cover image Translating Myself and Others

Translating Myself and Others

Jhumpa Lahiri. Princeton Univ, $21.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-691-23116-7

Pulitzer-winning novelist Lahiri (Whereabouts) explores her relationship with literature, translation, and the English and Italian languages in this exhilarating collection. In “Why Italian?” Lahiri reflects on her desire to learn the language, concluding it is like breeding a “new variety” of plant through grafting: “A foreigner who arrives from abroad, who learns a new language, who works to contribute to a new society, who integrates herself: this person embodies the word graft.” “In Praise of Echo” sees Lahiri describe translation as a “radical, painful, and miraculous transformation” that evokes the translator’s ability to “look into a mirror and see someone rather than herself.” “Where I Find Myself” offers fascinating commentary on Lahiri’s experience translating her own work—self-translation, she writes, is “like one of those radioactive dyes that enable doctors to look through our skin to locate damage... and other states of imperfection.” “Calvino Abroad” is a consideration of the Italian novelist’s relationship to language, and includes some of his own thoughts on translation (he wrote in one essay that it “requires a sort of miracle”). Lucid and provocative, this is full of rewarding surprises. (May)