Penn State

Sherry Roush - Professor of Italian, Penn State University Park

Book Title: In Other Words

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Book Description:

Originally written in Italian by a non-native speaker, in a facing-page English translation by the equally brilliant Ann Goldstein, this revelation of a book articulates the "bisogno folle" (crazy need), the "infatuazione...devozione...ossessione" (infatuation, devotion, obsession) of the pursuit of learning the Italian language and culture. Reading Lahiri's memoir is like peeping into the diary of a certain unnamed Penn State Italian professor without any Italian heritage, except that the Pulitzer-prizewinning storyteller makes the seemingly senseless optimism and the most vulnerable existential doubt of such a path into a manifesto of the authentic life. The struggle to translate ourselves in this global world (and inevitably to fail) is what counts: "Perché mi interessa, da adulta, da scrittrice, questa nuova relazione con l'imperfezione? Cosa mi offre? Direi una chiarezza sbalorditiva, una consapevolezza più profonda di me stessa. L'imperfezione dà lo spunto all'invenzione, all'immaginazione, alla creatività. Stimola. Più mi sento imperfetta, più mi sento viva. (Why, as an adult, as a writer, am I interested in this new relationship with imperfection? What does it offer me? I would say a stunning clarity, a more profound self-awareness. Imperfection inspires invention, imagination, creativity. It stimulates. The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive.)"

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