26 November, 2020

In The Smithy Of Her Soul

Lahiri evokes the pleasure-pain of learning well a language she loves

In The Smithy Of Her Soul
outlookindia.com
2016-03-11T22:15:40+05:30

Italian is a language I lost. Its speaker and I parted ways, and he took with him its rich, rounded sounds, its abundant theatricality, and sudden soft gentleness. For months I couldn’t bear to hear the language. I couldn’t watch Italian movies. If things are never just ‘things’, bearing with them all the sentiments of various (lost) associations, then languages too are never just languages. They are worlds you step into, homelands you glimpse. They mean newer ways of understanding yourself and others. Which is why I picked up Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words with some trepidation. After all, here she was, writing about a language she has recently gained, and been betrothed to for many years.

In Other Words is a literary autobiography in perhaps the most fundamental of ways. It is about a writer and language. About the tricky spaces within which this relationship operates. Lahiri might be obsessed with learning and mast­ering Italian, but the connection is never quite that unilateral. In fact, her journey forces her to...

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