I’m a huge fan of this author and have read most of her work. But this novel will be a first, in a way, because she wrote it in Italian and did the English translation herself. That’s rather unusual. In part, I want to see if her novel flows differently than The Namesake, The Lowland, and Interpreter of Maladies.
I’m impressed with anyone who can learn a new language and gain enough skill and fluency to write a book using it.
Lahiri, who grew up in the States was born in England to Indian parents. So, her native language is Bengali, though she doesn’t speak it well. At the same time, she didn’t feel that much at home in English even though she handled it well enough (!) to win a Pulitzer Prize and be shortlisted for other awards even though she once said that in both Bengali and English she felt like “a linguistic exile.”
Learning Italian wasn’t easy, even after she moved to Italy. Finally, she found people willing to speak nothing but Italian to her and to correct her mistakes as though she were a child. It worked.
From the Publisher
Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey, realizes that she’s lost her way. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.
We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.
This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.
The reviews are good, so I have high hopes for this one.