's storyline, surrogate from English into Italian, makes a compelling read.
Leafing from one chapter to the next is pretty smooth; one hardly misses Jhumpa's language flow. As Lahiri explains the 'tense' moments when her 'The Story' (page 61) was translated from Italian into English, as written by her, Jhumpa illustrates its rebirthing process by the translator, and titling it, 'The Exchange' (p.67), and comparing it with a painter who converts a blank board into a rare piece of art.
After seeing the Italian translation, she admires the English version of her original Italian writing into English and says: 'Although it came from me, it doesn't seem completely mine. I'm sure of only one thing: I could never have written it in English,' Lahiri notes this in the final chapter entitled 'Afterword' (p. 223).

Jhumpa Lahiri In a way, the once English author (Lahiri) emulates her own high proficiency she has acquired in Italian. Similarly, the author spins her words magically in the 24 brief chapters that ungrudgingly hold the reader's head and heart.
While some translations are dismissed as flat, slow, placid, Lahiri considers Italian rendering of this book as 'an authentic book, because it's sincere, honest.' It's indeed a genuine compliment.
Finally, curious readers ask: since Lahiri had excellent command over the English language, why did she decide to abandon this language and venture into an unexplored area, and didn't translate herself her own book? Her response: she 'loves this language and wants to live with this forever.' This tribute to Italian though English has made Jhumpa famous for ever.
With a view to facilitating the bilingual reader, the Italian and English texts are printed facing each another. However, the slim volume will possibly be beyond a lay reader's sly pocket due to its extraordinarily excessive cost. Could one, however, hope that the book's high price be something that a discriminating reader won't care about? Perhaps not!