Book Review: In Other Words - Jhumpa Lahiri.

I am reviewing this book under the Flipkart Book Review Program.

It is my unbiased opinion.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s new book In Altre Parole is a memoir written in Italian and translated into English In Other Words about her journey to find her identity through language. Born as a Bengali Nilanjana Sudeshna, Jhumpa has recreated herself several times through her books bringing out the issues of exile, alienation and identity. In her first nonfiction attempt she chooses to give us a glimpse of the two years in her life when she moved from USA to Italy where she stayed with her Spanish husband and two children (Octavio and Noor, again breaking from the true form of identity through name for them.)
The book is beautifully written, full of angst of the author to find a new voice and identity through language. In the world, there are Trans Gender people who want to completely change themselves because they feel they belong to the other gender. Jhumpa is “trans linguistic” because in her heart she feels she is neither Bengali even though she was born to Bengali parents nor English because she was raised in London and USA but feels more Italian because she chooses it and intrinsically had felt so for many years.
While the book is interesting to read, after a point the reader may feel “What’s the big deal? It’s only a third language she is learning and we know Hindi, English, Marathi, Bengali and even French or Spanish!”

The book is evocative, truthful and a slice of Jhumpa Lahiri’s life and work. Not many authors have crossed over to new languages to write and Jhumpa through “In Altre Parole” urges writers to go beyond their comfort zones and to do more for their craft. But more than that it didn’t leave me as riveted as The Lowland or The Namesake. I hope Jhumpa continues to write stories in English, not just for the awards that she will gather no doubt, but because she has the gift of storytelling that must not die in any language.  


Raj said…
Thanks for the review, Madhuri. This book is on top of my reading list because I speak Italian too, though nowhere as well as Zhumpa. :)

I agree with you. In India, most people speak at least 3 languages. India is like Europe, language changes every few hundred kilometers.

I find that I use different languages for different things. I can appreciate poetry in Hindi/Urdu and English (Vikram Seth!!). I also find that English is so rich in conveying just the right shade of sensuality. It's amazing what effect the right words can have. It's also kind of sad that so few people realize it. Maybe that's why I feel a connection with writers!

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