cover image In Other Words

In Other Words

Jhumpa Lahiri, trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, read by Jhumpa Lahiri. Random House Audio, unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hrs., $35 ISBN 978-0-399-56620-2

Lahiri, the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist of Interpreter of Maladies, tries her hand at memoir—and audiobook narration—with this brief recounting of her quest to immerse herself in the Italian language. She tells of her initial passion for learning Italian, her third language after Bengali and English, and her decision to move her husband and two children to Rome for the full experience. In the print version of this memoir, which Lahiri wrote in Italian, Lahiri’s Italian words and their English translation are side by side on facing pages; here, she narrates the entire memoir in English before doing it all over again in Italian, starting in the third compact disc. In English, Lahiri makes for a quiet and unassuming narrator. Her emotional register feels monochromatic even when she is giving voice to her deepest longings, and the performance falls flat, particularly during the very short pieces of fiction she weaves in: every character sounds the same. Speaking in Italian, however, her voice takes on added depth and fervor. It’s not just that her accent is flawless but that Italian allows her access to a more avid, colorful, uninhibited version of herself. This is what she tells listeners during the English chapters that open the book, but the truth of it is not apparent until they hear the story told all over again in the language of her choosing. [em]A Knopf hardcover. (Feb.) [/em]